29 June 2003

Playing games with the court:

Last Friday I was in a rural court when Mr. "J" appeared for at least the 8th time (that I've seen him) on the same charge. That morning one of the more prominent local attorneys has sent a letter and called the court stating that he has been hired and asking the court to continue the trial until a date when he can be present. This isn't an unusual request from the lawyer; people often hire lawyers at the last second (because they are scrambling to get the money) and the courts usually accommodate them.

However, on this date the judge looks down from her bench with a look that approaches pure scorn. She reads off each and every time Mr. J has been ordered to be in court for this case and the excuses he has given each time. The time prior to this Mr. J had appeared with a letter from "Liberty Law Offices" and saying he had hired an attorney no one had ever heard of. At this point the prosecutor chips in and tells the judge that he has checked with the Bar and there is not a lawyer by that name in Virginia. The judge starts to grill Mr. J about that and Mr. J swears that the guy exists and actually produces another letter he has from the attorney. This one says that the attorney is no longer representing Mr. J because Mr. J has hired another attorney. Prosecutor: "Well then judge, I'd ask you to issue a show cause on this attorney because he cannot just fail to appear when no order has been signed releasing him from the case." The judge issues the show cause.

Then the judge starts to tell Mr. J that by all the games he's been playing he has waived his right to counsel and has the deputy present him with a waiver form to sign. Mr. J starts to have a fit and the judge turns to the prosecutor and asks him what he thinks. At that point the prosecutor does something which is pretty slick: "Your honor, we all know the counsel he's hired this time, I say we let him be represented by the counsel of his choice and that we give his attorney time to prepare his case. In the meantime I ask that you revoke his bond." The judge looks at him quizzically for a second and agrees. The man is led away fussing about how he wants to appeal.

After the court has adjourned a number of us are in the Clerk's office telling war stories when the Clerk tells us that Mr. J's daughter had come to the office and asked why her father had been taken to jail. The clerk tells her its because the lawyer from the letter is not in court. Daughter: "I typed that letter last night myself."

Somehow, I suspect more charges will be filed.


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