Friday, August 24, 2007

And now for something completely different.

Not! Monty Python couldn't make up this outrageous outrageous story. A judge in Ohio appointed a public defender to handle an assault case and insisted that the public defender go to trial on two-day's notice. When the lawyer refused to proceed because he did not have time to prepare, the held him in contempt and ordered him to jail. The judge was unapologetic, saying he would not let the public defender "impede justice in Portage County." Sounds like a lesson in irony and judicial intemperance.

The defendant may well be at fault for not securing counsel sooner. Or perhaps the State was remiss in not appointing counsel at a more seasonable juncture (ie, more than 2 days in advance). And maybe the case was so simple that it really did not require but a few hours time to prep. But it's pretty obvious that the public defender should not be jailed for being unable and unwilling to proceed on case for which he says he was afforded reasonable time to prepare. Too bad judges enjoy immunity for their actions, because this is truly beyond the pale.

I'm sorry to say that just these sorts of threats (and sometimes actions) take place in New Orleans and many other quarters. Yet another example of a judge that thinks public defense is just an impediment, trials a quaint formality, and prosecution god's work. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

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