The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has published a Request for Comments Relating to the Reappointment of Joseph C. Laws, Jr., Federal Public Defender for the District of Puerto Rico.
Joe is a Charter Member of PRACDL and was our first President. At that time Joe was in private practice, having already served his own stint at the Federal Public Defender's Office years back under the stewardship of the Grand Master - don Gerardo Ortíz del Rivero.
The relationship between the Federal Public Defender's Office for the District of Puerto Rico and PRACDL was built into our own by-laws, by assuring that the Federal Public Defender was a permanent Board member of PRACDL. Article III, Sec. B of PRACDL's By-Laws establishes that:
The Board shall consist of nine (9) directors. One of the directors shall be the Federal Public Defender or a designee, provided that this person fulfills the requirements set forth in section D(6) of Article II of these by-laws. The remaining eight directors will be elected by the members eligible to vote at the annual meeting.
After all, it was at the Federal Public Defender's Office in Old San Juan where a group of nineteen criminal defense lawyers met for a number of days to organize PRACDL. Joe Laws and I also met with Alan Ellis -then NACDL's President- who traveled to Puerto Rico to assure that PRACDL got off to a good start.
We have grown, and that special relationship between PRACDL and the Federal Public Defender's Office has continued. We co-sponsor CLE courses, and try to always maintain a common front in addressing issues in which there is a commonality of interest, such as addressing concerns with the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Attorney's Office to help us in our work. As the Federal Public Defender, Joe Laws has been instrumental in maintaining this common front to the problems facing all criminal defense lawyers practicing before the District of Puerto Rico. Because he has worn the various hats of an Assistant Federal Public Defender, a private practitioner and more recently that of the Federal Public Defender, Joe has made it a point to look out for the well-being of all. Even as a member of the Court's CJA Committee, where I have the privilege of serving with him, he has always looked out for the interests of CJA Panel members, understanding the problems we face, while at the same time constantly insisting that CJA Panel members must be highly qualified.
I will be writing my comments in support of Joe's reappointment as the Federal Public Defender with pleasure, and I invite all criminal defense lawyers practicing in our district to take the time to write their own comments as well.