APPOINTMENT OF JEFFREY A. AARON AS PUBLIC DEFENDER FOR THE COUNTY OF MENDOCINO
The Mendocino County of Board of Supervisors is pleased to announce the appointment of Jeffrey A. Aaron as Mendocino County Public Defender. Mr. Aaron joins the County of Mendocino from the Office of the Federal Public Defender, Central District of California, where he served as Directing Attorney, managing the Eastern Division office and litigating complex criminal matters, including federal death penalty cases, habeas corpus petitions, and appeals in the Ninth Circuit. He is an alumnus of the University of California, Los Angeles and holds a Juris Doctorate from Rutgers University School of Law.
Dan Hamburg, 5th District Supervisor, and current Board Chair, stated “Jeffrey Aaron brings decades of experience as a federal, state and county public defender to Mendocino County. Along with his skills as a litigator, he will emphasize the professional development of his staff attorneys. We are fortunate to be able to bring him to county service.”
Commenting on his appointment, Mr. Aaron stated: “I’m a career public defender with over 25 years of experience in both state and federal public defender offices. I am delighted to come to Mendocino County, and to share with a new office the unique combination of passion and professionalism that characterizes public defenders.”
For more information, please contact the Mendocino County Executive Office at (707) 463-4441.
Carmel J. Angelo
Chief Executive Officer
Mendo’s new Public Defender Jeffery Aaron has yet to make his debut at the courthouse in Ukiah, but the place has been running smoothly without him, and the District Attorney told us that he, David Eyster, had already met Mr. Aaron and thoroughly approved of the choice.
Now, does this make a defendant shudder or what? Wouldn’t we rather see the District Attorney and Public Defender pawing the ground like a couple of bulls getting ready to charge, rather than pumping hands and clapping each other on the shoulder?
Mr. Aaron came to us from a position as a federal public defender.
Having never been in a federal courtroom we can’t say with authority if it’s true or not, but we’ve been told (by criminal defendants and friendly defense lawyers) that federal public defenders work so closely with federal prosecutors that they go hand-in-hand, like Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum to get the job done. Kinda like having two prosecutors.
“Federal Public Defenders in the Age of Inquisition,” a 2013 Yale Law Journal essay, concludes that Federal PDs are generally impotent against, if not complicit with prosecutors, in the adversarial system of our judiciary at the fed level, and have been getting steadily worse since 1963 when a case called Gideon v. Wainwright was decided, making sure the defense lawyers would get paid and could afford services like private investigators; and that they are absolutely powerless against the sentencing severity, which in federal courts is controlled by the prosecutors, not the judges. David E. Patton concludes that federal defendants were better off before Gideon v. Wainwright when they had either an unpaid, ill-equipped lawyer, or none at all. Mr. Patton says most of today’s defendants would gladly go back to pre-1963 standards if they could.
It would appear that federal defense lawyers know all too well where their money’s coming from, and who they’re really working for – which is to say not the defendant.
Reality Winner, the whistleblower from the NSA, must surely wish she could go back to such happy days when even if “The Fonz” and Eddie Haskell somehow got through law school on a cheap bribe or a rich name; well, even then, it’s hard to imagine such odious pricks as we have today dispensing “advocacy to the indigent” and other sentiments worthy of emolument… Winner’s federal prosecutors were bragging that the over five years she was sentenced to last week was the “stiffest in history” for her piddling transgression. (I’d hardly call it a crime, more like a lack of religious zealotry for the current status quo.)
The misnamed Ms. Winner must surely wish she could go back to Happy Days, when even if “The Fonz” and Eddie Haskell somehow got through law school on a cheap bribe or a rich name; well, even then, it’s hard to imagine such odious pricks as we have today dispensing “advocacy to the indigent” and other sentiments worthy of emoulment...
The Gideon case also provided for training of federal public defenders– and again, this must make a criminal defendant shudder with apprehension. Would you want your adversaries to train your only hope of winning against them?
Another conclusion Patton makes is one we were already well aware of, and that is that only about 2.7% of all cases go to trial, and that, in essence, if not in fact, “reflects the sad acceptance of a system thoroughly unmoored from its adversarial foundation.”
Mr. Patton writes, “increased prosecutorial power” – and Patton gives the reader of his essay many examples – “disproportionately impacts poor people and minorities and greatly diminishes the egalitarian process [and] demonstrates how we have moved from an adversarial to an inquisitorial one.” Nothing would be more to DA Eyster’s liking than such an arrangement – nor any other prosecutor, for that matter – like at the federal courts; for the DA’s office to enjoy these advantages over the PD’s office. This may give us a hint as to why our excellent DA is so delighted with the appointment of Jeffery Aaron.
Nothing to do but wait and see.
Assistant DA Rick Welsh did not wait and see, though. His last day was Friday. The former Assistant DA said he was tired of waking up without his wife, who is a school teacher in Orange County, and chose not to give up her job to accommodate her husband’s career. No replacement yet, for that post, but the long-vacant job of Chief Deputy DA – last held by Jill Ravitch, who is currently in her third term as DA of Sonoma County – has been taken over by former Del Norte County DA Dale Trigg.
Mr. Trigg is a big guy, he kind of reminds me of Hamilton Berger in the old black and white Perry Mason series on TV. Mr. Trigg strikes me as the kind of guy who can pin Mr. Aaron to the mat as soon as the referee blows the whistle – but, of course, courtroom brawlers are not wrestling celebrities: those guys all go into politics and run for the governor’s mansion, not some little out-of-the way public defender’s office.
Now, we are not condemning the new public defender without a trial.
That would hardly be just. We want to give him at least the same chance he would give his clients – that is, take a cursory look at the evidence against him, give our professional assurance that his case is hopeless, and advise him to plea to the sheet. As critics of the legal system, it’s the best we can offer.