27 August 2007

More on the Contempt Sanctioned PD and My Opinion

I linked to a bunch of posts about this previously.

Here we find out that there were two witnesses in court for the case.

I've only seen one article which supports the judge, written by a man who tells us he's never set foot in a courtroom:
[L]et me hasten to disabuse you of that sympathy by informing you that public defenders (many of whom are actually third-year law students) are presented with far more serious cases, under similar time constraints, every day. And, moreover, they invariably provide their clients wholly-competent representation.

More importantly, however, if every public defender needed more than 24 hours to prepare for a misdemeanor assault case, the wheels of the US criminal justice system would become hopelessly clogged.
John, at Law of Criminal Defense, is unimpressed.

My Opinion:

Yes, some assault and battery cases can be handled in less than a day, or less than 2 hours or (assuming a competent, experienced defense attorney) in less than 20 minutes. That may even be the majority of assault and battery cases. Any defense attorney who has done indigent defense will have handled more than a couple cases wherein the defendant didn't bother to contact him for the two months he was assigned before trial and the attorney has had to handle the case on the fly the morning of trial. However, there are also cases which need serious investigation, subpoenaing witnesses, interviewing the officers, and negotiating with the prosecutor.

The thing is, the judge can't sort out which case is which from where he's sitting on the bench. I'd be more sympathetic to the judge if he had continued the case and nothing was done which couldn't have been done on the day originally set (no defense witnesses, no physical evidence, when asked prosecutor says no prior negotiation) and then he found the defense counsel in contempt. I would be especially sympathetic to the judge if there was a pattern of doing this, particularly when the prosecution had it's witnesses in court (the thought being that it might be a roll of the dice to see if the prosecution can get the witnesses to court more than once). However, the judge did not handle the matter in this manner. Additionally, if this is actually a policy in place in the PD office and the PD in the courtroom is doing what the guy who can fire him has set down as carved in stone policy, the person who should be found in contempt is the person who is responsible for the policy - that's the head PD, not the guy in court.

Now, that being said, let me go further and say that I find some of the things I've read make me suspicious of the PD and his office as well. The thing I keep reading all over the place about him not asking for a continuance. Some sources seem to intimate that he didn't talk to the prosecutor or do anything to see if he could prep the case. I don't know what the PD did or did not do. However, I find it interesting that everybody reports that he "refused to announce ready" rather than made a motion to continue. The effect is the same, but if you announce "not ready" to a judge who is determined to go forward it's much more theatrical and in your face. It makes the story so much more newsworthy and, by some miracle, a member of the Fourth Estate happened to be there in the afternoon after the judge had continued the case for a couple hours for the defense to prepare itself. One might even think that the PD was purposefully acting in a manner meant to trigger this behavior in the judge in front of the reporter.

This is obviously part of an ongoing conflict between the judge and the PD's office. There's no love lost here and, from what I can tell, it doesn't look like either has clean hands.

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