Hello and welcome back to Attorney Paz’s rants of a criminal defense attorney. Today I want to talk about judges. There are some really fantastic judges in the criminal justice system. But, each judge is different. Here, I will discuss what to expect from a judge in a Connecticut criminal defense case.
The Role of the Judge
Each courthouse has a few judges, one of whom is the presiding judge. That judge is responsible for putting final offers on files, controlling the docket, scheduling things for trials and hearings. That judge is important because a strong presiding judge is able to effectively move business and keep the docket from getting out of control. What do I mean by that? Where the state presents an offer, and obviously the state’s job is to prosecute you, my job as your defense attorney is to present your side of the case. The judge’s job is to sit there and listen to both sides and consider what is a fair and just resolution to the case.
Now, a strong, independent minded judge will take the state to task on evidentiary issues, on mitigation, and make an alternative offer to the defendant where obviously they’re not constrained by mandatory minimums. But sometimes, judges don’t do that. Sometimes judges, whether due to inexperience, or whatever the case may be, they just kind of sit there and rubber stamp whatever the state attorney says. At that point then, business kind of slows to a halt. When clients aren’t getting fair offers, they just tend to put their cases on the trial list and let the case, I like to use the word “marinate,” marinate over time.
Maybe circumstances change, the state’s case weakens, a different state attorney takes a look at the file and maybe decides, “hey, it’s not really worth this, I’ll make an alternative offer.” But, in some jurisdictions, the trial list is miles long, and the reason is because we don’t have a strong presiding judge sitting in the courthouse that is willing to take the state to task and willing to make alternative offers. So, if your case is not resolving, and you’re not getting a fair offer, there are a number of ways to deal with that. Like I said, we can put things on the trial list and let it marinate. Every year, judges circulate in and out between jurisdictions, so maybe a new judge is going to be coming in that may be willing to take a second, fresh look at your case and make an alternative offer. So your case not resolving in a short period of time, while I understand is frustrating, especially if your job is on the line, background checks, etc., it really has a lot to do with the judge, and obviously those are circumstances that are not within our control.
Your attorney should be able to talk to you about these issues, what they think about the judge that is sitting in that jurisdiction, what is likely to happen based on that particular judge, and take everything from there. If you have any questions about that, feel free to email me at [email protected] and as always take care, don’t get arrested, and see you soon.