Has anyone else freaked out that the half year is over? While we all want to see in our rearview mirrors in 2020, we're only halfway there. The legal world is still turning.
The US Supreme Court has ruled to end its pilot program for limited license legal technicians. Although the program was launched in 2013 to provide access to justice in family law matters, this noble experiment has bitten the dust. The court found that the juice was not worth the pressure given the program cost and the small number of “interested people”. The program will end next year.
The court's decision was not unanimous. Judge Barbara Madsen wrote a devastating dissent, stating that the court's decision ended a "fully viable license category that the public can use". Not doing so, she made it clear that the courts are required to end the racial differences and that the court's spontaneous decision to end the project was an attempt to improve access to justice for race and income .
Is the court's decision an example of not going for a walk? What about the fate of other, similar projects across the country? What does this decision mean for California, which is taking its first tentative steps toward a similar project? Be determined.
Do you remember the excitement a few years ago when a judge in Northern California sentenced a young male defendant to six months in prison for sexual assault? Outraged district voters remembered judge Aaron Persky in June 2018. The judges should be free to decide, without fear or favor, what he did and with which the citizens disagreed.
The canon of judicial ethics prevented Persky from defending his conviction because judges have long been banned from speaking publicly about pending cases. After Persky's recall, the California Supreme Court asked for a public opinion on whether judges should be able to comment on pending cases if they are criticized for their decision in a case and awaiting re-election or recall. With the proliferation of social media and the increasing share of Vitriol in public forums, incumbent judges have had no way to defend themselves, and bar associations trying to defend judges have had little or no impact. Who cares what bar associations think? Exactly.
Effective today, the California Code of Ethics has been amended so that judges can, among other things, speak publicly about a pending case if they are criticized for a decision during a recall or re-election campaign, but only if the public is not expected to do so a comment affects the result or affects the fairness of the procedure. Would that have changed the outcome of Persky's recall? Her thoughts?
Appear or not appear? That is the question (sorry, Hamlet). It is the question that lawyers are concerned about today when deciding whether to go to court to argue about an application of one kind or another. The Italian American Bar Association here in Los Angeles recently had a zoom presentation with the presiding judge and deputy presiding judge of the Los Angeles Supreme Court.
Neither of them would come straight out and say this, but I feel that they would very much prefer that lawyers appear from a distance.
We all grew up as lawyers who were told it was important to appear in person. The court would see you; You would see the court and see if the judge frowned, smiled, grinned, or glazed your eyes as you quarreled. If you choose to go to court these days, all you can see is your eyes, since masking is required in court, at least here in Los Angeles County. How much body language can you learn from your eyes? What if the court has no eye contact and is reading a file (not necessarily yours)? What is the message?
We were also told that if we had not appeared physically and only submitted it on the briefs submitted in the case, which showed that the result was not really important to us (au contraire), and therefore our chance, the convincing one If the argument is put forward, the movement wins. How many times have we all heard, "Counsel, do you have anything to add that isn't in the papers?" Sip.
Times have certainly changed since these days. The lawyers' fear of what to do is perfectly understandable: what will the client think if you do not appear in person? What will the court think? Will the opposing lawyer think she has you on the ropes? Both the presiding judge and the deputy presiding judge made it clear that the frequency with which they changed their reservations was negligible compared to the number of movements they heard on the bench. Do you collect clues here?
How about this hint? In its recent press release, the court said that "remote technology options promote social distancing by reducing the number of people who appear in person."
Think about the level of commitment to the appearance of the physical courtroom: the decision on the subject that affects the case, your health, the health of your client, and the safety and well-being of the court and staff. High stakes decision or low? Not an easy call.
Jill Switzer has been an active member of the State Bar of California for over 40 years. She remembers having worked as a lawyer in a friendlier time. She had a varied legal career, including as a deputy public prosecutor, as a solo practice and as a senior in-house gigs. She now teaches all day what gives her the opportunity to see dinosaurs, millennials and the people in between – it is not always common. You can email them at email@example.com.