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Another Fumble by Congress, An Awesome Act of Defiance by Malcolm Smith

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 bans items for children that contain a certain amount of lead. It’s a seemingly great idea to protect kids, but unsurprisingly, the way Congress wrote it causes ridiculous effects. The Act makes it illegal to sell ATVs and motorcycles to children under 12 because the children might eat the battery terminals, the frame, or tear apart the brakes and lick enough lead to kill or harm them. I’m not sure why kids are incapable of eating Mom’s car battery, which in almost all cases would be easier to get to than a bike or ATV battery, but no one asked me. Lead, while obviously a poor meal, is instrumental as an alloy in the manufacturing of certain materials. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Bikers' Rights, Government Rants, Legislation

A Couple of Suggestions

I regularly hear lawyers make the same stupid mistakes. Here are a couple of suggestions to help them avoid two very common mistakes: 1) Don’t argue ineffective assistance on direct appeal You can try, but it isn’t going to work. I’ve seen judges appoint new counsel for a direct appeal because they thought appellate counsel might want to argue ineffective assistance. Lawyers have told me they intend to argue ineffective assistance on direct appeal. Please, have a look at State v. Spreitz, 202 Ariz. 1, 3, 39 P.3d 525, 527 (2002). The Supreme Court of Arizona explained: [I]neffective assistance of counsel claims are to be brought in Rule 32 proceedings. Any such claims improvidently raised in a direct appeal, henceforth, will not be addressed by appellate courts … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Cases, Arizona Statutes, Practice in General

"Gen Y" Lawyers vs. "Gen Y" Clients

Posts here and here over at Simple Justice, as well as related blog posts here and here, provide some interesting discussion on Generation Y attitudes. Admittedly, I had to look up what Generation Y means. Surprisingly, that didn’t give me the clear answer I wanted. I’m pretty sure I’m part of “Gen Y.” I did look to Wikipedia for the definition of Gen Y, didn’t I? Isn’t being tech savvy part of it? Anyway, without a clear answer about what Gen Y is, I’m just going to assume I’m part of it. I’m also going to assume that it encompasses all lawyers under 35. That said, I think a large number of Gen Y lawyers do possess the “all about me” mindset and sense of entitlement … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Practice in General, Solo Practice

Annoying Jail Policies

Their potentially disastrous mistake involving inmate placement isn’t the only complaint I have about the Pinal County Jail. They’ve recently instituted some extremely annoying new visitation policies that sometimes make custody visits impossible. They will not schedule visits from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Most of the superior court judges have 8:30 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. morning dockets and 1:30 p.m. afternoon dockets, so it is often impossible to make it from your hearings to jail before visitation ends at 10:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. If you want to do a visit at 12:30 p.m., there’s only a short window of time to visit before you will have to leave for afternoon hearings. If you want to do a visit at … Read entire article »

Filed under: jail, Practice in General

Victim Safety

Last year, I had in a Pinal County felony case where the plea agreement stipulated to probation and the state agreed to release my client to pretrial services at the time of the change of plea. After my client entered his change of plea, however, the court refused to release him, citing victim safety and the violent nature of the crime. When I later met with my client, he was irritated by the court’s ruling, but not for the reasons I expected. His question was, “if they’re so worried about the victim, why did they make him my cellmate?” My eyes grew big, and at first, I didn’t believe him. Later on, I found out that, sure enough, the victim had indeed been picked up by the … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Courts, jail, Victim's Rights

ASU No. 1 in Law School Rankings

I’m not talking about those silly U.S. News & World Report rankings. I’m talking about these rankings. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if I should be proud of my alma mater or start telling people I went to U of A. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Law School

A Policy of Wasting Time

One of the most common frustrations I encounter from week to week is the seemingly ubiquitous court policy of not ruling on defense motions to continue until the time of the hearing that’s supposed to be continued. It defies logic. In the past, I’ve timely filed the motion, specifically said I want the hearing date vacated and reset, and the state has even stipulated, but courts have still insisted on wasting my time and my client’s time by requiring we both attend the hearing before granting the continuance. When I show up for those hearings, the courtroom is invariably overcrowded, the judge is furiously trying to rush through the docket, and there are a number of highly irritable and impatient defense attorneys sitting around. Although the judge usually … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Government Rants, Practice in General

Mandatory Minimums, Maximums

Arizona’s sentencing statutes contain ranges of permissible prison sentences for different classes of felonies. Defendants with historical prior felony convictions face ranges with longer minimum and maximum sentences. If a defendant has more than two historical priors, the additional priors may be considered aggravating factors which merit a longer sentence within the statutory range, but there aren’t any special statutory sentencing ranges for people with three, four, or five historical priors. Usually, the most a judge can give someone with two historical priors will be the same as what the judge can give someone with three or more historical priors. Prosecutors regularly get that wrong. I recently had a prosecutor argue that my client, who had a ton of historical priors and was charged with a class two felony, … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Statutes, Practice in General, Prosecutors

Scary Numbers

I had a sentencing yesterday morning, and I arrived early because I hoped the court would call my client’s case first. The commissioner hearing the case usually likes to start with a group advisement of rights for all the defendants (if they’re all informed of their rights in advance, a judge can save some time because he won’t have to individually tell them what they’re giving up if they choose to enter a plea), but sometimes he’ll do a sentencing or two first if the attorneys get there early enough. While I was waiting for court to start, I had an interesting conversation with the bailiff. She said the morning calendar consisted of 14 sentencings and 90 pretrials. As I sat there, I thought about what those numbers … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Courts, Practice in General

Justifying the Unjustifiable

A little while back, I overheard a defense lawyer loudly explaining to his client why a prior felony conviction could be used to enhance the client’s sentence. The client was looking at a fair amount of mandatory prison because of an old aggravated DUI and kept asking why he should receive harsher punishment because of an old conviction for which he already did time. I think those are fair questions. In Arizona, an aggravated DUI is forever an historical prior felony conviction. Once you’ve been convicted of aggravated DUI, you will always be looking at an enhanced, mandatory prison sentence if you are later charged with pretty much any felony. That aggravated DUI conviction will follow you around for the rest of your life, resulting in worse … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, DUI, Practice in General

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