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Archive for Tuesday, September 7, 1999

DEFENSE ATTORNEYS FORM PEER ASSOCIATION

September 7, 1999

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A newly incorporated group provides mentoring for criminal defense attorneys practicing in Douglas County.

The newly incorporated Douglas County Criminal Defense Bar Assn. is like a big support group, its president says.

The group's monthly meetings over lunch at the Free State Brewery allow criminal defense attorneys to exchange ideas, president David J. Brown said.

About 30 attorneys belong to the group, which has been meeting informally for the past year and a half.

"We discuss legal developments, pending legislation and recent cases that have occurred in Douglas County," Brown said. "We share stories about what's happened to each of us, the problems we've had. We talk about how problems were resolved and talk about alternative ways to deal with things."

Attorneys who've been in practice for a while also mentor the younger lawyers in the group, he said.

Brown has worked in Lawrence since 1992 and has practiced about 10 years. He thought it was time for criminal defense lawyers to have a group of their own.

"Particularly for the young attorneys, it's an opportunity to come and say, for example, 'Hey I've got this DUI case; what suggestions do you have?' " Brown said. "The results for the general public hopefully will be a much better quality of defense. It's just a support system that didn't exist before. We hope the result is that those who are accused of crimes get better representation."

Peggy Kittel, who serves as vice president of the group, said the forum is a great outlet for attorneys who practice on their own.

"Most of the people who come to the meetings are solo practitioners," Kittel said. "They don't have anyone to bounce ideas off of."

The group gives people a place to brainstorm, said Kittel, who practices alone.

Many of the group's members serve on an attorney panel for people who can't afford to pay for representation.

The defense bar group has worked with Seventh Judicial District Administrative Judge Michael Malone to address members' concerns about payments and vouchers.

"Judge Malone has been very supportive, and he's appreciated the effort," Brown said. "He welcomes our comments and frequently implements our suggestions. He has been very receptive, and we've really appreciated that."

Another issue the group wants to address is the afternoon docket in Douglas County District Court. Misdemeanors and felony cases are lumped together at 1:30 p.m., which means attorneys spend a lot of wasted time waiting for their client's case to be called, Brown said.

Although Brown isn't necessarily soliciting new association members, he said anyone who practices criminal defense law in Douglas County is welcome to join the group. The association meets the second Friday of every month.

Kevin Schumaker is treasurer of the group. Lawrence attorneys Ed Collister, Harry Warren and Kay Huff serve on the board of directors.

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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