Randolph Stone oral history, 1991

First Black director of Cook County Public Defender office. Chaired ABA Criminal Justice Section.

Oral history details

Storyteller: Randolph Stone
Interviewer: Neuhard, Jim
Date of interview: Jul 19, 1991
Where relates to: District of Columbia and Illinois
Topics: Clinical legal education, Cook County, Delivery systems, Independence from judiciary, Nonprofit management, Public defense, and Vietnam
Law type: Criminal
Collection: CNEJL
Georgetown Law Library link (possible video): http://aspace.ll.georgetown.edu/public/repositories/2/archival_objects/405
Length: 1:14:30

Full text of transcript

Download PDF: Transcript

Consortium for the National Equal Justice Library
Oral History Collection
Interview with Randolph Stone
Conducted by Jim Neuhard
July 19, 1991

Jim Neuhard:
This interview is an oral history of Randolph Stone, current soon to be former Public Defender for Cook County. Let’s start at the beginning. What’s your background? Where were you born? What’s your education?

Randolph Stone:
I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1946. Went to high school there. After high school I went to Lincoln University, which is a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania right outside of Philadelphia. Originally when I got out of high school I was planning on being an engineer the school that I got accepted to, my parents couldn’t afford the tuition. I got a scholarship to go to Lincoln that’s how I wound up there.

Jim Neuhard:
What year was that?

Randolph Stone:
That was in ’64. Lincoln at the time was a liberal arts college. The Political Science department was particularly aggressive. That’s how I got involved in thinking about law school, really. I stayed on the East Coast for about two years then transferred back to University of Wisconsin. In fact I stayed out of school for about six months which was a major mistake because I got drafted.

Jim Neuhard:
When did you get drafted?

Randolph Stone:
That was in ’67. I got drafted in, I don’t know, early ’67, went in the army in July of ’67. I wound up spending all of ’68 in Vietnam. Came out of the army in July of ’69. Went back to school. Got my BA from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Started grad school in Urban Affairs then decided to go to law school. I only applied to one law school which was University of Wisconsin. Got in, started there in September of ’72. Graduated in ’75. While in law school I was involved in the clinical program providing legal services to inmates, doing some civil legal services work, and ordinance defense project.

Jim Neuhard:
Ordinance defense?

Randolph Stone:
Municipal violations, disorderly conducts and the like. It was by a guy named Steve Hertzberg who taught a class on legal services to the poor. He was one of the more progressive faculty members at the school, along with a professor James Jones, Frank Remington who was heavy into criminal law, and Herman Goldstein who was into policing.

Jim Neuhard:
Was this in Milwaukee or –

Randolph Stone:
This was in Madison. Right, I moved to Madison. Probably the two most significant events of my law school career was I had two kids. I had one my first year one my third year, which the Financial Aid department wasn’t particularly happy about but I had just, I had gotten married about a year before law school, …

Randolph Stone:
After law school, in June of ’75, I moved to Washington D.C. to work with the Neighborhood Legal Services program on a Reginald Heber Smith fellowship. I arrived in D.C. with a family of four trying to make do on a salary of $11,000 in the District of Columbia, which in retrospect was probably not a very smart move. But I stayed there for a year. I wanted to do criminal defense work. I wanted to work on the East Coast because I enjoyed my experiences out there in college. My objective I think at that point was to work with the Public Defender Service in D.C. or Philadelphia.

Randolph Stone:
But after a year, I got an offer from this experimental project called the Criminal Defense Consortium of Cook County. At that time Marshall Hartman, Sheldon Singer, and Fred [Comb] were the primary figures involved in that program. I moved to Chicago in ’76 began to work for the consortium. I worked in the Evanston office initially. Then I worked in the Woodlawn office and the Harvey, Illinois office. The consortium was an experimental project designed to provide an alternative to the Public Defender’s Office in Chicago. We had six neighborhood offices, four lawyers, a social worker, a couple secretaries, and an investigator in each of the six offices around Cook County. That’s really where I learned how to practice law as a criminal defense lawyer.

Randolph Stone:
After two years the funds ran out. As I think back about it, I thought about applying to the Public Defender’s Office but for the reputation of the office at that time. There were very few Black lawyers who were working in the office. It was known as a very difficult office for Black lawyers to get offers from. It had a reputation for patronage. Being new to the city I had no political sponsorship. I didn’t even bother to apply, quite frankly. I wound up working as a clinical instructor at the University of Chicago Law School handling primarily criminal defense employment discrimination cases. I started to do some death penalty work at that point.

Jim Neuhard:
What do you mean?

