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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Stand

I was sitting in my office, looking through the jail list, comparing it to my case list to ensure I didn't overlook someone when this song came on:

Stand

For some reason the song made me think of this foolishness:

Public Defender taking a stand

Several of my public defender colleagues have applauded the attorney in the video. They comment on how he was standing for his clients rights, he wasn't going to just 'bow down to the system'; they talk about how he wouldn't let the judge 'bully' him and how his actions are to be commended.

I contest each one of those positions and any other similar to them. In December 2011, when I started my public offender/public defender journey, I embraced the reality that there were going to be some times that I offended people (Day 1) and I was OK with that. I fully embrace that the judge, the prosecutor, local law enforcement and (in some cases) even my colleagues will be angered, offended or flat out pissed off by my actions or words when making a stand for my clients' rights. I would like to think that, if placed in the position, I would have no problem being held in contempt for upholding my clients Constitutional rights.

That is not what I see when I view this video of Mr. Andrew Weinstock and Judge John Murphy. Unlike my colleagues, I see two idiots, not one.

I won't even bother to discuss why the judge was an idiot. Although they are not above reproach, I believe judges should have some extra level of professionalism when they take the bench. I know from experience not all of them do. If I were a judge, I would expound more. I am not. I will leave that topic alone.

But what I will do is dissect the actions of 'one of my brethren. There are many reasons the video of the "Brawl in Brevard" leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. Here are the top 4:

1. His initial response to the judge.
          Judge: What do want to do?
          PD: What do YOU want to do? I'm not waiving.
                    Maybe there was a portion of the video that was cut out between Mr. Weinstock standing up
                    and the judge addressing him. Even if that is the case, I do not, under any circumstances, see
                    how Mr. Weinstock's response to the judge started their exchange off on a good note. You can
                    barely hear Mr. Weinstock explaining that the prosecution has created some kind of situation
                    and now they are looking at the defendant to waive his rights for their convenience.
                    Unfortunately, he does not attempt to make that argument until the judge is pissed at his lack
                    of response.

2. His tone and volume.
          I have had clients hug me, mothers hug me, girlfriends and baby mama's hug me. I have had judges
          commend and prosecutors comment on me NOT backing down about a particular issue with the
          court. I have stood my ground, I have continued to make my argument, I have refused to stipulate to
          evidence, I have required the prosecution to bring a witness 'all the way' from the other side of the
          state. There is very little that I will agree to and I will most definitely NEVER agree to anything that
          eliminates an element of the alleged crime that the prosecution has to prove. With that being said I
          have never, never, NEVER raised my voice to a member of the judiciary.

3. He took the judge up on his offer.
          Really? I don't even think this one needs explanation, but just in case. In the jurisdiction I work in I
          can be called before six different judges.While I do not believe any of them would even extend the
          invitation for me to step in the back so they can kick my ass, you had better believe I would not take
          them up on it. For what? One of two things is going to happen...I am going to kick the ass of a local
          member of the bench and then life for me and my clients (if I got to actually keep my bar card) would
          be hell on earth from that point on. Or....the judge is going to kick my ass and then the local bar, the
          members of the bench, that judge in particular AND future clients (again, supposing I actually got to
          keep my bar card) will see me as a joke. Unless "you want to step in the back so I can kick your ass"
          is the judge's code for "I have some gin in the back and we both need a break from this hellish
         docket" I'm. Not. Going.


4. He left his client alone.
         This is the most important point to me. Maybe I would have a different position if the client had not
         been left in the position Mr. Weinstock left him in. After the "Brawl in Brevard" the judge took the
         bench, the docket kept going and Mr. Rumples (?) is left standing there. In court. Alone. The judge
         comes back and wants to know the answer to the same question he just asked Mr. Weinstock, a
         question that Mr. Rumples now has to answer on his own, assume that he is answering appropriately
         and leave court not clearly knowing whether he has an attorney or not. At the end of the day, for all of
         the applause Mr. Weinstock is getting for 'taking a stand', he did so at the detriment of his client who
         needed him in that moment. Mr. Weinstock, despite popular opinion, was not fighting for his client, he
         was fighting Judge Murphy. Yes, in this case, there is a difference.

Sigh.....we live to fight another day was not supposed to be taken literally in all situations.

Until next time, be blessed, be careful, never consent and never confess.

~LT