17 August 2006

A Week in the Life: Thursday

Today should have been pretty easy - only a morning docket. Yeah, right.

I go out to the City of Carlton to do a morning of duty in the juvenile and domestic relations court. I have 4 cases this morning but only one of the clients has contacted me. I find out why when I get to the courthouse. The clerk of court has been dutifully giving out my card to each person as I was assigned to defend him or her. The problem is that the clerk has been giving them cards from 6 years ago when I had an entirely different office and phone number. As you can imagine, there are a number of people who very badly want to conference with me when I get to the courthouse. And I even find out there were two people assigned to me whom I never received any notice about. I go into scramble mode and by the time my first case is called have most of it figured out.

The first case is a kid charged with stealing a car and failing to come to court on his first trial date. I move the judge to remove me from this case because it is just starting, juvenile cases tend to run for a while, Client is not being held in a detention facility, and I'm leaving at the end of the month to go to Wise County. The judge doesn't agree. He states that this case has been pending since December of last year and we're trying it today. So we put it on. Client pleads not guilty to both charges. The prosecutor puts on someone who testifies he saw Client take the car. Then prosecutor puts on the officer to whom Client confessed. About 2/3rd of the way thru the officer's testimony the judge interrupts:
Mr. Lammers, what are we doing here? This case is a slam dunk. Unless you've got some magic defense I don't see?
I don't and it would probably be rude to point out to the judge that I am not the one who decides whether my client will plead guilty or not guilty. Anyway, I ask for a minute to talk with Client and after a couple minutes of whispering back and forth he changes his plea to guilty on the theft charge. The funny thing is, had the judge let the officer finish his last couple sentences we'd probably have finished faster than we did after the judge interrupted. Oh well. We go back and forth for a minute or two about why he missed court last time but the judge dismisses after it becomes clear that Client wasn't in court because his parents would not bring him. Then the judge starts asking why Client isn't in a detention facility because of 6 similar charges he's facing in the City of Farway. The juvenile probation officer points to the fact that Client is in a halfway house, going to school, and attending certain programs. This seems to mollify the judge. Finally, the judge transfers the case to Faraway court to be dealt with by the court which has most of his charges and removes me from the case.

The next case is a guy who got in a fight with his little brother. Guilty plea - time served.

Next is the guy whom I didn't know I was representing until I came to court this morning. He's charged with fighting with a 17.5 year old at minor league ballpark (I guess they were rooting for opposing teams). Anyway, it's a citizen complaint and Client has been in jail for 2 months waiting for his day in court. However, the witnesses weren't subpoenaed. The prosecution moves for a continuance. I object, pointing out that Client has no bond (with 13 prior failing to appear convictions it's just not going to happen) and has served more time than he'd get on an A&B already. The judge continues the case. Realizing that Client should have a quick date he asks me if I'm available for the next Thursday.
Well, Your Honor, I have circuit court in Shire at 9 a.m. but if I come here first and this case is called first I can do it.
So the judge sets the case for 9 a.m. the next Thursday.

Next called is a 19 year old guy charged with several misdemeanors all of which basically amount to stalking a 17.5 year old girl and felony solicitation of sodomy; on the misdemeanors it's the trial date and on the felony it's a preliminary hearing. I tell the judge from the beginning that we are pleading not guilty to the misdemeanors but aren't going to put on any defense today because we anticipate appealing them with the felony when it's sent to the circuit court for trial. The prosecutor calls the girl as a witness and she testifies about various things client supposedly did and how he came over her house and while they were sitting around smoking cigarettes he asked "When can I have some?" I move to strike the felony for lack of evidence and the judge does. Then he finds Client guilty on the misdemeanors and sentences him to 6 months in jail. I ask for the appeal bond to remain the same as the original bond, pointing out that now there are just misdemeanors when before there were misdemeanors and felonies. The judge increases Client's bond and puts him in the custody until bond is paid.

Next called is a father who left his 7.5 year old kid at home while he went to play poker for a couple hours. When he came back at 10 p.m. (totally sober) the police had been called by a neighbor who saw the kid riding his bike and were waiting for him. The prosecutor has agreed that this guy should get parenting classes and after a year have the charge dropped. Unfortunately, Client has not come to court. The case is continued and the judge removes me after joking for a couple seconds about why I wouldn't want to drive back the 6 hours from Wise to enjoy the beautiful City of Carlton one last time and get my $120.

Finally, there is an initial detention hearing. Client is a 16 year old girl who has been kicked out of her home for stealing and keeps getting kicked out of everywhere she finds to live for the same reason. There's not much I can do and she is held. Then the judge goes to set a full detention hearing and suggest the next Thursday at 11:00. Hmmm . . . time to gently remind the judge that I really am not available that day.
Me: As you'll recall, Sir, I have circuit court in Shire that morning.

Judge: Oh, that's right. Well, then we'll set this at 9 a.m. when you're here for the other case.
Huh?!? Well, that's going to make scheduling next Thursday all sorts of fun.

And thus ends my Thursday in court.

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