Adams firing draws criticism - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Adams firing draws criticism

ACLU, Idaho Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers send letters

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Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - The ACLU of Idaho and a state defense lawyer organization sent letters Monday to the Kootenai County commissioners criticizing the board's move to dump chief public defender John Adams.

The Idaho Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which has 300 members statewide, wrote that the county should "preserve the integrity and expertise" Adams brings to the county's public defender office. Adams has held the position for 17 years.

Kootenai County Commissioner Jai Nelson said last week that the board has decided the county will undertake a comprehensive study of its public defender system. Getting rid of Adams is the first step, she said. The commissioners didn't respond to a request for comment Monday.

According to the association's letter, "We too must add our voices to those who recognize that it is the people of Kootenai County who will lose if your decision stands."

The letter said the commissioners' decision was premature, having been made before the county's study was completed.

"It appears to presuppose the outcome of any comprehensive evaluation would be a recommendation for new management of the office, or to disband the office and move to an assigned counsel system," the letter said.

The association criticized the commissioners for exerting political influence on the county's public defense office, echoing a criticism from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. The NLADA completed a study of the county's public defender system and others in the state, ranking Kootenai County in 2010 the most client-centered and best in the state under Adams' leadership.

"With Mr. Adams' predetermined termination, it appears that the commission's influence over the office has increased, rather than decreased, since the last professional evaluation," the letter said. "This moves Kootenai County further from a public defender system meeting basic, recognized standards of professionalism."

The ACLU letter also criticized the commissioners for the board's undue political influence.

"We encourage you to take careful pause," the ACLU of Idaho wrote. "As county commissioners, you know that your decision is not a final one. You should swiftly and unequivocally correct it."

The organization complained his firing comes at a time when Idaho's overall system of public defense has been deemed deficient.

The ACLU letter was signed by executive director Monica Hopkins, staff attorney Jason Williamson, and legal director Richard Alan Eppink.

Adams has headed up the defense in 26 murder cases, and seven death-penalty cases. Joseph E. Duncan III was a client.

Adams has said the termination notice came to him just weeks after he made a formal complaint against Commissioner Jai Nelson, saying she had allegedly harassed him.

In a Feb. 10 email to John Cafferty, the chief attorney for the county's legal department, Adams wrote about "the increasing level of hostility, and in this case retaliation, I feel, directed at me" from Nelson.

Adams complained in the email that Nelson said he needed to pay for a laptop with his personal funds, even though he purchased it for work.

Adams continued, "I want to put you on notice that I am and have been subjected to a steady and increasing level of interference in my legal duties from Commissioner Nelson that is causing me to suffer from an unreasonable degree of stress above and beyond that normally associated with my duties as the public defender."

Adams also recently told Commissioner Todd Tondee that he had cancer and would need a day off each week for chemotherapy.

The commissioners issued a press release on Monday to "answer a number of questions that have been asked concerning" their decision to initiate the public-defense-system study and set Sept. 30 as the end of Adams' term.

"The board recognizes that the current public defender, John Adams, has provided this service for in excess of 16 years and has served his clients well," the release said. "The term of office for a public defender has a minimum of two years. Mr. Adams continues to serve as Kootenai County public defender and is eligible to be reappointed for another term."

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  • Jenny posted at 9:34 am on Fri, Mar 29, 2013.

    Jenny Posts: 47

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe sdpd92 posted they were former law enforcement - enough said.

  • MixMart posted at 10:53 pm on Thu, Mar 28, 2013.

    MixMart Posts: 1715

    A lawyer is only as good as the case the client brings him. Were it not for plea bargaining there would be a lot more people in jail and taxes would be astronomical to pay for the endless trials and incarceration.

  • MixMart posted at 10:47 pm on Thu, Mar 28, 2013.

    MixMart Posts: 1715

    "It was John Adams responsibility to either handle this case personally or have other competent attorneys deal with it and Adams supervise properly. He didn't do his job!!"

