Thursday, May 18, 2017

Patricia Lillian Poe, a public defender we have never met and never agreed to her representation, now appears as Carol's attorney in Missouri criminal matter

Judge Margaret Holden Palmietto (left)
An attorney from the Public Defender's Office in Greene County, Missouri, has been appointed to represent my wife, Carol, in the case where a deputy broke Carol's arm during an unlawful eviction -- and she wound up being charged with "assault" on a law enforcement officer and trespass. The attorney's name is Patricia Lillian Poe, according to court records. We had to get that information from court records because we've never met Ms. Poe, and Carol never has agreed to have Ms. Poe represent her.

So, imagine our surprise yesterday when we checked (State v. Carol T. Shuler, Case No. 1631-CR07731) and found an attorney is representing Carol -- an attorney we've never met, whom we've never agreed to have represent us, who probably knows zero about our case, and even is filing documents on Carol's behalf without our consent or knowledge.

Yes, you heard that right: Patricia Lillian Poe filed a Motion for Discovery, dated 5/15/17, on behalf of Carol T. Shuler. It would have been nice if Carol T. Shuler had known about that. It also would have been nice if Carol T. Shuler knew the purpose behind the motion, given that Carol already has filed two such motions on her own.

Here is the most alarming part: We have no idea if Ms. Poe has a trial strategy that is palatable to us or not. We have no idea if she understands that this is not a case of Carol committing a crime; it's a case of Carol having a crime committed against her -- one that resulted in the bone in Carol's upper left arm being snapped in two, such a severe break that it required trauma surgery and the implantation of metal plates and screws.

A reasonable reader might raise this question: Well, how did Ms. Poe become aware of Carol's case, to the point she could be named an attorney in the matter? Answer: At our most recent court hearing, on 5/3/17, Judge Margaret Holden Palmietto asked if Carol waived her right to an attorney. Carol said no, that she was considering several options -- continuing to represent herself, hiring a regular attorney, etc.

At that point, Palmietto ordered Carol to fill out an application with the Public Defender's (PD) Office. In fact, Palmietto said Carol would not be allowed to leave the courtroom until the application was completed and turned in to her bailiff.

Palmietto also said (and I'm paraphrasing), "I'm not going to consider your motions until you have representation or you waive your right to an attorney." That's troubling because Carol already has filed multiple motions to dismiss, showing that the state had no probable cause to seek her arrest, much less to subject her to a trial. In other words, the case already should be dismissed, and Carol shouldn't have to worry about getting an attorney. But the judge doesn't seem to want to do her job.

Carol did as instructed and filled out the PD application -- and we figured that meant we would receive a call from the Public Defender's Office, be asked to come in and discuss the case, and the sides would agree or disagree to have the office represent Carol. That call never came, and we've never met with anybody -- which is a little unsettling when you consider that Carol's freedom is at stake. Under RSMo 565.083, assault of a law enforcement officer in the third degree is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a possible punishment of up to one year in jail, plus a possible fine of up to $2,000.

It can be costly, in a variety of ways, to have a law enforcement officer break your arm in Missouri.

Back in serious mode, it's critical that any lawyer understand that this is a case about grotesque police misconduct, which almost certainly rises to a criminal level (18 U.S.C. 242 -- Deprivation of rights under color of law.) Does Patricia Lillian Poe grasp that and does she have a plan for dealing with that reality? We have no idea; we've never spoken with her.

Carol does not necessarily object to representation from a public defender, but right now, it feels like she's having a lawyer forced down her throat. I don't pretend to be an expert on due process, but I presume it includes the right to consent to representation by a certain lawyer -- to have some say-so in the matter.

Right now, Carol hasn't consented to anything, and she's had no voice in selection of her attorney. It doesn't help that local newspapers recently have been filled with reports that Missouri's Public Defender System is one of the most poorly funded in the nation, with lawyers wildly understaffed and overworked. It is the subject of an ACLU lawsuit, and The Atlantic has referred to the situation as a "constitutional crisis."

Is the system so dysfunctional that it skips small steps -- like letting a defendant know she has representation and maybe, you know, meeting with her? If you check under Carol's case number and click on docket entries, you will see the following at the top:

05/15/2017 Motion for Discovery
Request for Discovery. Electronic Filing Certificate of Service. /sel
Entry of Appearance Filed
Entry of Appearance. Electronic Filing Certificate of Service. /sel

That Ms. Poe took action "on behalf of" Carol T. Shuler sort of implies that Carol T. Shuler has met with Ms. Poe, discussed her case, and agreed upon a plan of action, doesn't it? Well, none of that has happened.

