Several months ago a story exposing substantial political contributions to District Attorney Michael Ramos by two attorneys who control the San Bernardino County criminal defense conflict panel was published at www.iepolitics.com.

Now, more revelations are coming forward that may give a plausible explanation for $73,000 in political contributions given to Ramos from 01/01/2004 through 06/30/2009.

Sources who have had business dealings with the conflict panel tell of financial difficulties within the group plagued by late payments to employees and contractors. The issues have resulted in threats of going to state labor officials. It is being asserted that the funds from county conflict assignments now subsidize the private practice operations of the law firms involved.

One source also tells of the use of an investigator in the Victorville courthouse who has the primary task of meeting with pre-trial indigent defendants either in or out of custody with a so-called “plea sheet”. The investigator basically suggests to the defendants they should take a plea bargain. The investigator actually works out the plea arrangement and proposed sentence. Remember, this is a non-attorney.

Nearly all defendants agree.

The logic behind the process was explained this way. The use of the non-attorney investigator in working out plea deals saves money and only requires an actual panel attorney to spend very little time on each case thereby lowering the ratio of attorney man-hours per case. Since the contract between the conflict panel and the County of San Bernardino pays a flat rate per case, with the exception of complex defenses less attorney time per case, thus more profit.

County prosecutors apparently have no problem with the plea bargain milling of defendants. After all, a conviction is a conviction.

San Bernardino County Public Defender Doreen Boxer is apparently trying to cut back on the number of conflict cases being assigned to the conflict panel due to concerns over quality of representation. Boxer made a proposal to county supervisors in January 2009 to establish a separate alternate defense panel within her department. The structure would mirror that of Los Angeles County.

Currently, whenever the Public Defender or the court declares a conflict involving a defendant, the case is farmed out to the conflict panel.

The District Attorney lobbied against the Public Defender’s plan. County supervisors after one on one meetings with Boxer squelched the idea.

Here is a recap of political contributions by conflict panel attorneys James Spring and Earl Carter.

04/12/2004                Earl Carter           $  2,500.00
04/12/2004                Jim Spring            $  2,500.00
08/11/2004                Jim Spring            $  5,000.00
05/06/2005                Earl Carter           $  5,000.00
05/06/2005                Jim Spring            $  5,000.00
05/23/2005                Earl Carter           $  5,000.00
05/23/2005                Jim Spring            $  5,000.00
07/21/2006                Earl Carter           $  5,000.00
07/21/2005                Jim Spring            $  5,000.00
07/13/2007                Earl Carter           $  7,000.00
07/13/2007                Jim Spring            $  7,000.00
05/27/2008                Jim Spring            $ 14,000.00
06/09/2009                Earl Carter           $  5,000.00
06/09/2009                Jim Spring            $  5,000.00
Total                                           $ 73,000.00

It is time several questions are asked here.