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an attorney raises issues with the Court Watch program

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  • scott@scott-roberts.net
    This is Scott Roberts, moderator of a Bloomingdale neighborhood list.  I have posted a few of Kathy Henderson s Court Watch commments on the Bloomingdale
    Message 1 of 34 , Dec 15, 2009

      This is Scott Roberts, moderator of a Bloomingdale neighborhood list.  I have posted a few of Kathy Henderson's Court Watch commments on the Bloomingdale list.

       

      See these follow-up remarks that I have received from an attorney, barred in DC, residing in Eckington:

       

       

      I thought I should mention that there are some legal and ethical problems with the Court Watch program one of the neighborhood residents is promoting.

       

      First, phone calls to judge's chambers are nothing more than an unwanted intrusion and a nuisance. The judge is not allowed to take anything into account that is not presented in evidence or argument in the courtroom with both sides present.   Among other important values, this protects the defendant's constitutional right to confront all witnesses against him or her.  In our justice system, we want everything aired openly and in full view; anonymous calls to chambers have no place in this system.

       

      Second, it is of course within anyone's right to attend an open trial, space permitting.   But again, the judge may not (i.e. is not allowed to) take into account anything other than the evidence and legal arguments presented in court with both sides present.  Nor do we want him or her to.

       

      If people really want to make a difference, we should encourage and support those who witness a crime in their decision to testify, if asked.  Cities with more deeply entrenched crime problems than our own, like Baltimore and Newark, face a situation in which people are too scared to testify, so truly guilty parties are not convicted.  So we should give our full support to those who do testify.  But trying to anonymously influence judges, in a manner that neither the prosecutor nor the defendant can contest, is extremely problematic.

       

      I served as a law clerk to two federal judges when I graduated from law school.  If we had received a call from someone saying they were concerned about the case and were from the community where the crime occurred, etc., we would have had to disregard it.  My judges weren't at the trial level, so I'm not totally sure about this, but I think a trial judge (like the ones that this neighbor is encouraging people to call) who received such a call might even have to call a special conference in chambers with the prosecutor and defense lawyer to let them know that the phone calls were being received, and it might even be grounds for the defense attorney to file a motion for the judge to recuse him or herself, or to get a different judge on the case (since it would be considered ex parte communication about the case, which both sides should rightfully be there to hear.)

       

      I'm sure this neighbor is very well meant, but two of her three recommendations would do more harm than good, unfortunately.

       

      I'm sure there are a million lawyers on the listserv who perhaps can further comment.

    • khenderson029@aol.com
      The next Court Watch meeting is 1-13-10, at the Fifth District, at 6:30 pm. Anyone interested in learning more about Court Watch and getting involved is
      Message 34 of 34 , Dec 20, 2009
        The next Court Watch meeting is 1-13-10, at the Fifth District, at 6:30 pm. Anyone interested in learning more about Court Watch and getting involved is welcome to attend.

        Kathy Henderson

        Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®


        From: "Joan Farley Nyobe" <jfarleynyobe@...>
        Date: Sun, 20 Dec 2009 22:14:01 -0500
        To: <MPD-5D@yahoogroups.com>
        Subject: RE: [MPD-5D] an attorney raises issues with the Court Watch program

         

        We all want a crime free existence but it is just not possible. Crime has been with us since the beginning of time. It’s not going anywhere. Crime levels always spike in cities vs the suburbs. However, if we all do our part in helping the over worked MPD, we can effect more control over crime.

         

        From: MPD-5D@yahoogroups. com [mailto:MPD- 5D@yahoogroups. com] On Behalf Of Thembi Butler
        Sent: Sunday, December 20, 2009 8:51 PM
        To: MPD-5D@yahoogroups. com
        Subject: RE: [MPD-5D] an attorney raises issues with the Court Watch program

         

         

        I'm confused. They're ACCUSED of violent crime? Aren't they innocent until they have been convicted? ONE of the four has a history of violent crime? I thought several different individuals just asserted that the purpose of court watch was to provide community impact statements for cases that had resulted in conviction, prior to sentencing. Are you saying that it's something in addition to this?

        I'd like to live in a safer neighborhood. I would like for violent criminals to be removed from the streets. If I have information that can help the police solve a crime, or my testimony is needed to convict a criminal, you can believe that I will do everything that I can to help.

