Friday, February 23, 2007

Things I Don't Like

Preparing discovery motions.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


I had jail pleas this morning. There were, probably, 25 or 30 people on the calendar, and I was the only APD in the courtroom this morning. Unfortunately. I think I ended up talking to ten clients or so. A relatively light load for jail pleas, but several of the cases turned out to be failry complicated. To add a twist, I had a visiting judge this morning. My Judge was not there for some reason.

Jail pleas, as they are called here, are weekly exercises in triage. My aim is to get everyone out that I can, normally by bond reduction. However, I usually learn about the person's case after they say they want the help of the P.D. The prosecutor puts the file on my table, and I start reading. Also, I had to kind of pay attention to what this judge, who I did not know, was doing, so I could make some sort of recommendation to the client.

There was an older guy whose was wanting to get out on bond. He had failed to appear for arraignment, but he was in his forties, and I thought that it would be a no-brainer for him to sign his own bond. The problem was that I didn't have my Judge.

The visiting judge was concerned that the guy hadn't shown up for arraignment. I hadn't looked at the file that closely, because
  1. The client was older
  2. Notice of arraignment was sent to the wrong address
  3. The client was a Viet Nam veteran
  4. The client had earned two Purple Hearts while in Viet Nam
  5. The client has cancer and a heart condition, necessitating surgery
  6. The client and the alleged victim have parted ways

However, the visiting judge was concerned that the client had kept the Court apprized of his address. Well, it turns out that the case was initially started as a felony, and the charges were dismissed at preliminary hearing. We're talking here about an incident that ocurred over two years ago. The charges were dismissed, and the client was free to assume that the case was done. However, the misdemeanor prosecutor has ridden in to save the day and accused the client with misdemeanor charges.

We eventually got the signature bond, got an arraignment date, and I moved on to the other three clients that were begging for my attention.

This whole time, there were at least two attorneys sitting, patiently waiting for their cases to be called. They had clients on the walk-in calendar, which should be called at 11:00. However, because jail pleas ran over, their cases weren't called until noon.

After one of them finished his business, he came over before leaving and pointed out that there might be a limitations issue. I know about the freaking statute of limitations. But the thing is, so I was so focussed on getting the guy out on a signature bond, I didn't really take that close a look at the dates. The misdemeanor prosecutor had two years from the date of the incident to file the charging document, called an Accusation here. If the prosecutor missed the opportunity to file, then the prosecution is forever barred.

I ended up feeling like a putz, because I hadn't checked that out. It is pretty rare that we get cases that have languished for so long, and that should always be the first thing to check. But the vibe of the interaction was just a little strange. Like the big-shot retained attorney was sharing some sort of practice secret with the likeably-addled and slow public defender. In short, I was pissed off twice over: once at myself and once at him. Mostly because the guy had been sitting around for over an hour while I was working my ass off.

Anyway, I just checked through the online judicial management system. The incident ocurred in December 2004, the Accusation was filed in October 2006. No limitations problem.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Impromptu Hearing

We've had struggles with the Sheriff for some time now. As I believe I metioned earlier, a lawsuit was recently concluded, in which we are not involved, challenging the conditions of incarceration for mentally ill inmates. It seems like the Sheriff has been punishing us since. One of the first things that he did, following the conclusion of the lawsuit, was to kick us out of the jail.

The county jail is very large --I understand that it holds over 3000 inmates. There was a time when we could go back into the pods to talk to our clients. Now, we have to use the attorney interview booths. The downside is that there is glass between us and our clients. These booths are no different than regular visitiation, other than they are one to a room. I have always been concerned that the CO's can listen to our conversations. You see, both sides of the attorney booths have intercoms, and we suspect that the CO's can listen in on our conversations, if they choose.

Based on this concern, apparently, at least one of the judges in felony court has been having the Sheriff bring over the incarcerated inmates for pre-arraignment conferences. These are conferences in the courtroom, with the two assistant public defenders assigned to the courtroom and our clients. A few deputies are there for security purposes. Apparently, the Sheriff decided that he had had enough and started to refuse to being inmates over. And that led to a hearing on Friday afternoon in one of the judge's court. It was all very interesting -- I missed the boss testifying, but I did see one of our senior, major felony attorneys testify. In addition, we have a PhD psychologist on staff, who is also a lawyer, and I got to see him testify.

I only wish that I had a better understanding of the posture. In any event, the hearing is going to be continued until this coming Friday.