    If you bothered to read the Eby case you cited you would see that John Adams and the Kootenai County Public Defender had nothing at all to do with it. The case was assigned to private attorneys who screwed it up. If Adams's office had handled it the mistakes cited by the appellate court would not have happened. Here is a link for you to peruse for your edification.

    Your concern for a convicted murderer is admirable. You should consider joining the ACLU.

  • MixMart posted at 7:19 pm on Thu, Mar 28, 2013.

    MixMart Posts: 1715

    I meant Karen Lansing serves on the Idaho Court of Appeals. Above is a typo.

  • MixMart posted at 7:15 pm on Thu, Mar 28, 2013.

    MixMart Posts: 1715

    "This case presents a shameful saga of neglect and inattention by appointed attorneys who represented a petitioner for post-conviction relief. "

    Post conviction relief often entails the conduct of the trial and the tactical decisions made by counsel. Consequently, they are assigned outside of the public defender's office due to inherent conflict of interest. While Mr. Adams name may be on the case, it is likely a contracted attorney will handle it. Also, a client has to cooperate with counsel to pursue a post conviction case. I understand a lot of them don't. The case you mentioned was from the Court of Appeals and not the Supreme Court, btw. Sherry Lansing does not serve on the supreme court.

    "How many other cases of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel are out there? "

    It is very common for convicted felons to claim ineffective assistance. As I stated before; The cops arrest, the witnesses testify, the judge sentences, but when it is all over the attorney is blamed.

    "An attorney is hired specifically to hold your hand and walk you through the mine fields of the legal system. "

    Baloney. An effective attorney will communicate harsh realities to people with severe cognitive dysfunction. Explaining the rules of evidence and procedure to a meth head who didn't finish high school is quite a challenge, or so I have been told.

    You watch too much TV. I suggest you go to the court house and watch a few trials and talk to the attorneys before you comment on their work. At least get some idea of what you are talking about.

  • babydriver posted at 1:47 pm on Thu, Mar 28, 2013.

    babydriver Posts: 1393

    This one case right? One?

  • sdpd92 posted at 11:00 am on Thu, Mar 28, 2013.

    sdpd92 Posts: 158

    Ask Daniel EBY what he thinks of his representation by the Kootenai County Public Defender's Office.

    Supreme Court Chief Judge LANSING, said in his opinion "This case presents a shameful saga of neglect and inattention by appointed attorneys who represented a petitioner for post-conviction relief. This neglect ultimately resulted in the dismissal of the case for inactivity and the denial of a motion to set aside the dismissal order. Because we conclude that the petitioner himself filed an adequate, timely motion for relief from the judgment of dismissal and that the record demonstrates that such relief should have been granted, we reverse the district court’s decision declining to set aside the dismissal order."

    This guy was convicted of MURDER. He deserved to be convicted; however, he deserves the best representation possible. It was John Adams responsibility to either handle this case personally or have other competent attorneys deal with it and Adams supervise properly. He didn't do his job!!

    This has a direct correlation on the issue at hand. If the extremely important and high profile felony cases are being mistreated to this extent how are the misdemeanors being treated?

    Ask their clients. How many other cases of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel are out there? And I'm not just talking in the legal sense.

    Somebody said “they are attorneys, not baby sitters. When a public defender is assigned, the court informs the defendant it is their responsibility to contact their attorney. Likewise, they are not social workers or hand holders. Believe it or not, the people they represent are often extremely dysfunctional.”

    I would disagree with that statement. An attorney is hired specifically to hold your hand and walk you through the mine fields of the legal system. If you hire a high priced attorney that’s exactly what I want. I want people to look out for my best interest, to keep me informed on a regular basis and to return my calls when I call them! If they don’t, I would fire them. If I call them 23 times and only receive one call back then they are not giving me what I contracted for. In this instance just because the attorneys are appointed doesn’t change that fact.

    I hope for nothing but the best for John Adams but it’s time to move forward and get our house in order.

    Keep up the good work commissioners!

  • Ziggy posted at 11:43 am on Wed, Mar 27, 2013.

