Monday, November 22, 2010 – 05:00 a.m.

San Bernardino County’s criminal defense conflict panel has been the subject of harsh criticism on this blog and at

The reason?

Conflicts of interest related to more than $100,000 in contributions to San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos and allegations of misconduct related to plea agreements, involving conflict panel defendants, which were negotiated by non-attorneys.

The defense panel, under a contract administered by the law firm of Carter, Spring, Schank and O’Connor is suppose to provide for indigent criminal defense, may finally have fallen under scrutiny.

Word is coming to that one criminal defense attorney, formally employed by the panel, has come forward to federal authorities.

Sources indicate a probe may be under way and that the Carter Spring firm is in the process of bracing for the potential inquiry.

Plea bargain agreements carried-out by non-attorneys using what insiders refer to as “plea sheets” with the knowledge of the District Attorney, could lead to the overturn of hundreds, if not thousands, of convictions on civil rights violations.

At this hour, it’s unknown as to whether or not members of the San Bernardino County bench were aware of the panel’s activities.

Former insiders say the motivation for such conduct is purely financial. The less attorney man-hours the firm devotes per case the higher the profit margin.

The same insiders tell stories of having to threaten the firm with filing complaints with the state labor commissioner in order to get paid.