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.