For Miles Gerety, the decision was about both quantity and quality.
A little over three years ago, when he took over the state public defender's office in Danbury, Conn., there were six lawyers. Today, that number is four. And so Gerety has decided to retire, effective May 1, rather than to continue to make do with less.
"We are all running around like crazy," said Gerety, 62, a Redding resident. "What I'm upset about is these budget cuts are impinging on my ability to provide the best possible representation. ... I just think the cuts mean the [state office of] Public Defender Services is now being understaffed. There is a breaking point."
Gerety, who has spent 25 years as a public defender, plans to chip in after he retires, taking on individual cases as an assigned counsel, a role that used to be called a special public defender. But he first plans to spend the summer sailing across the Atlantic Ocean.
His predecessor as Danbury's top public defender, Robert Field, explained that "Miles is a bit like Don Quixote. He doesn't really like working within systems."
But he's worked in the public defender's system long enough and well enough to have earned the respect of his peers and colleagues, and for them to take his staffing complaints seriously.
"It was devastating for me when I received the news he was leaving after all these years," said New Haven Public Defender Thomas Ullmann. "He has a really great reputation. He always fought the good fight and protected his clients' rights. He's the kind of guy you want to be in the public defender's office. He knew everything about his clients, and their history."
Gerety's complaints might sound familiar.
Two years ago, as Connecticut wrestled with the same budget crisis that's ongoing today, public defenders said spending cuts would push caseloads for lawyers too high and make it difficult for them to meet their constitutional and ethical obligations to the state's poorest citizens.
At the time, the Office of Chief Public Defender, whose roughly 200 lawyers handle more than 90,000 cases a year, had been asked to cut its two-year, $128 million budget by about $9.6 million, or 7.5 percent.