        Thembi Butler
        ____________ _________ _________ __
        From: MPD-5D@yahoogroups. com [mailto:MPD-5D@yahoogroups. com] On Behalf Of khenderson029@ aol.com
        Sent: Sunday, December 20, 2009 8:28 PM
        To: MPD-5D@yahoogroups. com
        Subject: Re: [MPD-5D] an attorney raises issues with the Court Watch program

        Four individuals that we are following through Court Watch are accused of robbing a senior citizen at gun point, assaulting a police officer, murder and assault with intent to kill. One has a ten-year record of violent crime. These are very serious crimes that must be answered in a Court of law according to an established process, which is humane.

        Minimizing the seriousness of crime is an insult to every officer that puts his or her life on the line each day the officer reports to work. Additionally, minimizing the seriousness of crime is very insulting to crime victims and any neighbor that has to hear gunshots or otherwise witness crime on our streets.

        Finally, unsound radical leftist arguments represent the ultimate snobbery. The proponents presume to be more enlightened and informed than the average law-abiding citizen that wants to live in a safe community. Every person in every neighborhood deserves safe streets. Making excuses for lawless individuals promotes the interests of a few. I encourage every neighbor to commit to making our neighborhoods safer. We can and should work together with our officers to make our communities safer.

        Kathy Henderson

        Sent on the Sprint(r) Now Network from my BlackBerry(r)

        ____________ _________ _________ __
        From: Marcus Jetter <marcusjetter@ yahoo.com>
        Date: Sun, 20 Dec 2009 16:42:16 -0800 (PST)
        To: <MPD-5D@yahoogroups. com>
        Subject: Re: [MPD-5D] an attorney raises issues with the Court Watch program

        Well stated K3!!!

        ____________ _________ _________ __
        From: k3 <klee@katlover. com>
        To: MPD-5D@yahoogroups. com
        Sent: Sat, December 19, 2009 10:44:10 AM
        Subject: [MPD-5D] an attorney raises issues with the Court Watch program

        Most people "caught up in the justice system" haven't committed violent crimes. In fact, many haven't even committed property crimes, they've simply partaken of conscience-altering substances which, at this point in US history, are illegal. Some have done nothing more than exceed the speed limit in one of those unmarked "Special Enforcement Zones", or drive under a license they didn't realize had been suspended because of some bureaucratic foul-up, or ride in a car with a relative who they didn't realize was a fugitive from justice. And some haven't committed any crimes at all.

        Furthermore, all of them are still human beings. Even people who are convinced they themselves will, under no circumstances, ever end up standing before a judge (perhaps through no fault of their own) should remember that - except for a tiny few - these offenders will all some day return to society. If we don't respect their humanity, then when that day comes, we can't really complain if they've stopped acting like human beings.

        Besides, people forget just how many of the people who built this country were criminals. Thousands were transported to the colonies in lieu of hanging, and once here, became upright, respected citizens. Plenty of respected historical figures, people we now revere, would be imprisoned for their actions and habits if they were alive today. Jeez louise, we once even had a Supreme Court Justice who served part of his term from jail!

        Putting all lawbreakers in the same category is just snobbery, and doesn't help anyone.

        -----Original Message-----
        From: MPD-5D@yahoogroups. com [mailto:MPD- 5D@yahoogroups. com]On Behalf Of Keith Jarrell
        Sent: Friday, December 18, 2009 2:54 PM
        To: MPD-5D@yahoogroups. . com
        Subject: Re: [MPD-5D] Re: an attorney raises issues with the Court Watch program
        The real way for your potential clients to stay out of court and away from the system that scares them so badly is to simply not commit the crimes that they are there for. This would mean, stop smoking crack, stealing everything they get their hands on and stop robbing people at gun point. Then we would n't have to approach this problem at all. Your statment is one that clearly summons disappropriate feeling for those caught up in the justice system. Most of which chose their path in life and commit crimes which places them in front of judges, and now the community. Least we forget the victims and the fact that everyone in our community is a victim when someone is robbed or killed.

        Keith

        On Thu, Dec 17, 2009 at 9:56 PM, srispin <srispin@yahoo. com<mailto:srispin@yahoo. com>> wrote:

        All,

        I am the unnamed attorney and I asked that Scott post the message anonymously so that no one would construe it as legal advice giving rise to a lawyer-client relationship. So, with the proviso that this is NOT legal advice, I should clarify:

        My comments were on only two of the three suggestions that Ms. Henderson made--(1) that people call judges' chambers directly, and (2) that they fill the courtroom with the hope of swaying the judge with their presence. I did not and do not suggest that there is a problem with the third (3d) suggestion, writing community impact statements. Since they are solicited by the court, and attorneys for both sides are given access to them, they do not violate any constitutional values. So Matt is correct insofar as that one suggestion out of three is kosher, so to speak.

