Sunday, June 24, 2012

Court panel - waste of time

The Northwest Herald carries a nice "puff piece" on what's wrong with the McHenry County Circuit Court today. Chief Judge Michael Sullivan will serve on a commission created by the Illinois Supreme Court to make the justice system more accessible.

In our lifetime?

No commission is needed to fix what is broken in McHenry County. Judge Sullivan wouldn't have to change his court calendar to allow him to attend commission meetings. Anybody who doesn't know what's wrong at 2200 N. Seminary Ave., Woodstock, just hasn't been in court.

For starters ...

Just over a week ago, a four-year-old case against a woman was dropped by the State's Attorney's office, just before her trial was to start. How many court dates had there been in that case (Case No. 08CF000928)? I think I counted 62. SIXTY-TWO court dates! Why did Judge Prather tolerate 62 court dates and then allow the State's Attorney's office to say it didn't have any evidence?

On June 15, 2012, Judge Prather allowed Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Combs, chief of the criminal division, to drop the single count against Hoeft.

The Northwest Herald reported, “'I don’t think there’s any evidence to prove it,' Combs said. 'In a perfect world, that case never would have been charged.'”

No evidence? After four years of prosecution?

Hello, Judge Sullivan? Is it time for Judge Prather and you to pay a visit to the State's Attorney's office? No State Commission is needed to figure out what's wrong with that case. Did the defendant refuse to bargain and force the case to trial? And then, at the 11th hour, the SAO wormed out of it by deciding not to process (nolle prosequi) the charge further?

Unfortunately, the folks at Michling Hofmann Plaza & Wick, the defense attorneys, probably won't make too big a stink about it, because they will (rightfully) be concerned about appearances in future cases before Judge Prather and other judges.

Years ago I heard a man say, "If you don't know what your rights are, you don't have any." This is as true today as it was then.

Regarding the Self-Help Center at the government center, it's a nice place, if you like nice people. But they should just have little cards printed that read, "We can't give legal advice" and save their breath 100 times a day, when people come in for help. They could help more, but they are not allowed to help more. Yes, they aren't lawyers; I know that.

But what could be wrong about informing visitors that they can file Motions without a lawyer. And where the Motion forms are available. And that a Notice of Motion has to be mailed or delivered to (list of people). And handling out a sheet of instructions for doing that. And that fees might charged for filing cases. And that, if you can't afford the fees, you can ask the Court to waive the fees. And how you go about doing that. And what you'll need to know about appearing in court.

"We don't give legal advice. Get a lawyer." Can't afford one? Too bad.

And as far as getting help from Prairie State Legal Service? Good luck even being able to get through. Last week a man told me they no longer have an office in Woodstock. Is that true? Go to and/or call (800) 942-3940. They used to be on Russel Court. On the website now, an office is listed at 5320 West Elm St. (Route 120), McHenry. Prairie State used to have (and may still have) walk-in hours on Tuesday mornings; otherwise, call the toll-free number for information and, if you qualify for their services, to schedule an appointment. Prairie State Legal Service does not handle criminal cases.

The "low-hanging fruit" (majority of problems at the Circuit Court in Woodstock) could be handled with orders from Judge Sullivan. I wonder if telling judges and lawyers to speak up in the courtroom is on his list.


Ray said...

You were so close ... maybe I should just leave you there.

Gus, gus, gus... There are only three problems with the court system.

1. Lawyers make the rules for the way they make money. Think about that. If this system seems way too complicated ... it's because it pays lawyers to be complicated.

2. Judges do not enforce discovery violations against the State. Simply put, if you have a case where the State didn't come up with the videotape, etc. the response of the law (and therefore the judge) is to allow the State as much time as they need to get it. Most Judges are former State lackeys (period). Try to find one that wasn't previously on the dole (or the close friend of one) ... you will be hard pressed. Because the State can obfuscate the process by nearly all defense motions being dismissed (by law) defense attorneys begin to stop looking for errors and fewer motions are filed. Then all the defense is left with is delay delay delay (with the help of the State, of course).

Third. You can't handle the truth. Or what I mean is that the truth is that we spend too much and too little for our judicial system. We spend $3,200 per week, per judge, (and we will soon have 20 judges) Yes, Virginia, that is over $60,000 a week, but we get very few trials per week (I didn't count small claims and order of protection crap cases). And the way things are set up if the number of trials went up the system would be totally smashed.

You always seem to suggest that there is always a magic solution to these problems if only someone would wave the wand, but there is not. If you increase the number of trials, you will increase the number of not guiltys and the number of cases that do not get heard in a timely fashion. If you force defendants to enter a plea of guilty they will do that by giving up some of their rights.

You suggest that a judge has some magic power to set a case for trial. When the child molester Sandusky's case gets reversed because the judge forced the trial early... what will you say then? In reality a judge has no more control over when a case goes to trial as your mother (assuming your mother is not a judge). There are more impediments to getting a case to trial than there are incentives.

I await your reply to one of the ideas expressed above, as you ignore the greater part of the post.

Yours Truly,

Ray Flavin

Gus said...

If the Court tells one side to produce (say, a videotape) by a certain date and it doesn't, then the judge ought to grab his yardstick and paddle the offending side. And exclude the evidence. That would stop all the fooling around.

I watched a prosecutor in Colorado lose a DUI charge, because the municipality lost the videotape of the interview, in which the drunk had sat without speaking or moving. He knew the "anything you say" part quite well from his previous DUIs.

The defense claimed that the tape was "lost" because it showed he wasn't drunk, and the judge bought it.

But the judge did convict him of Reckless Driving on my testimony. It was an "O.J. Simpson pursuit" - 25MPH for 1 mile, in front of my squad (red lights and siren blazing away), including right through a red light. When he finally stopped, he was out of his car before I could get out of mine, and had his hands on the roof of his car.

Ray said...

First of all thank you for avoiding commenting on all of the ideas in my post as I predicted.

Second, how is a Reckless Driving a loss for the prosecutor in your story? Was it a different case?

And if it was a different case what are you saying? Your testimony is the cure for slow courtroom process? Or are you bragging that you once testified in court where a defendant was found guilty? Good for you, I guess?

Over all your post makes very little sense. The video tape was excluded (and that was bad?)because the judge bought the lawyers "technicality", or barring a video tape is good to move the case along?


The Usual Suspect said...

Touché.....thanks for the laugh Ray! Did you really think you'd get a direct answer?

Captain Louis “Louie” Renault