That leaves us to ask a question that we've raised many times related to court actions over the past 17 years: What in the hell is going on?

The next court appearance in Carol's case is 9 a.m. on June 7.


Anonymous said...

This is troubling. I don't know how public defender offices work, but it doesn't seem shoving a lawyer down Carol's throat should be part of the process.

Anonymous said...

The judge is pulling something here. It's not normal procedure for a judge to say, "You're not leaving this courtroom until you fill out this PD application."

Anonymous said...

You had no idea this attorney had been appointed for Carol until you checked court records?

legalschnauzer said...

@8:38 --

Yes, that's right. I checked the online docket at yesterday afternoon and saw Carol suddenly had a lawyer filing things on "her behalf," and we had never met the lawyer, spoken with her, agreed to her representation, zilch. I have no idea how she could know anything about Carol's case unless she has read documents Carol already has filed. I about fell out of my chair

Anonymous said...

Have you met with a third-party attorney?

legalschnauzer said...

We have a meeting set up with one, and we are trying to set up meetings with several others. The one we are scheduled with . . . his calendar is so packed that we were set up for several weeks out. Then, you have the lawyers who won't return phone calls or respond to e-mails.

At the most recent hearings, the judge said, "We're going to stop messing around with this," and then ordered Carol to fill out the application for the worst PD system in the country. We weren't messing around with it. A relatively small number of lawyers do cases like this, and an even smaller number want to take on a corrupt Greene County Sheriff's Office and their corrupt lawyers (Lowther and Johnson).

Anonymous said...

This sounds slightly unconstitutional to me.

Anonymous said...

You'll be pleased to know that Ms. Poe got her license in 2016, so she has almost a whole year of experience under her belt. That's got to be comforting.

Anonymous said...

This is designed to pressure Carol into a plea agreement, so the case can quietly go away. No way they want a trial on this one.

legalschnauzer said...

I can only speak for myself, not Carol, but a plea agreement ain't happening.

Anonymous said...

Hate to say it, but I think you've got a crooked judge. You have a little experience with those.

legalschnauzer said...

@11:44 --

Yes, I feel like I have a Ph.D in crooked judges.

Anonymous said...

When is Carol's next court appearance?

legalschnauzer said...

It's 9 a.m. on June 7. I need to include that in the post.

Anonymous said...

I'm aware of cases where public defenders have done very good work. In most states, they have access to investigators and other resources that a private attorney might not have. Two big issues here:

1. Is the Missouri PD system so poorly funded that it has no access to even limited resources?

2. Is the Missouri PD system able and willing to take on a case that involves a powerful sheriff and a powerful law firm that represented a landlord, who might be connected, too?

legalschnauzer said...

!2:26 --

Thanks for your insights, and those are for sure two important questions.

I forgot to include in the post another curious comment from the judge. She said (and I'm paraphrasing), "I'm not going to consider your motions until you have representation or you waive your right to an attorney."

I need to add that to the post.

Anonymous said...

If you want to, I'm pretty sure you can get out of any deal with the PD, but they probably will try to stick you with some fees. This could be just a money-grubbing scheme to help support a system that is low on funds.

Anonymous said...

If you look at it from an attorney's point of view, wouldnt you agree that they might not be calling you back after googling about you. From what's out there it makes it seem (right or wrongly i dont know as i have never dealt with you) like you would be a difficult client. Like i said i never met you, but that is the impression the internet might give

legalschnauzer said...

@2:22 --

First of all, I'm not the client, Carol is. Second, if they don't want to deal with us, they shouldn't have taken the case. But since they apparently have taken the case -- even though Carol did not willingly fill out an application -- they have an obligation to communicate with us. How else are they going to find out about the case? Finally, these are public defenders. I'm probably like Alistair Cooke compared to many of the people they typically deal with.

If anyone actually researches what is out there about me on the Web, I have a lifelong history of getting along well with people who are honest and respectful. Do I get my back up when dealing with shysters? Yes, I do. You probably do, too. If you don't, then you likely are a pushover, and that's not a good way to go through life.

Anonymous said...