Randolph Stone:
The death penalty statute in Illinois had been rewritten. Some of my murder cases the prosecutors had determined to seek the death penalty on them. That was my first introduction to death penalty work.

Jim Neuhard:
[inaudible]

Randolph Stone:
I stayed there for about three years. I left the clinic in ’80 and went into private practice, taking some of my cases with me. The reason I left, I got appointed on a death penalty case that involved a prison riot and the deaths of three guards and serious injuries to several others. It was known as the Pontiac 17 case where they indicted 17 inmates for the murders of the three guards. At that time it was the largest mass death penalty case since the Scottsboro Boys case.

Randolph Stone:
I didn’t think I could handle the case and my clinical responsibilities at the same time. So I left the clinic and opened a small office with a partner, Buddy Clark. For the first year or two our primary work involved working on those cases. I had the death penalty case. He had several of the non-death penalty cases. Ultimately, I think about 30 or 40 inmates were indicted, 17 for the murders and the remainder for other activities related to the riot. That case’s jury selection lasted 4 months. Ultimately 10 of the 17 went to trial at the same time. The case was severed into 10 and 7. One of the defendants turned state’s evidence and ultimately testified against the other 16, or the other 10 who went to trial.

Randolph Stone:
Some of the people charged had two lawyers. There were three prosecutors specially appointed. They constructed a special courtroom to try the case and imported a judge from Downstate Illinois to come to Chicago. The venue was transferred to Chicago to try the case. It was a wonderful experience in that all the lawyers on the case were appointed. Of the 14 or 15 lawyers actually involved in the trial, the majority of them were African American lawyers. It was very interesting experience, to say the least, to work with such a large group of progressive lawyers involved in this case. Some of the lawyers involved were from the People’s Law Office in Chicago — Jeff Haas, Michael Deutch, Skip Gant, Hakim Grasel. Chakwey Lamumba was involved although his case didn’t go to trial. Also David Thomas, Mark Cadish, Roosevelt Thomas, Miriam Jackson, Leo Holt, and a few others whose names I don’t remember.

Randolph Stone:
But ultimately the case took about 2 years. Probably the first seven or eight months involved pre-trial motions. We had lengthy pre-trial evidentiary hearings on a variety of motions. I think over a hundred pre-trial motions were filed in the case. Jury selection took about 4 months. We got the judge to do an individual voir dire since it was a death case. We wound up with a jury of, I think, 16 after 4 months of jury selection.

Randolph Stone:
The trial lasted about two and a half months. Most of that involved the prosecutors’ case. We presented 3 opening statements. We really worked together as a team. We got the judge in the court building to give us a small room in the court building where we worked on strategy brainstorming and really developed a team defense to the case geared towards the individuals that had the worst cases. In fact, in opening statements we sat down and agreed that it would not make sense for each defendant’s lawyer to give an opening statement. We selected 3 of us actually gave opening statements: myself, Jeff Haas, and Leo Holt divided the areas that we wanted to cover.

Randolph Stone:
Then the prosecutors case took about 2 months. I think we only put on maybe 3 or 4 witnesses in the defense case. Probably one of the biggest fights concerned whether defendants would testify because some of the lawyers felt that it was important that their clients hit the stand. That was probably one of the major ruptures in the defense team strategy. It wasn’t a rupture because ultimately we were able to convince the lawyers who wanted to put their clients on, not to. We confined our case to primarily impeachment of prosecutors’ witnesses.

Randolph Stone:
The jury went out, the case closed the Saturday before Mother’s Day in ’81. The jury deliberated about 4 hours, came back, and acquitted all 10 defendants of all charges. Then the next big fight involved payment because the prosecutors were specially appointed. The three lawyers wound up making over half a million dollars collectively. One lawyer made about 300,000 dollars. Another made about 200,000 dollars. The third, who just got out of law school, I think made about 80 or 90 thousand dollars. Whereas for the defense team we were compensated at a much lower rate than the prosecutors. Ultimately many of us never received all of the money that we submitted vouchers or payment for. It was really a disaster for a lot of people. All the lawyers were in private practice. It virtually wiped out the practice for several of the lawyers that were involved in the case. Some have never really recovered from that case.

Randolph Stone:
In any event, after that case was over, I think I stayed in private practice for another year the problem for me in private practice, always, was business versus practice. I think that the cases that I wanted to do, people typically couldn’t afford to pay for. I found myself doing a lot of legal work that I really didn’t want to do such as divorce, corporate work, business advice.

Jim Neuhard:
Were you doing any of this while the Pontiac case was going?

