25 August 2010

Court service day in Jasper County. Two arraignments and two new appointments--one waiting for me and another from the people brought from the jail. The person in custody I am currently representing for the same offense as the new arrest. There are a few who really do not mind jail. The judges will not admit of that possibility in that they put these people in jail for the purpose of punishing them, but in fact, it is not punishment so much as a time out to get straight, dried out, or just to visit friends and associates they may not have seen for a time. My currently jail client is of that sort. Not anxious to get out, content to have three squares a day, watch a little tv, and catch up on the local doings in town.

I have one defendant charged with two counts of cashing in stolen lottery tickets. They are felonies. It borders on the unbelievable that cashing in a stolen lottery ticket is a felony--possibly, if they were to win millions, I could see it. But not for $30--give me a break. Sometimes you think that the goal of the legislature is to put everyone in prison. Even The Economist in its last issue wonders why we in America put so many people in prison. After all it is the land of the free.

Judge Brad McCall was in town sitting in Jasper County. I was of the impression that he would not preside here for at least a year in that this is the county in which he practiced, but is apparently not the case. They must be short of judges--vacations must not have been concluded. It is a possibility we may have a second judge from Jasper County. Terry Rickers is one of two finalists for the next opening which must be decided by the 19th of September. It would be a very different courthouse with two district judges after having been without for probably 25 years. A third judge, Judge Joy, will retire at the end of this month and there will be another vacancy to be filled. The three counties that are losing judges are Warrent, Dallas, and Marion, all of which, yet have judges. The second nominee against Terry Rickers is an attorney from Madison County. Madison County does not have a sitting district judge, but they don't have any people either so it really doesn't matter.

21 August 2010


Was in Marion County Friday for a sentencing. Judge Joy was the judge. He retires at the end of the month and indicates he will not go on senior status. The clerk's office had cookies and a couple of signs up in the library announcing the retirement. I had a sentencing on a theft case (embezzlement). The Marion County Attorney did not object to the deferred judgment. Judge Joy did want enough of a record to support a deferred, but seemed amenable to it once the County Attorney indicated he would support it.

You really don't get a deferred though, without the client doing the work for it. The attorney can grease the wheels with the judge and the county attorney, but it is the client that needs to do the work and present his or her case to the judge in a manner that indicates it will be successful. An attorney asking for a deferred for a client that doesn't deserve it or won't make it reduces an attorney's credibility. You don't ask for sentencing concessions that you know the judge will not give nor think appropriate. I think a key to practicing in court representing criminal defendants is the credibility of the defense attorney pleading for the client. Don't ask for things that you know you won't get. Give an honest assessment of your client and fashion a plea or request that is appropriate to the circumstances. If you know you client is going to prison, don't ask for probation, ask for less time than the judge might give him.

Other than Marion County, the time Friday was working on briefs. We have several matters in the Court of Appeals that all are due about the same time. Will probably need some extra time on the proof brief due the 27th.

19 August 2010

I had a probation violation hearing in Jasper County this afternoon. My defendant admitted that he had used alcohol contrary to the terms of his probation. He is already doing six months. The county attorney recommended 30 days to run consecutive. I told the judge I didn't have any quarrel with the 30 days as long as it ran concurrently. My opinion, expressed, was that if he doesn't learn his lesson in six months, he won't in seven and since he would remain on probation after his release, the court can always throw him back in. The judge gave him 30 days contempt to run concurrently with the six months contempt is he serving now. The judge's opinion must have been the same as mine. The problem with the whole thing, as I see it, is that the entire procedure took over an hour to accomplish. Much time wasted.

17 August 2010

16 August 2010

Court service day in Jasper County was difficult. We had three judges present since the attempted murder trial was continuing. Don't know how that has turned out. Judge Husher was handling court services for the felony docket that we have on Mondays. I inherited a case from the Public Defender's Office because of a conflict with a co-defendant. It is a lottery ticket case. They have the fellow charged with forgery for using a stolen lottery ticket. I will have to look at the code and make a determination as to the viability of the charge. I can't see it as a forgery unless the code specifically defines it as such. The other two cases that I had, were continued for the reason that the county attorney handling them was in trial on the attempted murder case. The third case was set for trial today--a case that I received just last Wednesday. A possession of marijuana case. The young lady did not have an attorney and the judge knew I would go to trial if she really wanted to go. Why not? A simple one-day case doesn't take much preparation.

I was also in Powshiek County pleading a defendant and sentencing her at the same time. She was given time served and it would have been a difficult case to try. One point to remember when pleading someone in Powshiek. They do have petitions to plead guilty if you look hard enough. The clerk came up with one, but the county attorney had no clue--didn't know if they had one available or not. Take one when you go there so it is not an issue. The judge didn't think much of the one the clerk's office came up with, but eventually accepted it. No record was made because it was a misdemeanor. Pretty informal--almost too informal.