VIII. How the DV System Teaches Kids the System is the Enemy

By David Feige

We public defenders are a strange breed: passionate people spending ourselves in a Sisyphean struggle for justice in a system rigged to crush us. It doesn’t make a lot of sense…

Not when Judge Sussman sends a workingman to jail for spousal abuse despite the audible pleas from his wife: “Please, he’s never done it before. I’m fine. Please, I love, him, he’ll lose his job. Please!” she cries, until the court officers shout her down and drag her from the courtroom, and Sussman, without batting an eye, sets bail that neither he nor she can made, costing him his job and their only source of income. Two months later they will be evicted for nonpayment of rent and become homeless.

When the wife refuses thereafter to cooperate with the prosecution, the assistant district attorney will call the Administration for Child Welfare, and they’ll lose their child too – another kid ripped from his parents and placed for six scarring months in the foster care system, which in turn produces, 15 years later, in all likelihood, another grim-faced client, another kid for whom the system is the enemy.

Source: David Feige. Indefensible: One Lawyers’ Journey into the Inferno of American Justice. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2006. Excerpted from Chapter 16. Reprinted by permission.