Randolph Stone:
I was doing a little, but I couldn’t do very much. The judge would typically work 4 days a week or 4 a half days a week. It was very difficult to do any other legal work other than the Pontiac case. I did have a fair number of criminal cases that I managed to work in. My partner kind of picked up the slack while I was on trial. But after the case ceased was when really the dilemma of private practice kind of set in for me.

Randolph Stone:
It was at that point, toward the end of middle of ’83 that I decided to go back into public defender work since it was really the work that I enjoyed doing. I went to the Public Defender Service in D.C. in October of ’83. Once again, I didn’t even apply to the Cook County Public Defender’s office. The reputation still had not changed that much in terms of (a) both its willingness to hire minority lawyers, and (b) the perception that it was a patronage payment for friends or relatives of politicians in the county.

Randolph Stone:
I moved once again back to the District of Columbia. I was admitted to the bar in D.C., Illinois, and Wisconsin. Those were really my 3 major areas to look for work. The D.C. office had always had an excellent reputation for providing quality service. Although I must admit that in at least in the mid-70’s it did not have a reputation for affirmative action or its willingness to hire minority lawyers. In fact, when I interviewed there in ’74 or ’75, I think they only had one or two minority lawyers on staff.

Jim Neuhard:
Who was the director there?

Randolph Stone:
The first time I interviewed there, I believe Norm was the director and Patrick Hickey was the deputy. The second time I interviewed there, Patrick Hickey was the director and I don’t recall who the deputy was. The first time I interviewed was my third year in law school, which was ’74. Second time I interviewed was after I passed the D.C. bar that was in ’75. The third time was in ’83. At that time, Frank Carter was the director and Tony Fitch was the deputy. Frank hired me in ’83. I started in October of ’83. It was kind of ironic because when I had interviewed there in ’75 they told that their concern was that I hadn’t had any significant criminal defense experience. When I came back in ’82, Frank told me that some of the staff was concerned that I might be too experienced. Because I had been out of law school for so long, for 7 years I guess.

Randolph Stone:
They had a fairly regimented rotation they wanted to, I guess, legitimately know whether I would be willing to follow the normal rotation or was I expecting some consideration for my experience. But I went through the normal rotation through the training program, which was very good. I went into the appellate division after the training program. I stayed in appeals for about a year I think. I transferred to the trial division for year two then in ’85 or ’86 I was appointed the deputy director of the office. It was an interesting experience in that it was my first really substantial administrative position. Although I had run a couple of the offices in the consortium that was more on an acting or temporary basis.

Randolph Stone:
This was a very intense administrative experience particularly because of the controversy that had occurred earlier resulting in Frank’s leaving the office, Charles Ogletree not getting the directorship, and then he ultimately leaving the office. I became the deputy director, after Cheryl Long was appointed the director.

Jim Neuhard:
Who was appointing you two?

Randolph Stone:
There’s a board of trustees that runs the office in D.C. The same board that had named Cheryl as director appointed me as deputy. That’s in statute. The board appoints both the director the deputy. I think I kind of served as the buffer between the staff and Cheryl since there was a certain amount of distrust concerning her appointment particularly in light of the popularity of Frank and Charles. I think she had some concerns as well about the loyalty of the staff to her. It was a very interesting experience, I guess.

Randolph Stone:
I stayed there for three years, in that position as Deputy Director. Then in late ’87, early ’88 someone called me from Chicago told me about the public defender’s position. Also, Cheryl Long was appointed to the bench. At that point I had applied for the director’s position of the public defender’s office in Chicago. When Cheryl got her appointment to the bench, the board and the staff of course assumed that I would automatically apply for the directorship of the D.C. office. For me, I guess, the challenge of Chicago just seemed much more enticing. I felt that the D.C. office basically could run itself. It had good tradition, good foundation, excellent lawyers, low case loads. There were many competent people that could step in run it.

Randolph Stone:
Whereas, Chicago presented, to me at least, an opportunity to really make a difference or an impact on the criminal justice system in an office that had a reputation for having a lot of problems. After talking it over with my family and of course a lot of people in the office, I decided not to apply for the D.C. position and instead encouraged Kim Taylor to apply. Ultimately she did was selected.

Randolph Stone:
I left in May of ’88 to go to Chicago. The Chicago office at that point was about 58 years old, had over 400 lawyers, and had another 200 or so support staff. It had just been sued by a number of minority lawyers in the office for racial discrimination in terms of promotions hiring. It had just been sued by women lawyers for gender bias in terms of promotions hiring.

Randolph Stone:
It had been under investigation for its past hiring practices and its lack of aggressive advocacy on behalf of its clients. So the NLADA had just released its report. The [Soloby??] Commission had studied the office and released a report. About a month after I got there, the Chicago Council of Lawyers called me over to sit in on their press conference where they released their pretty scathing report.

