Arraignments were this past Thursday, and it was strange day all the way around.
There were about 200 cases scheduled for arraignment, an unusually high number. I ended up picking about 30 cases, so I'm not complaining. But it seemed like almost everyone was in a bad mood. Ugly, almost.
This judge schedules arraignments at 9:00 and then again at 2:00. At 1:45, we were still finishing up the morning schedule, so I didn't get any lunch. Neither did any one else, and I don't think that that helped matters.
Apparently, it was international day. There were more hispanic defendants than usual, which was only slightly remarkable. But we also had two Russians, a Somali, and an Afghan. I think there was also a defendant from Korea, but he or she had retained counsel, and I didn't pay attention to that case.
There was one guy who was on the 9:00 calendar and had to wait through lunch. At 2:30, when the Judge came back onto the bench for the afternoon calendar, he stood up after the judge called and a case and said, "Excuse me, excuse me! I've been here since 9:00 and I've got to go." Needless to say, the Judge didn't take kindly to the interruption.
Also, several people (the deputy, the bailiff, the Judge) all asked people to turn off their cell phones. I am always amazed that people will simply leave their cell phones on. I don't care wh a person is -- no one needs to be instantly contacted all the time. Several phones rang during the course of the afternoon. The Judge warned several times that the phones needed to be turned off. She must have warned people four or five times. Finally, she warned that the next person who had a cell phone go off would be taken into custody. Sure enough -- someone's cell phone rang about five seconds after she made the announcement. That guy had two
blackberries, and hadn't realized that the second one was on him. He got to think it over in a holding cell. The bad part was that he was signed up for a plea.
Did I mention that I didn't get lunch?
Another weird thing, but a good thing, involves diversion. Diversion is called a lot of different things in different jurisdictions: pre-trial diversion, delayed prosecution, a "hold" in my jurisdiction. Basically, the idea is that the case is suspended for a period of time, the defendant jumps through some hoops, and the case is eventually dismissed. I am of the opinion that nearly all misdemeanors should be diverted, with perhaps the exception of recidivist DV cases, recidivist theft cases and DUI cases. Off the top of my head, anyway.
The current prosecutor has a run a very tough ship. She has based her administration on "evidence-based prosecution," which means that her office will continue to prosecute, even if the alleged victim doesn't want to go forward. She has required all diversion offers on DV cases to be run through one of four adminstrators before the offer could be made. And, I've got the impression that either she or her deputy keeps a close eye on the offers that are otherwise being made. She ran for re-election on Tuesday in a contested race and lost. (I think most of that had to do with demographics -- she ran as an appointed Republican in a Democratic county.)
Well, I got five or six diversion offers on Thursday. Granted, none of them were DV cases, but I know that I would not have gotten diversion offers last week. I'm a big fan of diversion because, frankly speaking, I don't have to do much, and the client knows e Sxactly what he has to do to get the case dismissed. In addition, it's possible to get the arrest expunged once the case is dismissed. Everyone wins. So, those 30 or cases actua;lly means that I only have to work 25 or so. And that's something that is manageable.
That were such good results that they almost offset the fact that I didn't get out of court until 7:00 p.m. On the other had, the guy whose blackberry landed him in a holding cell? His case was the very last called.