F-84 has kindly invited me, RS, to guest-blog while he hits the books, so I thought I'd recount a crim-law tale from real life. I practice criminal law and teach.
As a member of the conflicts panel, I was appointed to represent the woman in the orange jump suit seated over there near the male bailiff. She now approached the podium at which I stood.
"Will you accept the appointment, Mr. S.?" asked her honor.
"Will you waive formal instruction and arraignment on this MTR?" the judge asked.
"Yes, Y'ronah," I said as the public defender handed me the papers showing that the DA had filed a motion to revoke probation based on the woman's new arrest for buying drugs from a street dealer, under the eyes of the cops. The PD conflicted out, probably because the PD's Office represented the seller.
"What would Ms. H like to do," asked the judge, using my new client's name. To do, as in put the matter over for a conference, set the matter for a hearing, etc.
Ms. H asked me to ask the judge not to use her real name. It was unclear to me why, as the judge was speaking again, giving the new date, which I had to get down or lose it. I didn't catch why the client didn't want the judge to use her name. I told her I'd come to see her in the jail and we'd talk.
I visited the women's pod, was assigned a conference room, and set up my yellow-pad when Ms. H came, in a pleasant spoken woman, late thirties, with a few drug arrests, the drug probation, a prior pross dismissed, nothing serious. Get her into a program, modify and extend, CTS, no muss, no fuss.
"Hi, Ms. H. What was that you were trying to tell me in court at the podium when the judge interrupted?"
"Not to use my name."
"Oh, yes. Why was that?"
"Because they told me not to use my real name in court."
"Who told you that?"
"The sheriff's deputies."
"The sheriff's deputies told you not to use your real name in court?"
"Why was that?"
"Because I work for them."
"What do you mean you work for them? You work for the Sheriff?"
"Then what are you doing in court? Who do you work for, exactly, doing what?"
"I can't say."
"What do you mean you can't say?"
"They told me not to tell anyone."
"But I'm you're lawyer, you can tell me."
"I can only tell the judge."
"Tell the judge what?"
"That I work for the sheriff. My husband's a sheriff. Judge So-and-so knows me, and Judge Other-so-and-so."
"Who's your husband?"
"I can't give you his name."
"Why can't you give me your husband's name? I could call him and find out what's going on."
"I don't want my family involved."
I'm starting to become frustratred and angry.
"Who do you work for? What's your commander's name? What unit? "
"I don't want to say."
"Look, why don't we do this. How about you just tell me who you are. Where were you born. She mentions a city. How far did you go in school. Grade school here, high school there, move to another city, a year or two of college, but dropped out. Married? Yes. Children? A daughter. How old? Three. Name? I can't give you that. Do you live here, in this city now? Yes. For how long? Years. Where? I can't tell you that. I don't want to involve my family.
I'm really getting upset.
And then it dawns on me.
Why am I getting upset?
Because this woman is telling me nothing.
There's absolutely no way I can check out anything she says.
Any time I ask her a question that she realizes I can use to check out her story, she goes blank by denying, evading, or otherwise not answering.
This pleasant-spoken, articulate, lucid person I'm speaking to is stark, raving mad in the most literal sense.
I re-collect myself, settle myself down, and resolve to ask a few more questions along a more pertinent track.
"Have you ever been looked at for emotional reasons, you know, by a psychiatrist?"
"Yes, over at General Hospital."
"What did they say."
"They said I had a few problems."
"Are you getting any treatment?"
"Is there some treatment that you would like?"
"What were you doing that got you arrested this time?"
"I'll tell the judge, in private, otherwise I don't want to discuss it."
Okay; I've gotta get going. I'll see you next time.
I write up an affidavit, submit it under seal, and request the appointment of a psychiatrist because I have a doubt, which I now declare, that my client can cooperate meaningfully with counsel. Dr. L is appointed. He's been around for four decades that I know of. He can check other commitments and hospitalizations throughout the system of jail, hospital, mental wards, etc. I submit my affidavit to him and ask him to check Ms. H out.
Dr. L's report comes back: Ms. H is suffering from a deep-seated, well-constructed, almost entirely coherent psychotic delusion that controls her entire life.
The judge ships Ms. H. off to the State Hospital until she's restored to competency, which in this case turns out to be four months.
Last week, on Thursday, just before Christmas, the court clerk calls, saying that Ms. H has been returned from State Hospital, and will appear on calendar on Monday.
"Do you have the report?" I ask.
"What does it say, bottom line?"
"Restored to competency."
I'll go to see her.
I wonder what she's like, now that she's okay.
I wonder how they restored her to competency.
I visit the women's pod.
"Hi, Ms. H, how are you feeling? Any better?"
"I was feeling okay before."
"I mean, after being at the State Hospital, did they do something to make you feel better?"
No. I took some medication just to show them I was cooperating, but that was just for two weeks. Tranquilizers, I think.
Well, did they do something to help fix you up?
Ms. H was personable, articulate, pleasant, smiled appropriately in greeting, and looked and sounded perfectly fine, just as before.
"Have you got in touch with your family since you've been back?"
Has anyone come to visit you in jail since you've returned?
Do you have anyone here?
My husband and daughter.
Do you want me to contact them?
What's your husband's name?
I don't want to involve him.
What's your daughter's name?
I don't want to involve her.
Okay, let me ask you about your arrest because I think we're probably going to have to deal with that now that you're back and all okay again.
I was okay before.
What were you doing when you got arrested?
I was working for the police.
Oh. You were a snitch?
No. I was an employee of the police.
Oh. You were acting as a police office, buying drugs to detect crime, which would make possessing drugs legal?
Where did you work for the police.
In this building, for fifteen years.
Great! Why don't you just tell me what floor you worked on and I'll...
All of them.