    Ziggy Posts: 1295

    I don't think this is the first time this has happened. But it will probably be the last. Some people think a county commissioner is as close as they will get to absolute power. They might get away with this kind of thing once, maybe twice, but eventually, as Floorist said, It's bye bye forever.

  • boohoo2U posted at 8:14 am on Wed, Mar 27, 2013.

    boohoo2U Posts: 406

    Isn't Jai's daddy connected with the Colorado architectural firm doing the new courthouse, NW Blvd, EdCor, and Riverstone.

  • Diamond Jim posted at 11:26 pm on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    Diamond Jim Posts: 54

    It is a sad day when an attorney forgoes a more lucrative career and dedicates his life to defend the constitutional rights of the indigent, yet has his own rights violated without due process of law. Godspeed John Adams in your lawsuit. Commissioners, have you no dignity?

  • Ghost Writer posted at 9:54 pm on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    Ghost Writer Posts: 56

    Is this where Jai called in Political Favors ?
    Timke for a new Commisoner !

  • Rogue Cop posted at 8:54 pm on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    Rogue Cop Posts: 2371


  • haydenator posted at 8:41 pm on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    haydenator Posts: 205

    That public defenders office was run like a bunch of Nazis!! It's sole purpose was to treat the clientele so horribly that you realized hiring a private attorney through any means possible was the only choice. They were not practicing law, they practiced plea bargains

  • babydriver posted at 3:05 pm on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    babydriver Posts: 1393

    The Spokesman Review is a socialist rag just like the CDA Press.

  • bionic man posted at 2:49 pm on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    bionic man Posts: 347

    The problem with Kootenai County and CDA politicians, they are all so corrupt. If someone bucks the system of them making money, you're out and ridiculed in the process. I wish the state & federal would come in and do a complete investigation of all the dealings going on. Will be a miracle if it ever happens unless enough people complain. In the meantime, you voted them in, you get what you deserve.

  • MyOpinion posted at 1:35 pm on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    MyOpinion Posts: 36

    Yoda1970: Excellent post and I agree on all counts.

    As I have noted in comments following the original story below, John Adams indeed has a solid case with multiple causes of action against the Commissioners, which would yield a hefty damage award - and which would have to be paid by Kootenai County taxpayers. He would be flanked in that lawsuit by defense lawyers across the state, the ACLU, etc. Even his former adversary of many years, Bill Douglas, has spoken on his behalf.

    The Commissioners have made an egregious error in judgement and need to immediately reverse their decision.

    I am quite certain John Adams will not 'go quietly into the night'(mare) the Commissioners have created for him. Nor should he! He has successfully fought much more difficult battles on behalf on Kootenai defendants over many, many years of service. This one is indeed "a slam dunk".

    It is time to clean house in the Commissioners' office. And by that I don't mean redecorate it, again at Our expense.

  • Yoda1970 posted at 12:13 pm on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    Yoda1970 Posts: 5

    The ACLU has said that the entire State of Idaho's Public Defender system is unconstitutional. This is based in part on the case of Gideon v. Wainright 372 U.S. 335 (1963). In the case, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that state courts are required under the Fourteenth Amendment to provide counsel in criminal cases for defendants who are unable to afford to pay their own attorneys, extending the identical requirement made on the federal government under the Sixth Amendment.

    Recently Idaho was reviewed by the 6th Amendment Project and the entire State was studied. It concluded that the State was unconstitutional because it gave regulating authority to individual county governments and not the State. This is the 2010 Study that the ACLU is talking about. The Study also concluded that the Kootenai County Public Defender's office was the best in the State and that John Adams was a big part of the reason it was the best in the State. The Study also concluded that the County Commissioner's in Kootenai County had too much political influence and that is why they are saying it is unconstitutional.

    Nobody is saying that John Adams is doing a bad job. They are saying that the County Government is preventing the Public Defender's Office from doing constitutionally obligate job by interfering too much with the office.

