It’s great to see these officials exercising the discretion that justice requires. It happens far too seldom, which makes it all the better when it does happen.
Of course, further investigation could put Daisy Morast back in jail. It’s hard to say. But for now… Good luck, Daisy. You’re going to need it.]]>
Really, what could be sweeter?]]>
Here’s what the test should be: Are you in jail? If so, you have a right to an attorney at any and all appearances before a judge and at any and all interactions with law enforcement (other than jail staff; that would be unworkable). Of course, you can waive that right, and many people do, but that’s a nice bright line. If you’re not in jail but have been ticketed or given a notice to appear, you should be informed of your right to counsel along w/the citation/notice and given instructions for contacting the public defender for advice prior to initial appearance. This could be handled nicely by making sure there a public defender was present at all initial appearances, but I won’t be holding my breath for that one.]]>
What SCOTUS decision of the last term said the right to counsel begins at initial appearance? If I were a good blogger, I’d look it up and tell you, but it’s there. Nearly every court of limited jurisdiction in Region 9 of the Montana State Office of Public Defender regularly holds initial appearances in a similar way — randomly, without notifying prosecution or defense. Sure, the judges advise the accused of their rights, but that’s very different from making sure the accused has access to an attorney right then and there.
The Gazoo article also highlights the problematic practice of these courts initiating revocation procedings sua sponte and again w/o notifying defense or prosecution. The law in these areas seems clear that these practices are not legal, yet they go on day after day. Oh, and how does the public feel about it? The Gazoo readership sees no problem here. Welcome to Montana! Yeeehaw!]]>
Also in the local headlines, a high speed chase took another life Friday morning. There are some jurisdictions that have made it illegal for cops to pursue at high speeds in urban areas. The logic is: If you don’t chase at high speeds, people are much less likely to drive at high speeds where doing so puts many people at risk. Get the license plate, send cars ahead, monitor the suspect, and pick that person up later. Could such a tactic have saved this woman’s life? We’ll never know, but it certainly makes sense to me.
Unfortunately, it looks like the victim’s family won’t be able to sue the pursuing cops, at least it doesn’t sound like it based on this report of a 2007 SCOTUS decision on a similar issue. More comment here, w/links to what was apparently the decisve cop car video in the case, which was Scott v. Harris. Fascinating. Someday I’d love to have time to dig deeper into this, but it’s not going to be today….
For something completely different, here’s how a federal jury is picked in Billings and that “Montana is the largest geographically of the 94 judicial districts in the continental U.S.,” meaning some jurors might have to drive nearly 300 miles to appear for jury duty. Crazy. Also in the story: A potentially good voir dire question when you think race might be a factor in your case: “Do you tell jokes about minorities?” It’s amazing how many people do, which is just one reason why Judge Cebull’s claim that race “doesn’t matter to Montana juries” is naive at best. Montana is somehow the only place in the country that sees no color? Riiiiight.]]>
That story doesn’t provide much detail, but it does suggest the attorneys are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The courts are saying they’re personally liable for inadequate or ineffective assistance of counsel, regardless of the fact that the legislature won’t provide them the resources they need to do their jobs. So what is a lawyer to do? Have they begun refusing to take cases? That might be a start. Of course, then the article says the legislature is “considering” a bill that would allow the lawyers to refuse to take case. Um, what? You mean to say there’s some law saying they can’t refuse? Even when their rules of professional conduct say they must refuse if they cannot adequately represent new clients? Whoa.
Obviously no matter how bad things seem, they could always get worse….
Meanwhile, it sounds like the Vermont Supreme Court just issued a fascinating opinion on speedy trial delays. If the news article is correct, it says that public defenders are part of “the state,” so delay caused by a public defender is attributable to the state, not to the defendant. Crazy. I mean, it actually might be a more fair way to look at it in many cases where a public defender’s heavy workload means he/she isn’t ready for trial and has to ask for more time through no fault of the defendant, but still, this decision would turn speedy trial analysis upside down in Montana.]]>