Brown & Little, P.L.C. » Entries tagged with "judges"

Are They Idiots Or Are They Liars?

I wouldn’t be writing about Mesa twice in row if I didn’t think it was all noteworthy. This time, though, I’m a little less cynical. I refuse to believe the judges at Mesa City Court are anywhere near as simple-minded and unfair as some of the prosecutors there claim. To give you some background, if you are charged with misdemeanor DUI in Arizona and your BAC is between 0.08 and 0.15, the mandatory minimum jail sentence is one day with nine days suspended. If your BAC is between 0.15 and 0.20, it’s nine days with twenty-one days suspended. Any misdemeanor DUI in Arizona could theoretically result in 180 days in jail, but I’ve never seen it happen, heard about it happening, or even realistically considered that any prosecutor could … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, DUI, Prosecutors

He Was Screwed No Matter What

In a recent Supreme Court of Arizona case, State v. Duran, the defendant tried to plead guilty but the trial court rejected his plea. The trial court then royally messed up by saying the prosecutor could use statements Duran made in connection with his change of plea if he testified inconsistently with them at trial. It’s important here to keep in mind the fact the trial court was wrong. Duran’s statements never, ever should have been used against him. The trial court made a mistake, and as a result, the defendant was confronted with the dilemma of testifying and bearing the disastrous brunt of the court’s mistake or not testifying and probably making the best of a really bad situation. A conviction would pretty much be guaranteed … Read entire article »

Filed under: Arizona Cases, Courts

The Life Of A Private Public Defender

Jamison Koehler put up a post this week about prosecutors and professionalism. Here’s the paragraph that resonated with me the most: I am always annoyed by prosecutors who stroll into the courtroom moments before the judge takes the bench. This results in a rush of defense attorneys toward counsel table seeking to speak with the prosecutors before our cases are called. It makes our job that much more difficult. And then the judge chastises us for not having worked out more of these issues in advance. His post was more about prosecutors being discourteous, but I am more interested in the effect on defense lawyers and some major problems with the system in general. There was a time in my career when I took appointed cases and carried a … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Government Rants, Judges, Practice in General, Prosecutors, public defenders

The Source

Lawyers as a group tend to be dissatisfied. They’re dissatisfied with the work they’re doing. They’re dissatisfied with the money they’re making. Clients are frustrating, courts are frustrating, and the practice of law isn’t what they thought it would be. Why? The truth is that the work is great. It’s intellectually challenging. Maybe not if you’re shuffling one client after another through an assembly line, but if you’re litigating cases and going to trial when appropriate, it’s everything any bright-eyed law student could ever hope for. It’s an intellectual feast. The money is also great. Even with law school debt, bar exam debt, business-starting debt, and whatever personal baggage you bring in, your time is still worth an enormous amount of money. Good … Read entire article »

Filed under: Government Rants

Trusting Judges

For most felony offenses in Arizona, a person sentenced to a term of probation can be ordered to serve up to a year in the county jail. When prosecutors intend to seek jail time as a condition of probation, they usually say so up front. If it’s a guarantee, the plea will say “defendant shall serve…” before describing the amount of time, whether it’s a deferred term, and whether the defendant gets credit for time served. In other instances where jail is possible, the plea will say “the state anticipates requesting an initial jail term” or something along those lines. Occasionally, the prosecutor changes his or her mind between plea and sentencing. They will also say so if that’s the case. Other times, the probation department’s presentence report … Read entire article »

Filed under: Judges

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

Great Expectations

Part of my fee agreement explains how my fee in each case is based in part on a variety of considerations, one of which is the expectations of the client. Many of the other listed factors, like the urgency of the matter and the necessity of declining other work, once seemed far more important to me. Over time, they have come to pale in comparison with client expectations. For the client who wants to walk, beating the main charge but being convicted of a lesser is a massive disappointment. It doesn’t matter if they’re avoiding a murder conviction in favor of a lesser charge or just beating the part of the DUI charge that would have made it a felony. Any conviction is a failure. It’s the same … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients

Looking Foolish

There’s an experienced judge in a nearby jurisdiction who won’t rule in advance on whether he will allow the parties to ask their proposed voir dire questions. His position, which he makes very clear, is that he will rule on the questions when they’re actually asked. He isn’t kidding. If the state objects after you ask it, he rules. The opposite is also true. Otherwise, you can ask whatever you want. No ruling. It makes submitting your questions pointless, though every other judge in the jurisdiction orders you to do it in advance. I once asked him in chambers why he does it that way, and he said it was because he thought the parties should be bright enough to know what they can … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Trial

Better Safe Than Sorry

As a society, we lack the ability to deal with our problems without resorting to the blunt instrument of the criminal justice system. We must be failures as parents and as human beings in general, because we can’t seem to trust each other with even a little bit of freedom. We’re even suspicious of relatives, friends, and neighbors. Often, we’re especially suspicious of them. The only people we trust with our well-being are members of the fabulously wealthy, power hungry ruling class. When we get scared, they draft up oppressive, dangerous placebos we think we can’t live without. Nowhere is it worse than with sex crimes. We’ve criminalized everything, and we’ve ratcheted up the punishments. The system now hands out life sentences like it’s … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Government Rants, Sex Crimes

How to Explain Relapse (Or Not)

I can’t count how many times I’ve stood next to someone being sentenced for personal drug possession. Some are just unlucky, ocassional users, but many more are addicts. They’ve tried to stop using meth or heroine or whatever other drug has them in its grip, but they can’t. They have periods of sobriety. They get their lives together, only to relapse when the next big tragedy comes along. When they’re at their worst, they always seem to find themselves on the wrong side of the law. I’ve noticed recovering addicts like to stress the importance of living one day at a time, of not letting setbacks cause them to give up and ruin all of their progress. Tomorrow’s a new day. Learn from today’s … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Courts

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