Randolph Stone:
But in retrospect it was probably the ideal time for a new person to be there. Because you had all these reports pointing to areas where the authors said needed improvement and kind of laying out a road map on what to do about improving it. I guess one of the most fascinating developments for me was the fact that the office had never had an African American at the head of the office. So it was fascinating to be a part of that dynamic in the sense that the public defender’s office, like many of the other county agencies, had always been run by White, Irishmen. In fact, there was a report that came out a few months ago indicating that not much has changed in the past 10-15 years. Most of the major county government positions in Cook County are headed by White Irishmen.

Randolph Stone:
There was a certain amount of resistance from many of the staff. I guess the staff kind of fell into three categories: resistance from those who resented me coming in from the outside and/or me coming in from the outside and being Black; a large group who just kind of had a wait-and-see attitude; and a much smaller but supportive third group who were kind of excited about the opportunity and the possibility to really change the perception that the office had. I must say that a lot of the perceptions were true. But at the same time there were a number of very dedicated, hard working lawyers, investigators, and support staff in the office who were really committed to providing quality defense. Many of them I had known from my days at the Consortium or in private practice. They were still there, still plugging away, still doing a good job.

Randolph Stone:
But there was, I would say, a substantial core of people who really resented my presence. Both in terms of coming from the outside and in terms of a racial issue.

Jim Neuhard:
Both professional and support staff?

Randolph Stone:
Right, both professional and support. In fact, I found that as time went on, it was much easier gaining support from the nonprofessional staff than it was from the professional staff. The professional staff, it took a lot longer and there was much more resistance, possibly because they felt they had more to lose or whatever. But the support staff, once they understood that my only agenda was improving the quality of services that we provided to our clients, tended to be much more cooperative. They had long suffered anyway, really, in terms of treatment at the hands of the lawyers, and I think really were eager to be treated better and to have some understanding that their contributions were appreciated. These were the clerks and the secretaries and investigators and law clerks and administrative assistants and etc. For the most part, they came around much faster than the legal staff.

Randolph Stone:
So as of today, I am kind of on my way out. I’ve been there three years. I started in May of ’88 and this is July of ’91. As of about a month ago, I announced that I was leaving to take over the clinical program at the University of Chicago Law School. I wasn’t really ready to leave. I wasn’t looking for a job. But since I got back to the city, the University had been talking to me about the possibility. Gary Palm, the director, had indicated that he wanted to step down.

Randolph Stone:
Finally, I guess after a couple of years of talking about it, the idea of getting back in the courtroom actually representing some clients, hopefully being able to do some death penalty work, and being able to redevelop a criminal defense component in the clinic where I can practice law and hopefully be able to hire a couple lawyers and hopefully be able to interest some of the law students there into going into the work after they graduate became more and more appealing to me. So as we speak today I’m kind of in both places.

Randolph Stone:
I’ve started my work at the clinic, but I haven’t gotten out of the public defender’s office yet. One of my major initiatives when I came to the office was to make the office independent of the judiciary. In Cook County, the public defender is appointed by the chief judge of the circuit court of the county. We, about six months ago, introduced with the help of some legislators, a bill in the Illinois General Assembly that would take the office and make it an independent agency. It would establish a set term of appointment, I believe it’s six years, for the public defender. It lists certain qualifications that the public defender should have. The appointment, rather than coming from the Circuit Court of Cook County, would come from the president of the County Board with the advice and consent of the other board members. The public defender could only be removed for a good cause and a hearing with due process would be required for removal. Pretty much in line with the ABA and the NLADA standards for appointment. One thing that the bill doesn’t contain that it should have is a board of trustees or an advisory board or a commission to do the selection. But that was something that in terms of compromise we had to give up. I think for us, the important thing was to make the office independent. Next we’ll have to go the next step and create an advisory board and then build something into the statute to provide for a merit selection panel.

Jim Neuhard:
This is only for Cook County?

Randolph Stone:
It only applies to Cook County.

Jim Neuhard:
Why don’t you seek it to apply to all public defender offices statewide?

Randolph Stone:
Well because many of the public defenders in the state don’t want independence, number one. In Illinois, many of the statutes that relate to counties are segregated counties by their population. In fact, we talked to the public defenders in several of the collar counties about their wishes and desires. We decided that, in terms of passage, it would be much easier if the bill was specific to Cook County. We hope to provide some opt-in language in the bill so that other counties can opt into it if they so desire. But that was a compromise as well.

