Pre-COVID, commissioners, inmates, defense counsel, district attorneys, and victims usually attended parole hearings in person. All that is gone now. Inmates still attend their hearings in person, but unless the inmate has problems understanding, the commissioners, district attorneys, and vicitms attend the hearing by video. As for defense attorneys, we sometimes attend in person, sometimes by video. I try to attend my hearings in-person unless COVID restrictions at prisons prevent me from doing so.
This new world has pros and cons for inmates. Not having the commissioners attending in person is a con. I believe it is important for commissioners to sit in the same room with the inmate for a hearing. That way, they get a much better feel for the inmate's true personality, instead of trying to establish this connection through the artificial barrier the video screen places between them.
Not having the district attorney and victims in person is a pro. Especially victims, as they cannot exert as much influence, overtly or covertly, on the commissioners when separated by a video screen, as they can when in the same room with them. The result is that some commissioners who in-person might be intimidated by particularly aggressive victims can maintain their objectivity better when the victim is appearing by video. I think many inmates get intimidated by their victims and this effect is lessened when the victims are not in the same room with the inmate.
I believe I do a better job representing my clients when I am in the room with them for the hearing. Primarily, because I think it puts my clients more at ease not being there alone. But I have had success both ways. Which allows me to offer my clients and potential clients a discount off my normal fee to do the hearing by video, instead of in-person, since I don't have to spend the time and expense of traveling to and from the prison for the hearing.
My normal fee for a parole hearing is $4500 for most prisons. Doing the hearing by video allows me to reduce that fee to $3000 if I've represented the client before and $3500 for a new client. It also allows me now to represent inmates prisons like Pelican Bay and High Desert, where previously, because of the significant amount of extra travel it takes to attend hearings at those prisons, the fee I had to charge was prohibitive for most families.
While I still believe it is better for most inmates to have me attend their parole hearings in-person, for those families who have trouble paying my full fee, it allows me to offer this discount without any significant drop-off in the quality of my services. And to expand the prisons I am able to represent inmates at for a reasonable fee. That's a win-win in my book.
I WILL BLOG OCCASIONALLY WITH THOUGHTS ON TOPICS PERTINENT TO PAROLE. BUT I ALSO WANT TO USE THIS BLOG TO ANSWER QUESTIONS ASKED BY YOU. NECESSARILY, THE QUESTIONS SHOULD BE AS GENERAL AS POSSIBLE ABOUT AN IMPORTANT ISSUE, INSTEAD OF ONLY APPLICABLE TO A SPECIFIC ISSUE YOUR INMATE IS FACING, SINCE I CANNOT GIVE SPECIFIC LEGAL ADVICE VIA A BLOG.
SO FEEL FREE TO ASK YOUR QUESTIONS.