Thursday, December 07, 2006

So This is What it Feels Like to be a Prosecutor

So, yesterday, I had an interesting experience. All juvenile court matters are heard by a court commissioner, and not an elected judge. So, either side has the right to seek what is called a revision of any ruling made by the commissioner, except for a not guilty finding after a trial. It is basically like an appellate proceeding where you get to file a brief arguing your side and the elected judge reads the transcript from the earlier proceeding and rules. Yesterday, I was arguing my first revision and I'll admit that I was pretty nervous. The issue I was arguing was about an interpretation of a revised state court rule, so it was an issue of first impression here in the county. It is an issue that applies to a lot of cases and we were hoping to get a favorable ruling here, so that we would win all these cases down the road on the same issue. Anyway, there I was, barely into my argument, when the judge cuts me off and starts stating was his opinion of the matter is, and . . . wait for it . . . he was on my side! And he just kept making my argument for me, and then asking the state for a response or whether they had any argument or authority to support a contrary position. And there was the prosecutor trying to come up with something, and there I was, just sitting there, in the strange position of having the judge essentially arguing my side of the case. I thought to myself, "Is this what it feels like to be a prosecutor?" Ha! I can't even remember all the times I've been in a jury trial and felt like the judge was doing the prosecutor's job like making objections and coming up with responses to my objections on the prosecutor's behalf. Man, that would piss me off! This case was different, of course, because the judge had obviously formed some opinions on the basis of our briefing and his review of the record, but still. It was a totally new and totally awesome experience! Oh, and we won!

In another prosecutor-like move, I had a phone conversation with another prosecutor on another case yesterday where I was trying to make sure that an individual was charged with a crime. This individual was involved with a client of mine in a vandalism incident. My client, obviously, was a juvenile, but the other individual was just over 18. So, my client was charged in juvenile court, and the other person has not been charged at all. I don't know if it's because his piddly little vandalism case isn't a priority for the felony prosecutors (which I can understand) or if something else is going on. What I don't like is the idea that my client will be on the hook for the entire amount of restitution which is over $1500 while the adult who was at least as responsible for the damage as my kid walks away with no obligation whatsoever. So, there I was, demanding (well, not demanding, just doing my best persuasion) that charges be filed. My client was sitting in my office at the time I made the call, and when I got off the phone, he said, "Wow, you're good." Hee!

Not a bad day.


Blogger swd said...

And I thought that I was doing well because I sat at the prosecutor's table all day!

12/07/2006 4:53 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Very good! Doesn't it feel good to have the judge on your side once in a while? Down here we have a judge that likes to argue as much as the attorneys. The main problem, however, is that he frequently argues himself into the opposite position. This sometimes works in my favor, but sometimes not. But it is always fun to have your clients see what you do and tell you they approve!

12/09/2006 3:06 PM  

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