16 April 2010

Guthrie County

Depositions in Guthrie County this morning. The Clerk's office in Guthrie will now be closed every Friday. Apparently another cost saving measure directive from the Chief Justice although I may be assigning blame where no blame belongs. It was an interesting hour and a half. I find that County Attorneys differ only in their level frustration and the methods by which they show it when during depositions their case goes out the nearest window. I am not giving credit where credit is due however, for there are a few that will realistically observe that they don't have a case and dump it. Not the situation here in Guthrie apparently.

Depositions can be very worthwhile. Some attorneys do not use them, but in many cases depositions can clearly show who should be folding their tent. On occasions it is the defendant who needs convincing he should take a deal. On other occasions, it is the county attorney who should be making a reasonable offer or dumping the case. Too many cases resolve themselves at deposition not to take them when a considerable difference exists in versions of the events between the defendant, the alleged victim, and witnesses.

06 April 2010


Have a trial scheduled for Monday in Newton. My client is in jail and I was looking forward to trying it. The charges are assault on a police officer and interference with a police officer causing injury. Two of the arresting officers had a scratch. Our Newton police will file whatever they can. This is a long way from the police officers who were working in Newton when I first came to town. I actually think they thought an occasional scratch was part of the job. They certainly were capable of taking care of themselves. At any rate, my client engaged in fisticuffs at the jail with another inmate and received the worst of it. He apparently suffered injuries other than the black eye that was obvious. He felt, as I did, that going into a trial such as we had scheduled all banged up from a fight was not the best idea. After consultation, he decided he would take the deal offered by the county attorney and plead to reduced charges.

I then left the jail and informed the clerk of court they would not have to call a jury and stopped by the county attorney's office and informed the assistant county attorney that the defendant would take the plea offer which the assistant county attorney thought was an acceptable resolution to the case. I would have liked to try the case. I am not sure that a jury would have thought the defendant intentionally assaulting a police officer by kicking him while his head is being "directed" as the officers put, to the hood of the police car. There are times when, as a defense attorney, it seems appropriate to show the citizens of a community just how their finest act.

03 April 2010

Did a little trial prep this morning for my trial scheduled Thursday in Marshalltown. The pretrial order states that we are fourth up. I have been told I need to call the county attorney's office Monday and possible later in the week also to determine if any of the three ahead of us will go to trial or they have settled. This does not seem to be a very efficient manner of running a trial docket. Of course, the judge is not inconvenienced, but if you have witnesses, it can be quite costly and very annoying to witnesses who plan on attending then are told it will be some other date. It is the maxim of minimizing the inconvenience to the court while maximizing the inconvenience of the litigants.

02 April 2010

Marshall County

I have a case in Marshall County which is scheduled for trial next week. Every county handles their case load differently. I was told at the pretrial conference yesterday that they might have 10 cases on the docket for Thursday, including mine. The first case on the list that doesn't settle will go to trial that day. The others will need to be rescheduled. I must call the county attorney on Monday to see where we are on the list and apparently continue to call to see what has fallen out ahead of us. This is inconvenient. If we have a case where several witnesses need to be subpoenaed, you might have to subpoena them several different times and, in addition, keep them posted on developments. This is especially annoying if they are hostile witnesses and you really don't want to talk to them. And yes, occasionally you do call a hostile witness. This is done when you know that what they are to say contradicts other hostile witnesses or in some other fashion helps your case.

On the fourth floor of the Marshall County Courthouse there is a room where the attorneys congregate to cut their deals, determine which cases will go to trial. I did notice that the public defender had a stack of files about a foot and a half high which indicates to me that numerous defendants don't see much of their attorney. And, of course, the representative from the public defender's office was the attorney in the room with the least sense of humor, the least talkative, and generally unfriendly. This reinforces my opinion that the defense bar and the public defender's office have a degree of separation that is unhealthy. This situation does not exist in the federal system where the public defender's office and the private bar are on very good terms and the public defender's office provides assistance when asked from simple advice to briefs. This needs to be fixed.