By: Jacquelyn Carpenter
As criminal defense attorneys, we are responsible for our own cases, not the county. We accept cases and we know that some of them will be paper intensive. I once bought a whole box of paper that I wheeled into the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to replace the paper it took to make a copy of all the evidence they intended to use against a client. I did not complain. All the time, we request copies of video and audio; there are no complaints that we should provide our own CDs and DVDs. In March of 2009, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office started making copies of redacted offense reports for our convenience. Prior to that, I used to spend 45 minutes in court writing the report by hand. Every time we get an item of convenience, we get greedier and greedier. Now, the defense bar is in an uproar about copy machines.
In this time of economic recession, the County, like everyone else, is looking to cut costs. I would prefer they cut simple costs like paper rather than personnel. In an attempt to save money, Harris County has lessened the amount of air conditioning in the building. Now it is perpetually hot, especially if you are a criminal defense attorney who must run around the building the entire morning. To add insult to injury, Harris County has decided to lock out the attorneys from the copy machine. I think . . . no, I know that I would be offended if the prosecutors still had access to the copy machine, but they do not so I find myself rather unoffended.
However, I feel as though I am the only one. By not being able to use the copy machine, what have I lost? I have lost the convenience of a prosecutor making a copy of the offense report and redacting it in court to give me at the time of the request. I have lost the ability to get a certified copy from the clerk without having to go to the third floor. I have lost the ability to make a copy of a client’s dismissal for my file before handing the yellow copy to the client never to be seen again. In the grand scheme of things, I do not know what the big fuss is about.
Okay, so now I have to make copies of motions in triplicate at the office . . . wait, was I not supposed to be doing that anyway? Okay, well, I cannot meet the client in court and take a copy of the dismissal-earning affidavit the client brought to court. So what? Can I not meet with my own client in advance of the court date to retrieve the copy. If the document was that important, wouldn’t the client have seen fit to get it to me in advance? Oh, I cannot make a copy of the medical records on file with the clerk to make my job easier. Really? I don’t do that anyway, except in one case where the records were not attached to that file because of a transfer and no motion to transfer the motions was ever filed. So, what is the big deal about not having access to the copiers? I bet the Houston taxpayers will be happier about it. If it means that much to you, carry around a portable printer. What is the big deal?