Jury Duty Flashback
When I had jury duty at the end of 2009, my post here didn’t mention much about the prosecutor. He presented a competent case, but the drama was all in the defendant. There were a couple of time where the DA lost his cool, but given the tenor of the trial it was understandable even if it was a bit over the top. Parts of it where also what I remember as junior DA theatrics, or maybe the legal equivalent of spiking the ball after a good play, but again, let’s remember he was playing against a mentally ill self-represented defendant. It came across like an NFL player spiking the ball after a good play against a Pop Warner team: poor sportsmanship, but nothing more.
The name struck a bell when I saw this article today though highlighting the prosecuting attorney’s conduct in another prosecution: Irrelevant and potentially inflammatory questioning and a pattern of misconduct that rendered the trial fundamentally unfair, at least according the the Fourth District Court of Appeal. Unfortunately I’m not surprised at all.
Sad For The Future
I haven’t made much of a secret of my humble opinion that the California courts are seriously broken. Their infrastructure, particularly that for handling information, is at least 20 years behind the times. Instead of expanding to deal with the consequences of the recession, they cut back with a resulting slow-down in the handling of cases across the board.
The issue is compounded by a certain class of cases that will never, ever, end, taking resources forever. Yesterday while waiting (two hours to make a five minute appearance) for a case to be called, I watched the child support case of an elderly man where the state was still pursuing $164,000 in arrears for a child who is now 33 years old. The man was arguing his monthly payments should be reduced to $50 per month because he had just lost his job. The result of the day’s work on that case was squat nada bupkus because a continuance had to be granted because a party had only received certain documents 24 days before the hearing instead of the required 30. The court will take up the issue again in August.
NB: the interest alone on $164,000 of past due child support is $1366 per month. If his motion is granted, he will still only be paying 3 1/2% of the interest accruing each month, and never touching the principal.
I admit I don’t know what the solution should be in cases like this. I suspect it took a lot of neglect to rack up that much in arrears. Massive neglect, even intentional wrongdoing, doesn’t stop the government from bailing out banks, or automakers or reckless homeowners though, so maybe I should stop feeling judgmental about how the debt was created. I just hate seeing cases (or problems, or debts, take your pick) that by plan and inflexible laws can never end, and in the process eat up dwindling, finite, resources and judicial time.
Interesting article in the North County Times on the San Diego courts’ efforts to deal with reduced funding at a time when the need for the courts’ services is greater than ever. Sure, reducing staff through attrition is on the list, as is reduced window hours. More importantly though is what’s not on the list: e-filing, electronic files, and a decent online calendar and docket system being at the top of my list. I regularly use the online systems in other counties, Ventura and Riverside in particular, for my current caseload. Both counties provide much more information without the need for a clerk’s time or effort, though neither yet come close to the federal court system of storing all filed documents electronically. Unfortunately my guess though is that the local courts won’t be able to pull together the start-up capital for any decent move forward until times are good again, and then they won’t have the incentive to do so.