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» Courts

Real Change

For the first time in a little while, I left court this morning feeling like everything turned out okay. The whole experience was quite surprising, honestly. A lot of things could have gone wrong, but they didn’t. In most cases, even a positive result has some major downside. Not today. My client had absconded from probation long ago. He left the state and started a new life. There was nothing for him in Arizona but bad memories and worse influences. The new life he created for himself, on the other hand, was filled with stability, good people, and direction. He had been sober for a long time. He had a job and a support network. He finally knew what he wanted … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Prosecutors

The Stacked Deck

The system isn’t fair. It’s something those of us who pay attention all know, but sometimes it’s more apparent than others. I’m working on a case where the state appealed a lower court judge’s ruling granting a motion to suppress. It’s an uncommon situation due in large part to the fact judges don’t grant motions to suppress all that often. They stretch to find whatever facts best support a denial, knowing that the reviewing court must defer to them. They scour the books for cases that support the state’s position, no matter how old. I’ve seen more rulings for the state finding facts that weren’t really presented or citing ancient cases despite the existence of recent controlling case law than I ever would’ve believed as a … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts

Demanding Lies

Starting out, I had a long talk with a public defender who’d been fighting the good fight for decades. Here’s a quote I won’t forget: Nobody is too innocent for a misdemeanor. I heard this one from someone else I still respect: Nobody is too innocent for unsupervised probation. Neither person would ever shy away from a fight or do anything to force a client into something they didn’t want to do, so it wasn’t advice from plea salesmen who built their reputations on fancy billboards. Taking them as nuggets of wisdom forged from experience, they’re important lessons about human nature and the nature of the beast we call the criminal “justice” system. Most defense attorneys don’t trust the system. Our clients often don’t trust it too, but it’s usually just the … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Government Rants, Prosecutors

Abusing Science

The government loves science. It should be quite obvious why, as science can very easily be twisted to serve the state’s nefarious purposes while maintaining the illusion of being undeniable and absolute. Science is the smoking gun in many cases, regardless of whether it really is or not. DUI cases in particular are often built on nothing more than government pseudo-science, something without which the state would only be able to prove in many instances that defendants were bad drivers who did a poor job performing parlor tricks for a cop. The results of a supposedly scientific test can instantaneously change a minor civil traffic ticket into a DUI conviction along with all of the accompanying social stigma and various draconian punishments. Most lawyers and judges are … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, DUI, Government Rants

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 … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, DUI, Trial

Did He Mention It Was Just Plain Evil Too?

Jamison Koehler put up a post earlier today about Washington, D.C.’s “post-and-forfeit” statute being upheld in federal district court. A lawyer had sued D.C. after being arrested for disorderly conduct and given the “choice” pursuant to the statute of either paying $35.00 to be released and resolve the case or hanging around in jail for bit. As is often the case, Scott Greenfield wrote a post about the case over a year ago, not too long after the lawyer first filed suit. Whereas Scott expressed concerns about the law and its potential problems in his post, Jamison’s post wasn’t really about the law at all. He focused on how people shouldn’t pick unnecessary fights with police officers or bring stupid lawsuits. Discussing the plaintiff-lawyer’s decision to file … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Government Rants, US Constitution

A Well-Oiled Machine

I had one hearing yesterday afternoon, and it was in Pinal County. The Pinal County Superior Court is about an hour from my office, give or take a few minutes, but I find myself there quite a bit. It’s a fascinating place. Yesterday, it was a confusing, frustrating place. The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office recently announced that attorneys would no longer be allowed to visit with their in-custody clients in the inmate holding area prior to court. The new policy is for security reasons, apparently, and it means that there’s no way to speak with a client prior to a hearing unless you go see him or her in jail. Seeing a client in jail is no small feat. If you want to do an “in-person” visit … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Prosecutors

There’s No Hope

Every time I think things in the justice system couldn’t be worse, something comes along that suggests I ain’t seen nothin’ yet. I stumbled upon such a thing yesterday. I discovered that Maricopa County Superior Court has an official Twitter account. The court has harnessed the power of social media and is tweeting about all kinds of things. Its tweets range from the mundane, like a link to a pic of the new cafe in courthouse, to the anything-but-mundane, like who’s getting sentenced to life in prison. My trip down the rabbit hole didn’t end there. Through the magic of social networking, I connected to the Official Twitter Account for the Arizona Judicial Branch. They aren’t nearly as prolific, having tweeted only a few times total and … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts

Poor Charlie Brown

I’ve mentioned Anders briefs before. It’s the defense-lawyer equivalent of licking your master’s hand in submission. A creative lawyer can always find some issue somewhere, and filing a brief more or less saying your client should’ve been found guilty based on the record is just embarrassing. If you aren’t sold on not filing Anders briefs solely because they’re humiliating to any competent lawyer, Arizona’s court of appeals recently provided another reason. In an opinion last week, the court disagreed with an appellate public defender’s assessment that only frivolous issues existed on appeal. The lawyer apparently reviewed the record enough to set forth a sufficient background to reveal potential issues, but he didn’t see at least one issue that the court saw. I can’t imagine much worse for a … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Cases, Courts

The Grand Jury

The first rule of grand jury is that you don’t talk about grand jury. Luckily, the first rule doesn’t apply to state grand juries generally, just to specific grand juries. I can’t tell you anything about any of the poor folks currently being judged in their absence by a group of randomly selected residents in secret proceedings led by an agent of the state, but I can at least tell you a little something about the process in general. As you can probably guess from the first rule, grand jury proceedings are held in secret. In Arizona, it’s a crime to disclose the fact that an indictment has been found or filed before the accused person is in custody or has been served with a summons. It’s also a … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts

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