» Courts, DUI, Trial » Justice v. Efficiency

Justice v. Efficiency

The criminal justice system is broken. Many judges are little more than prosecutors in robes.

The courts fuss and fume when you need an extra week or two to make a decision. They push you into whatever plea comes your way.

In Phoenix City Court, you usually spend the pretrial stages in front of a single judge. After you decide to fight it, though, they shuffle you elsewhere. The order says you’ll be going to trial in thirty days, but the court struggles to get you in front of a judge in sixty. You won’t know which judge you’ll get for fifty-nine.

When everyone assumed you’d plead, they rushed you to a decision. After they realized you were going to fight, they stretched it out as long as possible. It’s even a battle to get a judge to hold a motion hearing prior to trial.

Imagine you have one heck of a suppression issue. The cops obviously needed a warrant and didn’t get one, or they got one but it didn’t authorize what they did. It’s the awesome kind of issue defense attorneys crave, the kind of issue that makes motion drafting a true pleasure. I’d call it a slam dunk if it weren’t for the fact courts will do almost anything to avoid letting you “get away” with whatever some cop mistakenly thought you might have done.

No motion hearing for you! Not in Phoenix, at least. The motion hearing happens on the morning of trial while the jury waits below. There’s no pressure to deny the motion and give the jurors something to do, of course.

The court doesn’t care that you will have to pay thousands of dollars to retain an expert witness for trial in a case that should be dismissed based on well-settled law and undisputed facts. That’s your fault for putting yourself in a situation where you got yourself accused. The court doesn’t care that the state wouldn’t offer you a plea that conveyed some sort of discernible benefit. The blame again falls on you, the potentially innocent defendant who was unwilling to accept responsibility against your own self interest. The court doesn’t even care that this is a twenty-witness trial and there’s no time to hold an evidentiary hearing prior to trial. The judge will just yell at your defense lawyer when he asks for trial to continue into a second day.

You’re a beast of burden being pushed to your cruel fate. That’s the way the system works, and the idea is familiar…

Move ’em on, head ’em up
Head ’em up, move ’em out,
Move ’em on, head ’em out Rawhide!
Set ’em out, ride ’em in
Ride ’em in, let ’em out,
Cut ’em out, ride ’em in Rawhide.

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4 Responses to "Justice v. Efficiency"

  1. CLH says:

    To SHG- From the standpoint of a first year law student, who can barely type a single sentence without consulting older and wiser heads about how insipid and stupid and naive I sound, this blog did the opposite for me. It’s certainly depressing, but the target audience of this blog (I hope?) kind of knows how the system is rigged. Hearing defense counsel’s woes serves as a stark warning to anyone entering the field, which (naively) I hope leads to only those most motivated to be zealous advocates of their clients entering the field.To Matt Brown- While I won’t be dropping out of law school, or giving up on the idea of working as a public defender, I probably won’t be doing it in Arizona. Ever. Texas is bad enough, but at least there seems to be a groundswelling of acknowledgement and support for a fairer justice system. Yikes, Phoenix mus be the equivalent of working in the Ninth Circle as an appellant attorney, with Justice Clarence Thomas as the only source of relief.

  2. Yes, for goodness’ sake, whatever you do, stop speaking the truth. After the court smacks you, turn around and smack yourself for complaining that you shouldn’t be getting smacked so much.

    If the courts ignore the law, if the cops lie, if many of your colleagues are fatigued from trying to push an immovable object to where it belongs, just STFU and get back to work.

    Or, we can recognize that the system is f*cked up, point out that the system is f*cked up, try smacking others — instead of ourselves — because the system is f*cked up instead of pretending it isn’t, instead of shutting the f*ck up, AND keep fighting.

  3. shg says:

    As you know, I’m a big fan and supporter of yours, Matt. But this post, though true, is defeatist. This is the stuff that makes zealous young lawyers stop caring or trying.

    This is our life. This is what we do. If it was easy, anybody could do it. If the judges were fair or caring, then we would be on the pedestal instead of cops and prosecutors. But we’re not, and that’s how it goes. Don’t wallow. This job is hard, and it sucks. And we keep doing it anyway. Give yourself a smack and get back to work. There’s too much to do and no time for self-pity. If we don’t fight, nobody will.

    1. Matt Brown says:

      I often have difficulty describing aspects of the system I find particularly troubling without coming across as hopeless. Reading this post again, that’s certainly how it sounds. Your suggestion for a smack is well-taken. Back to work…

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