According to the Michael Barrett, the director of the Missouri State Public Defender Office, the answer to issue 1 is a big YES. He says at a minimum, he needs 3 times as many public defenders as the state as budgeted his office to handle the case load. Mississippi is the only state to provide fewer funds to it's state public defender office.

Anonymous said...

I think that 2:22 is actually talking about the other attorneys that are not calling you back or responding to emails, not the public defender.

I have never filled out a public defender application, but I assume you have to list contact information such as a phone number, email address, physical and mailing address. Am I correct on that assumption?

Have you attempted contact with the public defender?

legalschnauzer said...

@4:19 --

You might be right about what 2:22 meant. But still, Carol has made most of those calls, not me. She's the potential client. Yes, Carol put all of her contact information on the application; she's not hard to reach.

We have not tried contacting the public defender, mainly because we just learned yesterday that they had accepted Carol's application. Also, the Missouri press is filled with stories about the overworked, under staffed PD system, so we figured it would be best to let them contact us. Finally, Carol was forced to fill out the application, so she isn't all that excited about working with them in the first place. It's sort of a "if they call us, fine; if they don't, fine" situation. But we never dreamed they would start "representing" her without calling us and without making sure it was OK with her.

As for attorneys who do or don't respond to queries from me, I have a theory about that: If an informed/objective attorney checks my blog and reads it closely, he or she is likely to say, "Geez, this guy is right, the courts really are screwing him big time. We're helpless to assist in a cases where judges are cheating like this, so it's best not to get involved."

Attorneys probably are reluctant to help someone who is being cheated by the system. That's because, if they try to help, the system could turn on them. I've long called it a legal "tribe" for a reason. And many attorneys are terrified of pissing off judges, which they might do by representing me . . . even though my only offense is being a journalist who provides unvarnished and accurate reporting.

In cases where I have criticized another attorney or judge, an objective individual will do his research and see that I'm right -- the attorney or judge deserved it. If a prospective attorney is not intelligent and diligent enough to do that kind of analysis -- rather than making snap judgments about me -- I consider it a favor if they do not respond to my query. That's the last kind of lawyer I need, or Carol needs, or anyone with a brain needs.

Finally, I would encourage anyone to ask among your circle of friends what it's like to try to communicate with a lawyer. If anyone has tried to hire a lawyer -- for a divorce, car wreck, what have you -- I'm betting they will tell you the experience was unpleasant, maybe miserable, and that attorneys they tried to reach were terrible about getting back with them.

Bar complaints are filed all the time over lawyers who fail to communicate with their clients. That's not an accident. It's an epidemic in a profession that really doesn't deserve to be called a profession.

e.a.f. said...

me thinks some one wants to jump the gun and/or push Carol into accepting her as their lawyer, with no real intent of truly representing her. Failure to get in touch with a client is the first clue. OMG. how stupid do those tip sticks think you are.

first question I'd ask, do you believe my wife or are you a friend of the prosecutor's office? Have you close are you to the law enforcement community? Given the history of this case, its going to be very important to have some on who is actually on Carol's side, not some one who wants to send her to prison. Remember Jeff Sessions is out and about.

daelv said...

Please help fund Carol's legal defense:
Don Siegelman is Free, Now we need to help Roger an Carol

Anonymous said...

Many of the concerns raised in this post seem to stem from not understanding how cases are assigned to the public defender or a court appointed attorney when the client does not have the funds to retain a private attorney.

I am a Court-appointed attorney, which means I take the cases that the public defender cannot because there is some kind of conflict. I am also a private attorney. I have seen the public defender in my County do good work on behalf of clients, though they have to deal with a heavy case load. I know of private attorneys who are great, and others who drop the ball on their cases.

Basically, all defendants have the right to the Counsel of their choice. If you cannot afford one, an attorney will be appointed to represent you. You are allowed to fire your attorney at any time, and hire a private attorney. Since the Defendant had not made her mind up what she wanted to do or already hired someone, the Judge had to appoint someone to comply with the constitution. The fact that the Attorney filed a Request for Discovery indicates to me that she was doing her job. These are boiler plate motions that must be filed in every case in order to get information from the prosecution about the case. Often a public defender may not meet their client until the first pre-trial, though if a client is pro-active they can sometimes call the public defender's office to come in and meet with their lawyer. Sometimes it is difficult for the attorney to locate clients who have been appointed to them, and it is the right move to get started on the case by filing a Discovery Demand so that the Attorney will know what is going on wiht the case.