Randolph Stone:
So in any event, today as we speak, the bill has been passed by both houses in the legislature. It’s on the governor’s desk, and as soon as he signs it, it will be effected that day. Hopefully it’ll be signed today or tomorrow. Once that happens my resignation will become final. Then the president of the county board can make his selection which, we are led to believe, will be my first assistant. But of course it’s still Chicago so anything can happen.

Jim Neuhard:
So where was Judge Comerford?

Randolph Stone:
Judge Comerford, when I interviewed for the position I had a pretty detailed agenda about what I hoped to accomplish, and one of my items was independence. So in our discussions, he indicated that he would support that position, and he has been publicly supporting the concept of independence every time he’s asked a question.

Jim Neuhard:
[inaudible 00:11:09]?

Randolph Stone:
Well, I didn’t really become politically, I guess, aware until probably 1965, ’66. One of the professors at the Lincoln, in fact, was Charles Hamilton who wrote “Black Power” with Stokely Carmichael. He was my political science teacher. So he was probably instrumental in my opening my eyes to, or getting a different perspective on, how on politics works. Prior to that, I think I was pretty much in … although my father was a very militant person in terms of his analysis of American society. As the oldest of seven children, and the first one to ever go to college, the primary focus on me was, for my family at least, getting me into college. Education was pushed as the way out of poverty, a way to surmount all the problem with racism and all the other problems with society.

Randolph Stone:
As I began to do more reading and thinking and talking, at Lincoln at that time there was a lot of incipient almost revolutionary organizations kind of floating in through the campus. People from the East Coast would float in and out. The revolutionary action movement, the small groups, kind of got many of the people at Lincoln involved in that. These were people much older than me. Stokely Carmichael would come in and out of campus. But for me, I guess, at 17-18, I was not particularly involved. I was more on the periphery.

Randolph Stone:
When I got back to Milwaukee after transferring, and then ultimately dropping out and getting drafted, I guess that was really the first time I had to make a personal choice. I remember several deep discussions with a number of folks about whether to go in the army or whether to go to Canada. In fact, I ultimately did go in. Then when I got my orders to go to Vietnam, I had several night-long discussions about it. I had a friend who I had met in advanced infantry training at Fort Polk. On our way back to Wisconsin he told me that he was going from Milwaukee to Toronto to Paris. He had his underground plans kind of laid out. It was a White guy from one of the richer suburbs in Milwaukee. Then he told me how to get in touch with him if I wanted to make the trip, and blah blah blah. In discussing it with my family and friends and relatives, it was pretty intense discussions. I don’t know exactly why I made the decision that I did, but I decided to go to Vietnam. It might’ve been because (a) I didn’t know how bad it was gonna be; (b) the adventurism; and (c) it was safe, or so I thought, following orders.

Randolph Stone:
My father was very, and my parents were very, noncommittal. I mean, we talked intensely about it, but they never said one way or the other what I should do. I think they were just as confused about what decision to take as I was. But in any event, I did go to Vietnam in January of ’68 and probably got more politicized in that one year than in the prior 20 years or so of my life. I guess I must’ve been 21 when I got to Vietnam in January of ’68.

Randolph Stone:
I had over two years of college. I had scored very highly on all the tests. In fact, they wanted me to go into officer’s school. But in order to do that you had to stay another two or three years or something. I was determined that I was gonna get in and get out as quickly as possible.

Randolph Stone:
Despite all that, they put me in the infantry. I recall getting to Vietnam and going to the personnel and payroll and little divisions to get processed and all that and wondering why everybody in all of these divisions were White. Then I got to my infantry battalion and noticed the heavy percentage of Blacks and Hispanics in those divisions. In fact, I remember when I first got there I decided that I was gonna get out. I went back to these payroll and personnel areas and tried to talk to the different division commanders and offered to take typing tests and telling them how fast I could type and my two years of college and asking why was I in the infantry.

Randolph Stone:
In fact, for about a couple weeks they had a shortage or something. So I was like a payroll clerks for a couple weeks in one of those units until they got their permanent folks in, and they sent me back. Then I decided I would go to some of the other specialized units, and I could finally convince this commander of a helicopter unit of my facility with the machine gun. So instead of going to the infantry, I was assigned to this helicopter unit as a machine gunner on a helicopter. At the time, I thought that was a step up. Little did I know. But I just, you know, I didn’t know. I thought that at least I wouldn’t be trompsing through the jungles.

