Speedy trial with a vengeance
Portage County Judge John Plough made news last year by holding Brian Jones, a public defender, in contempt for refusing to go forward with a trial in a misdemeanor assault case. Jones felt he had a pretty good reason for refusing: he'd been appointed to represent the defendant only the day before the trial. Plough was unmoved, and locked him up for five hours, subsequently fining him $100. Jones' lawyer announced that they'd be taking an appeal to the 11th District. It turns out that this is pretty much a common practice for Judge Plough.
Well, here's some good news for Mr. Jones and his lawyer: the 11th District apparently doesn't think too much of Judge Plough's methods, either. A couple of weeks ago, in State v. Diroll, they reversed a conviction in a domestic violence case where Plough had done something similar. Not only did they hold he had abused his discretion in refusing to grant a continuance, but it found the facts didn't support the conviction, and ordered Plough to enter an acquittal. (In case you're wondering, Plough's name is never mentioned in the opinion; I went to the Portage County online docket and tracked down the case, and found that it was indeed Plough's.)
Plough's not too popular with his peers, either; as this article indicates, one judge has filed a complaint against Plough, alleging that he "intimidates defendants; abuses defendants' rights to a speedy trial; issues inappropriate sentences; keeps incomplete or inaccurate records of trials; and" -- perhaps the most damning -- "took personal calls while on the bench during at least one jury trial." The horror... the horror...
While Plough's actions justificably engendered a lot of criticism, it was handled in the customary manner: the state and national criminal defense bars got into the act, issuing statements criticizing Plough, but in fairly temperate terms. Down in Florida, it seems they had a similar situation: one of the local judges by the name of Carol Aleman had adopted a policy of setting trial dates within a week or two of arraignment. These were major felony cases, as opposed to the simple misdemeanor cases Plough was handling. Apparently, Aleman's purpose was to present defense counsel with the Hobbesian choice of going forward with a trial for which he is certain to be unprepared, or requesting a continuance and thereby waiving his client's speedy trial rights.
The defense lawyers down there have their own blog, and the judge's actions were the subject of several posts, in language not normally found in polite legal circles, as this excerpt from one post shows:
As my case was on recall for 2 hours, I watched this seemingly mentally ill judge condescend each previous attorney. I had my argument ready. Prior to being placed on recall, I first approached the podium and noted that her question to me: "trial or continuance" placed my client in a position of having to decide b/t his rt to a speedy trial & his right to explore discovery. Nonetheless, almost 2 hours later, my [case] was finally recalled:
ME: "Judge (not your honor b/c there's nothing honorable about that malcontent) ... there seems to be a mistake in this case."
EVIL, UNFAIR WITCH ("hereinafter "EUW"): "and what is that?"
Not surprisingly, that excerpt bought the author a disciplinary complaint several months later, for the "disrespect toward the tribunal" provision of the code of conduct.
As I'd pointed out several months ago, there's a question of whether those regulations can survive vagueness challenges under the First Amendment; at least one Federal court has found they can't. I'll go with that. I can describe the president of the United States in the most unflattering, degrading terms possible. (And have, as my officemates will tell you.) I can't say the same thing about some judge?
But it's not going to reach the level of the Florida defense lawyers' blog. I mean, come on, guys: "EVIL, UNFAIR WITCH"? "Mentally ill"? Was high school that much fun that you have to relive it through your prose?