        I have no ambitions to grow up to be a judge. (Right now, I'm too busy being someone who owns a 100 year-old rowhouse and all of its attendant charms to have those sorts of goals!). But I did feel moved to help people to understand that some boundaries should not be crossed so that all of us remain protected. The criminal justice system is a scary place to be--especially for young, poor, and minority defendants. It is all too often unfairly biased against the defendants, who remember, are innocent until proven guilty. God forbid any one of us should have to walk a mile in their shoes as things are--let alone with angry neighbors making anonymous calls to influence a judge further against us.

        And, by the way, why did so many people assume I'm male? ; ) For shame, people! Its 2009!

        --Sarah

        --- In MPD-5D@yahoogroups. com<mailto:MPD-5D% 40yahoogroups. com>, Matt Ashburn <matt@....> wrote:
        >
        > Scott,
        >
        > I think the unnamed attorney cited below may misunderstand the program. The
        > "court watch" program does not affect the conviction of a defendant.
        > Rather, it takes place between conviction and sentencing, during a period
        > when the judge can consider victim and community impact statements to affect
        > sentencing.
        >
        > This practice is encouraged by the U.S. Department of Justice:
        > http://www.ojp. usdoj.gov/ nij/topics/ courts/restorati ve-justice/ promising- practices/ victim-impact- statements. htm<http://www.ojp. usdoj.gov/ nij/topics/ courts/restorati ve-justice/ promising- practices/ victim-impact- statements. htm>
        >
        > Matt

        >
        >
        >
        > On Tue, Dec 15, 2009 at 12:12 PM, scott@... <
        > scott@...> wrote:
        >
        > >
        > >
        > > This is Scott Roberts, moderator of a Bloomingdale neighborhood list.
        > > I have posted a few of Kathy Henderson's Court Watch commments on the
        > > Bloomingdale list.
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > See these follow-up remarks that I have received from an attorney, barred
        > > in DC, residing in Eckington:
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > I thought I should mention that there are some legal and ethical problems
        > > with the Court Watch program one of the neighborhood residents is promoting.
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > First, phone calls to judge's chambers are nothing more than an unwanted
        > > intrusion and a nuisance. The judge is not allowed to take anything into
        > > account that is not presented in evidence or argument in the courtroom with
        > > both sides present. Among other important values, this protects the
        > > defendant's constitutional right to confront all witnesses against him or
        > > her. In our justice system, we want everything aired openly and in full
        > > view; anonymous calls to chambers have no place in this system.
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > Second, it is of course within anyone's right to attend an open trial,
        > > space permitting.. But again, the judge may not (i.e. is not allowed to)
        > > take into account anything other than the evidence and legal arguments
        > > presented in court with both sides present. Nor do we want him or her to.
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > If people really want to make a difference, we should encourage and support
        > > those who witness a crime in their decision to testify, if asked. Cities
        > > with more deeply entrenched crime problems than our own, like Baltimore
        > > and Newark, face a situation in which people are too scared to testify, so
        > > truly guilty parties are not convicted. So we should give our full
        > > support to those who do testify. But trying to anonymously influence
        > > judges, in a manner that neither the prosecutor nor the defendant can
        > > contest, is extremely problematic.
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > I served as a law clerk to two federal judges when I graduated from law
        > > school. If we had received a call from someone saying they were concerned
        > > about the case and were from the community where the crime occurred, etc.,
        > > we would have had to disregard it. My judges weren't at the trial level,
        > > so I'm not totally sure about this, but I think a trial judge (like the ones
        > > that this neighbor is encouraging people to call) who received such a call
        > > might even have to call a special conference in chambers with the prosecutor
        > > and defense lawyer to let them know that the phone calls were being
        > > received, and it might even be grounds for the defense attorney to file a
        > > motion for the judge to recuse him or herself, or to get a different judge
        > > on the case (since it would be considered ex parte communication about the
        > > case, which both sides should rightfully be there to hear.)
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > I'm sure this neighbor is very well meant, but two of her three
        > > recommendations would do more harm than good, unfortunately.
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > I'm sure there are a million lawyers on the listserv who perhaps can
        > > further comment.
        > >
        > >
        > >
        >

        --
        Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
        P. J. O'Rourke

        Keith Jarrell
        Cell (202) 288-1867
        Fax (202) 315-2559

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