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“We’re All Victims of the System”

I wrote once before about Maricopa County’s policy regarding the benches in the gallery of each courtroom. They put prosecutors and victims on one side and defendants and their families on the other. They enforce the rules with an iron fist. This morning, I got to see a defendant challenge the system. It must’ve been a heavy docket, as the defendants’ side was absolutely packed. There were so many people waiting for court that the benches outside of the courtroom door were full too. You couldn’t squeeze another person on the defense side. There wasn’t a single person sitting on the other side. One defendant walked in and proudly took a seat on the empty side. He was one of those guys I can … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts

Everybody Has a Boss

Once upon a time, I believed judges could do things. I thought they could rule on motions and even continue trials. Sadly, the world is not as it once seemed. I sat in chambers last month and listened to a seasoned judge talk about how he’d love to continue a trial but couldn’t because “they” were getting onto him about granting too many continuances. This is a man who can, and probably has, imposed the death penalty at some point. He clearly has a boss. Probably more than one. His bosses tell him how to do his job. Given the fact judicial retention elections are not exactly close calls, his bosses aren’t the voting public. Some group of people I don’t know … Read entire article »

Filed under: Government Rants

An Interesting Morning

When I arrived at court earlier this week, the courtroom for my hearing was still locked. A group of defendants and defense lawyers began to congregate. One defense lawyer walked up to the door and tried to open it. He began walking off when a defendant called to him, “hey, you a famous lawyer, ain’t you?” The lawyer puffed up his chest a little and smiled, obviously noting the presence of other defense counsel within earshot. The defendant nodded his head and explained, “I thought so. I seen you on tons of buses. Tons.” The lawyer’s chest fell and his smile disappeared. I felt a little bad for the guy. Later on, I was in another courtroom when a settlement conference … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, lawyers

We're Gonna Need a Motion for That

Of all the people in the criminal justice system, aside from the actual defendants, private defense lawyers are usually in the worst position to get anything done. We don’t get full access to court information. We can’t access the county or city email directories. We don’t have offices in the same building as the judges. In most courts, we can’t even bypass security. We stand in line with our clients and watch the prosecutors walk to the front of the line, swipe their badges, and glide on through. Despite our lack of access and resources, courts are more than happy to shift the burden of completing various tasks to us every opportunity they get. In some courts, we’re obligated to file transport orders for … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts

The Joy of Mid-April

I’m always in a terrible mood around the 15th of April. It’s the time of year when I get to think about just how much money the state and federal governments take from me and my business. I get to remember that, not only do I get to pay taxes, but I also get to pay people to help me pay taxes. I have to answer questions, make calls, send emails, send faxes, and write checks. It’s a waste of time I could devote to more important things, like my clients. I saw Obama on the television giving a speech yesterday. He was short on details, but his message seemed to be that Americans don’t have to make any sacrifices. We don’t have to … Read entire article »

Filed under: Government Rants, Practice in General


Jeff Gamso put up a post today that included, among other things, a portion of a detailed log about what one death row inmate did prior to his execution. For example, at 10:50:23, he asked for grape soda. At 10:55:36, he requested a “special meal” of a T-bone steak with A-1 steak sauce and a “Chief” salad with blue cheese dressing. Details like that make everything feel more real, and in this particular case, those details really humanize that man for me. Knowing his last meal does more to upset me about his execution than all the mitigation in the world. It drives home that the government killed a person. It’s hard for me to think that an evil monster would have a favorite steak … Read entire article »

Filed under: Trial

Reacting to Tragedy

Last Friday marked the start of Arizona Bike Week. Tragically, before the second day of events had ended, the local motorcycling community lost one of its shining stars. Kimmy Chapman, founder of a national publication for bikers and by all accounts a great person, was killed by a 22-year-old in an SUV who claimed he didn’t see the bike she was on when he failed to yield the right of way. ABATE, one of Arizona’s motorcycle rights organizations, issued the following official statement in response to the tragedy: ABATE of Arizona, Inc. 7509 N. 12th St, #200 Phoenix, AZ 85020 ABATE OF ARIZONA STRONGLY CHALLENGES THE DECISION OF ARIZONA LAW ENFORCEMENT IN RIGHT OF WAY COLLISION FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 28, 2011 Contact: Ross Rutherford, President, ABATE of Arizona, Inc. president@abateofaz.org (928) 925-4204 On Saturday, March … Read entire article »

Filed under: Bikers' Rights, Legislation

A Letter to Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu

Dear Sheriff: I am sure you have heard by now about Sheriff Joe’s recent high-publicity raid in Laveen. In a valiant effort to stop the unlawful raising of chickens for cockfighting, surely the single most serious problem affecting the good citizens of Maricopa County, your neighboring sheriff rolled out his prized tank and showed the community that such animal cruelty will not be tolerated by terrorizing a neighborhood and euthanizing 115 birds. Sheriff Joe’s impressive display of force, which included numerous SWAT officers in full gear, armored vehicles, and a bomb robot, is just the kind of thing your office should do to remind the good people of Pinal County that your office loves animals too. Hopefully I do not have to remind you about the recent frog-fucker debacle … Read entire article »

Filed under: Uncategorized

Outlawing Awesome

Over at Defending People, Mark Bennett posts about a video that’s recently gone viral. In it, a scrawny Australian bully torments a bigger, older victim before getting his ass handed to him. The official response seems to be not just against the bully, but against the victim who fought back. Mark calls it a “Bully Rorschach Test” and says, “I see that giving government a monopoly on the lawful use of force is dangerous to us and corrosive to society.” He asks: “What do you see?” Well, first off, I definitely see what Mark sees. But I also see something dwelling deep within our society that’s now becoming apparent on the surface. I see that the government, just like most people these days, is … Read entire article »

Filed under: Government Rants

Stay on Your Side

In each Maricopa County courtroom, the side of the gallery behind the defense table is for defendants and their families. The side behind the prosecution is for victims, law enforcement, and other people there for the prosecution. When I’ve been in trial, the sides either tend to be equal or they overwhelmingly favor the prosecution’s side. The policy doesn’t seem too ridiculous then, as it makes sense to keep a defendant’s family from sitting right next to the victim’s family. I can see how there might be some potential for trouble. During a court’s regular law and motion calendar, where it’s nothing but scheduling conferences and release hearings, the policy creates a different result. There may be forty out of custody defendants on the calendar. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts

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