Being paid by the state to provide criminal defense to the indigent brings one in contact with those truly in need. Every several weeks I receive a call from a client bewildered by correspondence he has received from me. This correspondence will be a copy of a letter to the clerk of court and a copy of the document I am requesting the clerk to file. The letter will specifically state there is an enclosed envelope to return a copy of the document showing the file-stamp. Of course, in the envelope to the client are merely a copy of the letter and the document to be filed--no envelope. The client will call to tell me that he is unable to send me a file-stamped copy because there was no envelope; or to explain he does not understand what it means to file the document he is holding in his hand.
My usual response to these queries is to ask the client to whom is the letter addressed. Approximately one-half the time, the client does not understand the question having never written a letter nor addressed an envelope apparently. It is difficult to understand this level of ignorance although I should be properly inured to it after this many years representing those I am appointed to represent. It must be explained, in detail, that the letter was not sent to them to do anything with other than to know that it was sent on their behalf. Once the concept of "Copy to:" is understood, an extended explanation follows as to the reason for the call which is a reiteration of the conversation gone before. T'is all very maddening but does reinforce the fact that these people are totally unable to deal with life as we know it. Without an attorney paid to watch out for them, they would have an even worse time of it than they do. To them court and criminal charges are just one more thing in their lives they must endure. Court appearances have little significance to them above visiting with their friends and associates who are probably also in attendance in court on criminal charges. Jail actually is of benefit to many which will enrage many a decent citizen, but this story is for another time.