Monday, November 28, 2005


Why do we still call them trial courts?

Here is a sad but true article from The Champion, (the magazine of the Nat'l Assoc. of Criminal Defense Attorneys) pointing out what I see all the time. We've moved away from an "effectiveness" based criminal justice system to an "efficiency" based system. One thing that made me sick in criminal court was the time Judge $%&*# caught me in the hallway and said, "If you take that case to the jury, I'll max him out." The message was simple: if you dare to take up my time with a jury trial, I'll make your client pay the price. Of course, the threat had nothing to do with a tough on crime mentality (the judge went along with the eventual plea recommendation for probation) but was only the product of a "tough of making me stay past 3" mentality. I always wanted to scream aloud in court: "Why is it that the lowest paid person here (the public defender) is the one who's willing to work the hardest?"

As a P.D., I see my job as making the system, which runs almost entirely on efficiency, focus on effectiveness. Taking cases to trial and winning is a great way of accomplishing this, but be careful. When you push for a trial in a system such as this, a "trial tax" often comes into play. In other words, if you actually assert your Constitutional right to a jury trial, you might draw the wrath of a judge who's upset not at the conduct that brought you to court, but your audacity in asserting your rights once you arrived there. Sad, but true, at least in my experience.

Here is an article I wrote that you can find at the same website.
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