    Bottom line is the commissioners now have the attention of the ACLU and a very expensive wrongful termination suit that will be a slam dunk for Mr. Adams. I am so glad my tax dollars are going to be wasted because of the arrogant decision of three individuals who obviously have no character. The only good thing that will come from this is the fact that it virtually insures they will not be reelected and that Mr. Adams will have is medical bills paid after he rings the County up for its untenable conduct.

    Why I am at it why is the County spending the money on another study when they just had one done in 2010? I guess that is a question for tomorrow.

  • CONFUSED posted at 12:11 pm on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    CONFUSED Posts: 67

    where's Tony Stewart? Or is this not juicy enough? Or would it interfere with his politcal allegiance?

  • sdpd92 posted at 10:00 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    sdpd92 Posts: 158

    Voxpop your correct. If the ACLU is for it, I'm probably against it too.

    I do research things myself. In this instance I think the commissioners are finding out its pretty hard to buck the good old boy system.

    Even the Idaho Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers wrote a letter praising John Adams and criticizing the commissioners. In their letter they stated, and I quote "This moves Kootenai County further from a public defender system meeting basic, recognized standards of professionalism."

    Now I don’t know what that means, however, it seems the association realizes our public defender’s office has room for improvement for meeting basic, recognized standards of professionalism. Or that our public defender’s office doesn’t meet the standard at all and in their opinion this move pushes it further from meeting those standards. Until we see who or what replaces this system we won’t know.

    Lets give the commissioners a chance. It was a unanimous vote. We voted for them. We didn’t vote for John Adams.

    Even the Idaho Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers wrote a letter praising John Adams and critisizing

  • boohoo2U posted at 9:47 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    boohoo2U Posts: 406

    never happen SS - Hagadone & the Cowles family are two peas in a pod. They have their territory, but will not turn against each other. The SR refused to investigate Riverstone-Neighborhood Inc debacle when compelling evidence was presented. Unsettled decorating may provide another clue why Thomas Mahzlan resumed the reigns over the Treasury Dept.

  • SamuelStanding posted at 8:49 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    SamuelStanding Posts: 621

    It will take an outside reporter to dig into this story, you will not see the PRESS getting involved.

    Remember when Rolling Stone (?) sent the reporter out to do the cover story on Duane Hagadone and his "Stranglehold" on Coeur d'Alene? A limo was sent to Spokane Internt'l to pick up the reporter, and was declined. A room offered at the RESORT and again declined. The cover story came out with the T-shirt (being sold at that time) with Mr. Hagadone sitting in a hot tub resembling Lake CDA with the RESORT popping up...The slogan, "Come on in .... the waters MINE."

    We need the Spokesman Review to investigate/report on this, the commissioners and Jai Nelson. Apparently POWER is going unchecked and we are headed down a slipper-slope!

  • Jenny posted at 8:42 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    Jenny Posts: 47

    I think we will find out that the wrongful termination of Mr Adams with no due process by our commissioners is just the tip of the iceberg. This does not take into account the stupidly of these people that fired him 3 weeks after Mr. Adams filed a complaint against the nurse/decorator and after he requested one day off a week for chemotherapy after a diagnosis of cancer. The buzz is the nurse and company have decorated and redecorated their offices since taking office. I don,t know if this is true but........ Godspeed Mr. Adams, prayers for you and your family, thank you for your service and hopefully we will see you at the helm until YOU decide when it is time to retire.

  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 7:50 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    Never needed a Public Defender, but have watched many lawyers being destroyed by the press and public for doing their duty and defending Scum like Duncan. It takes a strong character to provide that level of dedication to your chosen career. Anyone can be a prosecutor and blanketly believe everyone is guilty, and work your hardest to convict them, But to know your client guilty and still give them every defense and legal assistance to preserve their civil rights takes someone special.

    I would hope someone with the integrity Mr Adams has shown in his career would be there if myself or any of my friends or family ever did need him. It's people like our commissioners, CDA's mayor and our president that make me worry that someone like Mr Adams may be needed in the future for people I care about.

    It is only Dedicated people like Mr Adams, that stand between tyrants and you, before the 2nd amendment is our last resort.

  • LTRLTR posted at 7:44 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    LTRLTR Posts: 1171

    Jai Nelson said "Getting rid of Adams is the first step".


