Those are the two most common statements that I have
heard over the years about the Maricopa County Public
Defender’s Office—the first from attorneys who stayed,
and the second from those who left.
Both apply to me personally. When I joined the office
in 1990, I thought I’d stay a few years and then move
on. After all, the reputation of public defender offices
was not conducive to long-range career planning. Many
offices around the country were known for two things:
low pay and “crushing” workloads.
Those problems are still so prevalent that the 50th
anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright in 2013 resulted in
the publication of articles around the country lamenting
how “Gideon’s promise” remains unfulfilled.
What I found when I joined MCPD was entirely
different. I was surrounded by outstanding and mostly
experienced criminal defense attorneys, most of whom
had been with the office for years. Some had left successful careers in private practice to join (or rejoin) the
office. There was a dedication to providing high-quality
representation that was not only expressed, but palpable.
The attorneys were passionate about their work and supportive of each other.
This was clearly not your stereotypical public defender office. It was a great place to practice, a great place to
make a career.
JIM HAAS has been the Maricopa County Public Defender
since January 2001. He joined the office in 1990 after 10 years
in private practice. He served the office as a trial attorney, trial
group supervisor and deputy director before being appointed
“When I joined the office, I didn’t
plan on staying more than a couple
of years. That was 25 years ago.”
“The years I spent in the office were
the best of my career.”
Appeals Division attorneys and staff in about 1998.