CDO and COVID-19

The leader/follower relationships at the CDO have been interesting to observe. Dan Goldman, the lead Capital Defender, and Meghan Shapiro, the Deputy Capital Defender, are the leaders of the office. They guide the daily office check in meetings and often serve as the main contact for the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission, the overarching organization that capital defender offices in Virginia fall under. 

However, the other attorneys and mitigation specialists are very autonomous on a day to day basis. They are entrusted with their own projects, are expected to meet court deadlines, and are relied upon by Dan and Meghan to provide insight and information regarding the cases that the office is handling. An attorney in the office was independently leading a case with only brief check ins from Dan and Meghan, which is not uncommon in the office. It would not be beneficial if Dan and Meghan were expected to lead the work on every case the office has. It is important that a case’s team is intimately familiar with the facts of the case, mitigating evidence, court dates and testimony etc. It is easier and more effective to achieve this if all attorneys and mitigation specialists can spend large amounts of time with specific clients and case materials, sometimes meaning all office members are not extremely involved with every case the office has. While Dan and Meghan are the designated “leaders” in the office, there is a level of mutual respect among everyone in the office and there is not a strict hierarchy. 

COVID-19 has impacted the leader/follower relationship drastically. Communication is crucial during these times and the office has had to ensure that everyone is up to date on the cases and the new information that is received on a daily basis. Even more so now, it is clear that Dan and Meghan rely on the rest of the office to complete their tasks and come up with creative solutions/theories without them constantly checking in and giving directions. COVID-19 has highlighted how harmonious the office is and how a strict, authoritative hierarchy does not and would not work due to the nature of a Capital Defender Office.