Randolph Stone:
So that’s what I did for about eight months. I was a machine gunner on a helicopter, both gunships and the crew ships. In fact, I flew all the different types of helicopters as the machine gunner until about seven months into it, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I just could not physically, psychologically, or emotionally, do it. Which created a lot of problems for me so they started assigning me to latrine duty or all night guard duty or various things. But I was just determined that I wasn’t gonna fly. For the last three or for months there, I didn’t do much of anything other than stay out of the way.

Randolph Stone:
Then they sent me back to Fort Hood after my year was up which was even worse than Vietnam. In fact, probably, why are spending so much time talking about this? Anyway, probably in the worst experience for me was leaving Louisiana. I remember six of us, after we completed our infantry training and gotten our orders to go to Vietnam. We left Fort Polk and we went to some small town where we were waiting for a bus to take us to a bigger town to catch a plane to come back. As we’re sitting in this bus station, about six of seven of us, we decided to walk down to this bar to get a drink, some beer. So we’ve all got on our little uniforms and we walk into this bar, and we sit down at this big table at like a country western bar or something. The waitress comes up to the table and tells us that she can’t serve us in this bar. This is 1967. December of 1967. It was just before Christmas. Most of the people with me were all White except for me. Most of them were more from the North. That’s right, we were all going back to Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland. These guys, I guess, it freaked them out. They just couldn’t believe it. She wouldn’t serve us because I was Black, and they didn’t serve Black people in this bar. In order for them to get a drink, I would have to leave. So we all left, but these guys … I thought that for them it was probably … But in any event, I had to convince these guys not to go back in this bar because they wanted to do their Rambo thing. I was, I guess, disappointed but not … it just, you know wasn’t a major issue. But it kept coming back when I got to Vietnam because just the racism involved in terms of the high percentage of Black troops on the front lines and in more dangerous occupations. I really felt a lot of empathy for the Vietnamese people. In fact, I developed some pretty good relationships with several of the Vietnamese people that I got to know. The year over there was a very interesting, very moving experience. One that I could’ve done without, but probably very meaningful.

Randolph Stone:
When Martin Luther King was assassinated, I remember how the word would spread throughout the country and just a real sense of betrayal and anger and resentment that most of the Black soldiers felt and many of the White ones as well at that time. When we hear about what was going on in the world there was a very moving experience I guess that year. I remember we came back in Seattle. Ultimately we got back to Seattle. I recall getting off the plane and how we would see these protesters outside walking around the base.

Randolph Stone:
Probably the first couple years back from Vietnam were very unsettling for me just in terms of trying to find my place and trying to catch up with what had gone on and trying to figure out how to fit in. Of course, most of the people that I was there with or most of the people I know who were there during that period had never really regained their balance. At least the people that I know. Which is a very sad and tragic story of and in itself I guess.

Jim Neuhard:
[inaudible] law school?

Randolph Stone:
I went to law school in ’72. When I got back, I guess I had got involved with some of the Black Panther Party programs. Although I never joined the party, I was involved in some of their programs. I was very fascinated by Huey Newton’s trial. Charles Gary I guess represented him. I got involved in some of the fringe revolutionary groups. the legal system at that point seemed to me to be at least an area in which one could effect some kind of social change.

Jim Neuhard:
Most people [inaudible]. Why did you end up [inaudible]? Was it accidental?

Randolph Stone:
No. For me as a personal matter, I knew I was going to go into defender work when I went into law school. The reason I took the Reggie fellowship was merely to get to Washington D.C. I thought once I got to D.C., pass the bar, then the public defender’s office would hire me. It never occurred to me that they wouldn’t hire me after I passed the bar. Because their rationale for not hiring me was that I wasn’t a member of the bar. that’s why I went to civil legal services. In addition to the fact that the Reggie work was still representing poor people, so I said, well it’s not exactly defense work, but it could be close.

Randolph Stone:
I talked to Willy Cook and I kind of respected him for the job that he was doing. I always thought that defender work was much closer to dealing with some of the fundamental issues in the society. It just seemed to me that the clients, the people that we were representing, were just people — and I don’t wanna get too preachy here — who had aggressively acted out their frustrations about being locked out of the society. I always thought that that was closer to the issues that I wanted to deal with.

Jim Neuhard:
[inaudible]

Randolph Stone:
I still think the same thing. Which is why I’m so excited about building this defense component, particularly at the University of Chicago law school, where their reputation is so conservative. I feel like if I can get some of those students there to begin to look at the criminal justice system, even as prosecutors, hopefully more as defenders, but just get them involved in this criminal justice system.

Jim Neuhard:
[inaudible]

Randolph Stone:
I felt that it was important, but I didn’t think it was mandatory. In other words, I hoped to persuade most of the folks in my office to share my view of the world, and my mission of the office. But I thought that the work that we do is broad enough to accept people into it who may not look at things exactly the way I do.