Who was your commander?
I can't say.
Are you a police officer right now?
Yes. But I'm off on disability.
Oh. Who was the police surgeon who certified that you were disabled?
Police surgeon? I just told my commander I didn't feel good and wasn't coming in.
But you need to see the police surgeon, some doctor the police department wants you to see to make sure you're sick before they let you go off duty like that. What did you go off duty for?
Medical reasons, not psychological.
Do you receive any pay check?
I go to Washington to pick up those.
Who do you work for?
FBI, DEA, police, sheriff.
You work for the sheriff?
I work for the sheriff now.
We could go right over to the desk there and ask the deputy to run your name, and then we could clear this matter up right away...
She'll just lie...
Okay, Ms. H, I'll see you in court on Monday.
Will you ask the judge to let me out on bail?
And ask the judge to let me speak to her in private?
Do you have someone to post a bond? Any collateral? You said you owned a building, where is it? You could use that.
I can't tell you.
Bondsmen want collateral, like a building.
I married into several families that were bondsmen. They don't need a building.
Was H your maiden name or your married name?
Ms. H tells me that a police officer entered her home once and chopped off the back of her head with a rifle used as a club. She put her hand in and could feel her brain. She refuses to show me the back of her head.
Okay, later, Ms. H., Monday, I'll ask the judge if you can talk to her, but that's not usually done. Bye...
On Monday we appear in court and I get to see the report from State Hospital, which states that Ms. H operates under a chronic fantasy symptomatic of deep seated, bi-polar, schizophrenic conditions, has refused medication, has participated in group and individual counseling, has been made aware of court proceedings, and is now able to cooperate with counsel in her defense, and is thus restored to competency.
I write up another affidavit.
On Monday, the case is called.
"Y'r'onah, Ms. H is back before the court from the State Hospital," I say. "The report says she is restored to competency. Since that's what your clerk told me, on Thursday, I went to see Ms. H on Friday. This morning I read the report from the hospital. Its findings are inconsistent with the conclusion of the report. Ms. H has requested that I ask the court to consider the question of bail. She wants to speak to the court in private, which I've advised is not usually done. May the matter go over to Wednesday for further proceedings. I've prepared an affidavit I'd like the court to consider. The matter goes over two days for bail and to set.
I clue in the DA.
I call Dr. L., and tell him Ms. H is back, but here's the situation and would he please see her again and write a supplemental. I fax him the report from the State Hospital and my affidavit, which I haven't submitted to the court because I've remembered that since this judge rotated into this department, you cannot just submit a confidential matter under seal any more, i.e. in a sealed envelope marked 'Confidential, under seal.'
Now you have to submit an affidavit, listing reasons, requesting permission to submit an affidavit under seal. We have rules. The rules have rules. The rules that have rules have rules. If you miss one of the rules, with this very smart judge, you have to start all over again.
It's better not to get involved with this judge. She has the personality of a jack-hammer and blows up over trivialities. Things that lawyers think are trivialities, anyway. To her, they're important, like rules. Why be a judge if you don't believe in rules?
Dr. L tells me he's out with diarrhea. We have this flu-like thing going around. We don't want Dr. L to be feeling ill. He's been around a very long time. He's very good. A friend tells me of a case in which the defendant appeared to be faking mental illness in order to avoid his responsibility for some act he'd committed. The friend called Dr. L. Dr. L's response was, "So he wants to be crazy, does he? Okay. He can be crazy if he wants." The defendant was not very happy being locked up with crazy people and asked to come back.
On Wednesday we appeared again before "Mother, May I," and I advised that I'd submitted my affidavit regarding Ms. H to Dr. L instead of to the court. As long as I was going to make myself a witness in a case I was handling, it was better to submit the declaration to an expert who could incorporate the data into his findings when it came to testifying.
I told the court I'd called Dr. L for a supplemental.
"Mr. S, you cannot just call Dr. L and bring him into the case. We have a rotation system for court-appointed experts here."
Of course. How stupid of me. I might have have been playing games with court-appointments of experts. They trust me to represent people but not to hire experts.
"Yes, Y'ronah, I'm aware of that, but Dr. L is familiar with Ms. H's case, having done the initial workup that sent her to the State Hospital in the first place, so I just thought that having him do the supplemental would ...blah, blah, blah..., so I've sent him copies of the hospital report and my declaration, and spoken to him, etc.
"Would counsel approach the bench."
DA and I approach.
DA says, "Why don't you tell her what you told me."
I explain that Ms. H wants the court to know that she works for the FBI, the DEA, the police and the sheriff, for the past fifteen years.
Judge says, Let me see that report from State Hospital.
While she's reading the three pages, the DA says, "How're you going to prove Ms. H wasn't working for the FBI?"
Funny, I was wondering about that myself.
"H'mmm...I was thinking of making a supplemental request for funds to have my investigator contact the FBI, the DEA, the police, and the Sheriff,.." I began to say, when the DA said, "I'm only kidding."
I was relieved.
The judge looked up from the report: "It's the end of the year. State Hospital is clearing its books. It's an outrage, sending her back like this."
"What I had in mind, judge, was to have Dr. L prepare a brief supplemental report, submit the matter on the reports in a court trial, and spare us all a jury trial on whether Ms. H has been restored to competency.
Okay, back to your places, says the judge.
"Here's what I'm going to do. Dr. L is appointed to do an evaluation and report, in confidence, to submit to Mr. S. How much time do you need? Usually we do a month, but we can do it in less if you'd like."
How about two weeks, Y'r'onah, doctor isn't feeling well...
Two weeks is fine.
On the question of my client speaking to the court privately, Y'ronah...
"You can speak to the court through counsel, Ms. H."
"Okay, judge," says Ms. H.
Over two weeks.