  • Tim Herzog posted at 7:39 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    Tim Herzog Posts: 414

    Here's just one more reason to restore some "common sense" and balance to county government. I plan to run again for District 1, County Commissioner seat in 2014 (Tondee's) and we need another good candidate for Jai's seat. We will have to put up with Green a bit longer.

    To make the county efficient first, a commissioner needs to work with and engage the employees of the county and not work against them! The morale among the majority of the county employees is at an all time low, with many of them feeling that this BOCC is the worst they have experienced in a long time.

    I am not for giving in to every whim or demand but for working with and respecting those that keep the county operating. These are just people like the rest of us and need to be treated fairly and with understanding of the problems county government faces.

    In my last attempt in 2012 for county commissioner I talked with many employees that supported me because I offered them respect and to listen to their concern. I was also the "only” candidate to be "officially endorsed" by the Kootenai County Deputy Sheriff's Association in my race and they came to me!

    This is not all about money but about being recognized and rewarded accordingly for a job well done. Turnover in any business is costly and in this case the costs are on us, the taxpayers! Working with and communicating constantly with every department and its employ and encouraging excellence will go a long way in restoring harmony in the county.

    Being 100% approachable as an elected official with all employees and not having them fearing for their job on a daily basis is the only way to make the county workplace more efficient, not firing and cutting wages and or benefits to make up for the "lack of understanding people".

    I may as well "announce" my campaign early on as I need a small army of supporters to work with me and help raise adequate funding for my campaign.

    Let's get Kootenai County back on track with some "real Common Sense" leadership.

    Tim Herzog
    Former Candidate, District 1, County Commissioner
    2008 & 2012

  • DeNiles posted at 7:32 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    DeNiles Posts: 2450

    History tells any elected local official that no local newspaper will ferret out the truth behind any event. They understand that the 5th estate will provide them no interference or 2nd guessing. They see no reasons to pause or even hide their decisions. This is why we have a Mayor willing to pretzelize state laws. This is why Gridley sees no barriers to public altercations and openly curses. The Commissioners watched Brannons employment get screwed w/o much consequence so why not nail their adversary in the same fashion? The only reason the ACLU responded is because it is one of their own, an attorney.

  • Talkjoc posted at 7:26 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    Talkjoc Posts: 40

    Takes two of three commissioners for action. We know Nelson was one vote, who was the second?

  • mister d posted at 7:24 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    mister d Posts: 1531

    Why is it that when people are elected to political office they assume they are gods. Someone needs to go and it is not Adams.

  • NoName posted at 7:02 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    NoName Posts: 253

    CDA Press, how about some digg'n here and getting to the real story?

  • Yoda1970 posted at 6:55 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    Yoda1970 Posts: 5

    I also know that did not send formal notice to Mr. Adams that they were voting to fire him. They did it completely behind his back so he had no opportunity to defend himself. Sick, evil people....

  • Hayden Joe posted at 6:07 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    Hayden Joe Posts: 190

    My daughter, a long-time county employee says that tongues are wagging over the disappearance of the county's long-time HR Director just before all this happened.

    The "talk" is that she was in opposition to the calculated moves being made by the commissioners, so adios she went.

    Her name was Anne Shanklin.

  • The Simple Truth posted at 4:43 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    The Simple Truth Posts: 563

    Nice to know that the ACLU and the population of the ACLU are in agreement!

  • voxpop posted at 4:34 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    Don't know where the truth actually lies for this issue. All I do know is that without exception, if the ACLU is for something - I'm not.

  • taxpayer posted at 2:30 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    taxpayer Posts: 343

    the taxpayers have decided that a comprehensive study is needed of its county commissioners. Getting rid of them all is the first step

    dont forget to vote in future elections and vote them out

  • BorneNIdaho posted at 12:41 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    BorneNIdaho Posts: 142

    I think it is time all three commissioners need to be history! This is an absolutely ridiculous action on the part of the corrupt commissioners, and they should be recalled immediately!

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