Randolph Stone:
For example, I think that there is a place in the defender movement for people who want to do trial work, and want to do it as a defender, but who do not necessarily share a psychic or emotional or philosophical commitment to our clients. I don’t think they make the best defenders, but I think that in an office as large as ours, we have room for those kind of folks. I think we have room for people who want to be good writers, who like constitutional and criminal law issues, who want to be great appellate lawyers, who are not necessarily psychically or emotionally committed to our clients. The office is big enough so we have the room to accept those people. I don’t think they’re the best defenders, but I think because of the size of our office, we can do it. Everybody’s just not gonna share my view of the world. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be good defenders.

Jim Neuhard:
[inaudible]

Randolph Stone:
I’ve done civil, both that first year and then when I was at the clinic I did some employment discrimination work. Most of the other lawyers in the clinic were civil, that I worked with. My feeling is that we’re a lot closer, we have a lot more in common than we have apart, than there are differences. I think we share much of the same vision of how we’d like to see the world operate, how we’d like to see the world to be, how we’d like American society to function. I think there are a lot more similarities than there are differences, at least from my perspective.

Jim Neuhard:
[inaudible] differs depending on the size [inaudible]?

Randolph Stone:
Yeah, I think it does. I think the beauty of the D.C. office is simply that the case loads are limited and you’ve got the resources to do quality services for the very small number of clients that the office represents. The problem with the office is obviously you only represent a small percentage of the clients. 80% of the people who are getting serviced in D.C. receive a wide range of services as it relates to quality. Some, the quality is distressful. Most it’s mediocre. A few get good service, the few that the office represents and the few of the private lawyers who provide quality services. But the bulk of the people in D.C. who are indigent don’t receive that hot of service. That’s not an indictment of the D.C. office, it’s just kind of the way the system works.

Randolph Stone:
In Chicago, I think that the norm, the average client who is indigent probably receives a slightly higher level of service, because the office represents 85-90% of all the indigent people in the system. The D.C. office I think provides a higher quality of service for the smaller percentage of clients.

Randolph Stone:
In terms of the vision of the director, or the leadership, or the mission of the office, I think we’ve got to understand that our role as defenders goes a lot further than the service that we provide to the individual clients that we represent. I think that it’s the function of the leadership of the office to get that word out, to get the lawyers and support staff to understand that. I mean, we’ve got to begin to focus on client prevention polices, we’ve got every issue that affects the criminal justice system.

Randolph Stone:
The public defender, it seems to me, has to speak out about it, has to be responsible for involving the private bar, the bar associations. We really have to be more than just managers of our offices. That may be the priority, but today, we’ve got to get beyond that. We’ve got to begin to take leadership roles and positions in the system and in reforming the system, in making the system respond to the needs of the people that we represent before they even become our clients. Because the policies and the issues that are implemented or changed by the legislature, by the judiciary, by the media, all have an impact on how many clients we ultimately get, on who becomes our clients. I think many of the public defender offices around the country are doing that and I think we need to do more of it.

Jim Neuhard:
[long, inaudible question]

Randolph Stone:
Wow, that is a good question. I don’t think I can answer that really, off the top of my head. I think that’s something that I’ll have to think about. But I think that the independence issue is critical for the integrity of the system as the well as the integrity of the public defender’s office. We cannot, in Chicago for example, even among the private bar, the way the system works, they appoint the public defender, then the judges appoint the private lawyers to the cases and determine their fees.

Randolph Stone:
You’re fighting such an uphill battle in terms of convincing your client that you are an advocate for that client. I just think the independence issue is central to the core of being able to provide the services, being able to fight the judiciary, being able to fight the legislature, and the media, and the police. We’re in an era now where our rights are shrinking because of the so-called war on drugs. Unless we can maintain and foster and expand the independence of people that are representing those charged with crimes, it’s going to be some very difficult times. But I’m encouraged by the public defender’s service of Harlem, for example. I’m on their advisory board. Other places are trying new things and exploring, expanding and trying to get experimental concepts for the future of the defenders.

Jim Neuhard:
[inaudible] different than the perception of the defenders [inaudible]?

Randolph Stone:
There is a difference but I think that from my perspective and looking at the lawyers in D.C. and the lawyers in Chicago, I think if the leadership of the office, regardless of the statutory dynamic, if the leadership of the office is viewed as independent, then it seeps down into the lawyers, into the courtroom. The statutory mechanism is only an enhancement because even if the statute provides for an independent public defender, if the person in that position does not manifest that independence, it affects the ability of the lawyers in the courtroom to be independent.

