Sat, 16 Sep 2006 15:54:36
The other day I discussed the new regime at the Orleans Parish Indigent Defender Program (IDP.) I expressed some reservations about the academics who have swooped down on the system to save it from the ancien regime. Another shoe has dropped. But before I riff on current events allow me to digress; as if you had any choice. Many moons ago when I was a Tulane Law 1L” I had Gary Roberts for Civil Procedure. The very first thing Roberts wrote on the board was this: Rule #1-Never piss off the judge. He went on to tell us that even if the judge was a jerk and an idiot we had to act as if they knew what the hell they were doing. Why? They’re mini-dictators in their courtrooms and while you can walk up to the edge of insubordination you have to know when to stop. You should stand up for your client but do NOT disrespect and/or insult the judge in the process. Why? Your client will be the one who suffers in the end. Repeat after me: Never piss off the judge.
Back to Professor Steve Singer the new big cheese at the IDP. He’s violated rule #1 by pissing off Judge Frank Marullo. He’s been asked to show why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for failing to appoint lawyers in 3 capital cases. Why has Singer moved so slowly? Because all the experienced capital case lawyers have either quit the IDP or have been reassigned due to Singer’s changes. Of course the contempt threat is more of a wake up call than anything else but it’s what happens when you lip off like this to the Picayune:
“[Singer] cited a recent review by the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance that found the system was “court-based rather than client-based ” meaning attorneys were more focused on the needs of judges than defendants.”
That may well be true but trash talking the judges is only going to piss them off Mr. Singer. Judges *like* the system to revolve around their needs. If you want to change that you have to do it quietly rather than bragging about it to the local rag. Also if you’re going to make sweeping changes make sure that you can try cases while the system is in transition.
So newbies at the IDP please repeat after me: Never piss off the judge.
POST-SCRIPT: I know what you’re thinking: what about Judge Elloie? Judge Elloie deserves public condemnation for his bonding policies. BUT if I were trying a case in his courtroom Rule #1 would still be in effect. Why? Your client’s fate is in his hands and a lawyer’s duty is to the client and not their own opinions. Case closed.