I would agree with the Judge that should not read statements made by Carol until she has the benefit of an attorney. Often, defendants think they are helping their case by making statements but in criminal trials anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Statements may amount to admissions which can help prove the prosecutions case. A person who represents themselves has a fool for a client. It is important to have an attorney represent your interests.

Generally, Public Defenders to the work they do because they are passionate about protecting our constitutional rights and helping the poor. Many of them have given up higher paying jobs to do public service. Any attorney, public or private, can suffer from burnout or feel overwhelmed by a high case load.

I would encourage the defendant and her family to contact the PD's office and get more information about how they can assist their attorney. The Defendant is not forced to accept this FREE attorney provided by the public defender's office. If they want to they can hire a private attorney of their choice. I understand that they are probably very anxious about the criminal process and have many questions. But before they alienate their lawyer by jumping to conclusions that she is being unethical just by doing her job, I would encourage them to schedule a consultation with a lawyer or the PD's office to get more information about how the process works. It is clear to me that the writer is very uninformed about the legal process.

Like the public defender, I am one who fights for justice for the people every day in my job. Good luck. I hate to hear about another police officer getting away with it again.

legalschnauzer said...

@12:24 --

Thanks for an interesting comment. Yes, we are a bit in the dark on the PD system because we've never been involved with it. We were taken aback to see a lawyer had been assigned when Carol had not talked to the person. That was our main concern.

legalschnauzer said...

@12:24 -- (cont.)

I forgot to mention a couple of points where I believe you are off target:

(1) This is not a case of Carol not making up her mind. She filed multiple motions, pro se, showing that there is no probable cause for her arrest, incarceration or prosecution. Based on the Misdemeanor Information and the Probable Cause Statement, Carol is charged with one alleged offense -- pushing Officer Jeremy Lynn. She did not push Officer Lynn, but that's not the primary point for now. In the PC Statement, Officer Debi Wade admits she saw no such incident and was "advised" by some unnamed person about it. That's hearsay, and it's inadmissible, and it means there is zero admissible evidence to support the State's allegations. Carol wasn't struggling to make up her mind. She felt she already had shown -- if the judge would do her job and read the motions -- that there is no probable cause, the case is due to be dismissed, and no lawyer (public or private) is needed.

(2) The judge didn't say she wouldn't read Carol's statements; she said she wouldn't read Carol's motions. I can think of no excuse for that. Carol's motions are well articulated and legally sound. She is very bright, as anyone who has taken the time to know her, should realize. Yes, Carol has a right to the attorney of her choice, and that person can be herself, acting pro se. Her motions show that the PC Statement and MI -- on the four corners of each -- are defective and present no probable cause. Again, that has been shown, without the need of a professional lawyer (public or private).

This is not so much that a public defender isn't wanted: it's that one isn't needed -- if, that is, the judge does her job.

I would encourage you to look up Carol's motions on and compare them to the PC Statement and MI. Carol's legal arguments are solid, and the case already should be dismissed and off the judge's docket -- if the judge would do her job.

daelv said...

Not finding State v. Carol T. Shuler, Case No. 1631-CR07731

legalschnauzer said...

It's there for me. Here is case no. again . . .


Looks like you have it right. Maybe typed it wrong?

If you do a search under litigant name (Shuler, Carol), it should come up. It does for me.

Anonymous said...

Any attorney will do as long as they possess a bar card. They then can bind you into something that you may not want. Happens all the time and no cares or listens. Just look at the amount of people serving time in jail. Had they had effective counsel then their case may have gone in a different direction. And today we call that JUSTICE!

Doesn't matter what happens between Carol and "her" attorney. As long as Carol has an attorney of record they can move forward the case.

PD offices around the country are over worked, understaffed and have minimal budgets for representing a case the right way. These PD offices should refuse more cases and withdraw from those cases where there just isn't enough money to put on a proper defense. Doesn't take a sophisticated attorney to understand why this practice is unfair. This is the legal trap you are suckered in to with no way to readily assist your own defense.

I don't believe our constitution that holds everyone has a right to counsel meant to have that interpreted to mean just having a bar card is good enough. But until the good ole boys decide that their club needs some new rules then we all suffer.