25 November 2009

Busy morning in Judge Mott's courtroom. Court service day. Jail was late which is not unusual. I had one client who couldn't get through a guilty plea, but finally; and when he learns judge Mott will put him in jail asked for time for sentencing and now wants to withdraw it and go to trial. Of course, he was pleading to a simple misdemeanor but will go to trial on an aggravated misdemeanor. One client didn't appear and I reset the pretrial conference for 2 December to find that he was sitting in the hall the entire time. He called later and said he wasn't sure which attorney was his although we have spoken at the court house at least twice. I told him it was okay, because I didn't recognize him either.

24 November 2009

A non-court day. They are more frequent with the Public Defender's Office taking over the felony docket in Jasper County. The judge's are required to appoint the Public Defender. Where the Public Defender's Office gives notice to the local clerk of the cases that must be given to them, the judges are required to do so. The judges have no discretion in whom they appoint to a case. It does not matter if the Public Defender's have more to do than they can reasonably do well. It does not matter if an attorney has represented a client all the client's life in all his difficulties, his wishes are irrelevant. The Public Defender's lobbying efforts have convinced the legislature that they are cheaper than private, contract attorneys. They may or may not be, but I do not believe that has been established with any veracity. For instance, attorney fees are ordered paid by the defendant if the defendant pleads or is found guilty. That money goes into the State's general fund, not returned to the public defender's office. There are other factors that do not appear to be factored into the equation. For instance, is it cheaper to plead a defendant guilty to a some charge, lessor or not, rather than try the case and win some of them. Every guilty defendant has subsequent costs that a defendant found not guilty does not incur. There are probation costs, incarceration costs, counseling costs, medication costs, treatment costs. There very well could be others that do not come to mind at the moment. The criminalization of the people is a costly affair.

23 November 2009

Nice day to spend visiting one place of incarceration or another. First, the Jasper County Jail to make a first visit with a client. Sad case wants out but no place to go. No job. Not much point in asking Judge Mott to reduce his bond. Then to the Newton Prison to visit. Only one in the waiting room when I arrived. Still had to wait. Must make you wait as a matter of policy while people wander in an out rather frequently. Can't yet understand the invisible ink stamp on the hand as if they don't recognized me when I come back through. Everything connected with the court house, jail, and prison rather quiet--all must be gearing up for the holidays.

22 June 2009

Hot days in Jasper County

It's damn hot. 94 today. Judge Goodhue is now presiding in Jasper County indefinitely. He has designated Jasper County as his home county and is waiving his travel expenses. We now have a judge for court service days and can and will go back to two days: criminal on Mondays and civil on Tuesdays.

05 March 2009

Was required to attend Judge Mott's court this morning. A fellow was sentenced for driving while under suspension and failure to have insurance. The issue is that he also has an OWI pending which he received the same time as the other two tickets, but failed to request an attorney for the two simple misdemeanors. One or both would more than likely been dismissed if he eventually pleads to the OWI thereby saving him some money and a conviction. Talk to an attorney before you plead, not after.

It was a slow day at the courthouse. Furlough days will be coming and the courthouse will be closed at 2:30 p. m. on Tuesdays and Thursday for the purported purpose of the clerks catching up on their work since they will be missing many Fridays. The idea they need banker's hours is ludicrous, but oh well.

23 February 2009

It is Monday and court service day in district court. The public defender's office was in town to take over the felony docket from the contract attorneys. We received the view of the effort to take over the entire state from the contract attorneys. It is an ambitious effort. An effort that will not work with the staff they have. I expect with the ending of the recession they will make a push to create statewide offices to continue their efforts to take over the criminal defense of the entire state.

I had two defendants go to prison today and one to the violator's program which is in effect prison since it is located in prison and lasts four to six months. Judge Goodhue presided. It was an especially busy day since they have taken one of the two court service days from us and put the civil docket on Monday afternoons rather than Tuesday. Wednesday I have a custody trial scheduled and we will "probably" travel to Knoxville to try the case. Can't say what will happen to the witness that I need which I subpoenaed to Jasper County since we did not know where we were going when I sent the subpoena to the sheriff. This is a real mess and will get worse before it shakes out.

The consensus of opinion seems to be that the judicial department is causing as much trouble for the general public as possible so the public will contact their legislators and insist they do something about it. Can't say what the legislator will do about anything this year but cut budgets. We shall see.

18 February 2009

We had a three-day trial scheduled starting today in Newton. Gave my client one more chance to take a deal and after two hours we had a guilty plea and sentencing accomplished to amended charges. Would give more details but probably shouldn't. Goodhue was the judge. Good man Goodhue. In Tom Mott's court I had scheduled a motion to withdraw as attorney of record. After being told by my client that I needed to return to law school, I had nothing else to say to him. Judge Mott granted my motion immediately and I returned to other matters. Occasions arise when attorney and client get crosswise and the best policy is to remove yourself from harms way. Nothing good comes from a disgruntled client. Cut your losses and run.

Now that I have two days to work in the office, may accomplish some things that have been sitting on the desk for a piece. Always nice to have a day or to in the office. A couple of abstracts to read, a motion to suppress to finish, a PCR to file, a sentencing to prepare for. By noon I'll be ready to drive to Colfax for lunch.

30 January 2009

The end of the last week in January. Tough month. This week we have visited Newton, Knoxville, and Montezuma. Powshiek County Courthouse is a visit to the past. One would think that at some point, the county would spend the money to do something with the courthouse. I do find it refreshing that old courthouses exist and within those courthouses the people working there act accordingly. Nothing is quite as sterile and impersonal in an old courthouse, or for that matter, any old building. I think the new buildings are in tune with our new attitudes--less sense of humor, more self-importance. It is difficult feeling very important in a run-down old building where you might actually have to deal with the folks there on a personal basis as well as a professional basis. The judges should mingle with the litigants and defendants. The courthouse security we are currently blessed with is not a good thing. It gives the impression that it is us against them. If one has to mingle a little, one is forced to act as if we are of the same species.

The federal courthouses are the worst. It is as if paranoia has run amok. If the people working in the federal courthouses and other places where there is such security are that afraid of the people they serve, then they should not be working in such places. A little less security would serve us well--it would make us a little more human and less distant to our fellow creatures. The general population should not suffer for a few insecure souls who put us through these various discourteousies so they can feel safe. I feel insulted every time I must go through electronic surveillance checking to see if I beep, or to insure that I don't have a camera or a audio recorder. Unfortunately few think about it the way I do.

01 January 2009

We had a busy day in Judge Mott's court this morning. My refugee did not appear although his interpreter was hear. Upon calling him, he said he was ill. I responded by asking when he thought he was planning on informing me that he was not coming to court. I had a second pain in the ass who couldn't make up his mind to plead or go to trial. I finally told him to sit in the court room and decide between the two options he was given. He, at last, determined he would plead guilty. He did so, was sentence, and obtained a deferred judgment. All was well with him. Then, since the county attorney's office is changing their attorneys' job descriptions again, the county attorney taking the indictable docket was not familiar with the files, everything else was continued. Oh well. Several went to jail, but for the usual stuff of owi, omvls, etc. Happy New Year.