Pandemic

The practice of criminal law does not stop when the courts are closed.  I had a Bail Hearing this week- she was released and then the charges dismissed. The State is still sending discovery and Body Camera footage.  How the courts handle trials when we reopen is in flux.  I have been asked by an Administrative Judge to field ideas on how to social distance and still be able to converse with clients during non-jury trials which are in the District Court.  Texting each other and headsets like interpreters use are two of the ideas.   How many cases are going to be heard on any one day.  Right now the dockets are crowded and cases and going to be rescheduled to reduce the number of people in the courthouse.  Masks are going to be required and provided at the front door.  If a case is going to result in a plea, it may be done remotely.  How do we know the case is a plea if the judge is not going to agree to it?  That has to be worked out.  Experienced judges trust experienced lawyers.  I had a terrible Sex Offense case with the head of the Child Abuse Unit.  We were specially assigned to a judge who had  practiced criminal law.  When we met with her for scheduling, she said I know you both and trust your judgement, and if you come to an agreement, I will bind myself. We worked the case out.  A less experienced and less confident judge would not have been happy with the plea, but the State knew the problems in the case and the plea was fair.Some judges want to micro manage even the less serious cases.  Maybe they should not be assigned to criminal.  I had a case a few years ago where the prosecutor and I had over 80 years combined of criminal experience (the lawyers in the courtroom did the math).  We were in front of a judge who was a pain in the ass.  While we waited for the judge to take the bench, all the other lawyers were laughing as they knew she was going to turn down the plea from the two most experienced lawyers in her courtroom or even the courthouse….SHE DID.  We were sent to another judge who thought her actions were hilarious and the case resolved.  My 75 year old mentally challenged client returned to his family in New York on unsupervised probation, and left the machete he was waving around the night of crime in the police department’s evidence control room to be destroyed. Unless today’s news about an antibody test is true, we have a long way to go before we ever return to business as usual.  Jury trials are another story and it will be months before a plan to hold them is in place.  No courthouse is set up for social distancing for juries.  These cannot be done remotely- neither can most court trials.  I only know I will be ready.  I was excited to be in a courtroom twice this week.  I joked that I had to watch a UTube on how to tie my tie.  As I learn more I will post it her.

BE SAFE

Gary