Jim Neuhard:
[inaudible re Pontiac 17 case]

Randolph Stone:
It was fantastic. It was probably because the trial was so long. The stakes were so high. The fight was so hard. The racism involved in how these guys got picked to be defenders. It was a great experience for me personally and professionally. As I look back on a lot of cases that I’ve tried and work that I’ve done, that was a big case. But as a defender I think one of the things that I’ve learned and I try to impart to all the lawyers that work with and for me is that there are no such thing as small cases in the work that we do. All the cases are big cases. Even the misdemeanors and juveniles, they’re all big cases, particularly for the people that we represent. The Pontiac case was a great victory but I’ve had lots of great victories for cases that have no names and people whose names you’ll never know.

Jim Neuhard:
[inaudible]

Randolph Stone:
It feels wonderful.

Jim Neuhard:
[inaudible]

Randolph Stone:
Well, I’ve had hard times. I’ve got a lot of guilt about the time that I haven’t spent with, I have two teenage kids. My daughter just completed her first year of college. In fact, I sent her back to Lincoln. My son is in high school. I’m on my second marriage. A lot of the stress involved in my first marriage was directly related to the time and energy and emotion that I was pouring into my cases. My family life has suffered, and I’m working on it. I’m just trying to do better.

Jim Neuhard:
[inaudible]

Randolph Stone:
I think so. I think when people’s lives, I mean actual lives, and their liberty, is your responsibility to a large extent, it just adds another whole layer of responsibility to a defender. I don’t think it has to, because I think some people can handle it better than others. I don’t think it’s an excuse, I think there are many other professions that provide a lot of stress, and that are time-demanding. But defenders I think tend to make the work their life. Tend to make their clients lives their lives. Tend to neglect their personal lives in favor of the work that they do for their clients. Now I don’t know if that’s just a personality. Maybe they’re like that anyway before they go into defender work. Maybe if we had gone into some other kind of work we might do the same thing. I don’t know. Most of the people that I respect, people who if I had a case, I would go to, are the types of people that tend to have personal lives that are in disarray, or have periods of disarray.

Jim Neuhard:
[inaudible]

Randolph Stone:
Well, for me, there’s really no alternative. I mean, it’s not like I looked around and tried to figure out what kind of lawyer or kind of work I wanted to do. I went to law school to do this kind of work. In terms of being a lawyer, I think the legal profession provides one with a lot of opportunities to impact and change society. I think defense work provides the best of all worlds in that one can deal with policy but at the same time have the satisfaction of working with an individual client, an individual person, get into a person’s life. The satisfaction of improving one’s forensic skills by trial or appellate work. To me, it’s the best of all possible worlds.

Jim Neuhard:
[inaudible]

Randolph Stone:
Well, if I was God-

Randolph Stone:
… There would be a tremendous shrinkage in the need for public defenders because the crime rate would be going down. Poverty would be eliminated. We’d have very few public defender offices. But assuming that that didn’t happen, and we’d need public defenders, we’d need a vehicle for providing services to the indigent and criminal cases.

Randolph Stone:
In order for the integrity of the system to be at its peak, I think we need a very mixed system of representation. I don’t think a large office like mine in Chicago, where my office does 85 to 90% of the work, protects the integrity of the system or provides the highest quality of services, because it’s too insular. The rest of the bar is divorced from what goes on in the criminal courts. I don’t think that that’s the way to go. Similarly, I look at DC, and I’m not satisfied with that because the office provides such a small percentage of representation. I just think the quality of services provided to the remainder of the people is too varied.

Randolph Stone:
I like what Chris Stone is doing with the Harlem PD’s office. I like his creativity and his willingness to experiment. I like the team approach to representation, involving lawyers, investigators, community workers, et cetera, and alternatives to incarceration. We’ve created the sentencing advocacy project. Many other public defender offices around the country are doing that. But I’d like to see a mixed system in your major urban areas where you have an institutional public defender that can provide for the majority even of the services but you have a substantial involvement of private lawyers, both big firm types, medium firms, small firms that are doing pro bono as well as compensated appointed representation for poor people who can’t afford to hire private lawyers.

Jim Neuhard:
What about [inaudible]?

Randolph Stone:
Exactly. I agree. I think total client service sorts of programs are the direction that we need to go to their problems. But I think that’s the direction that we need to go. It’s one of the reasons that I’m excited about this project at the University of Chicago because I think that what I’d like to see there is some models built where we can provide full service work to clients that [inaudible].

Jim Neuhard:
[inaudible]

Randolph Stone:
No. I want to stop. My voice is running out.


END