Tag Archives: public defender

LA Supreme Court: It’s Reasonable to Believe “Give Me a Lawyer Dog” was Request for a Dog Who is a Lawyer

Lawyer Dog Louisiana Supreme Court Canine Attorney

Lawyer Dog should really ask Grumpy Judge to recuse herself. #JusSayin

Recently, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued a ruling on a motion to suppress evidence against Warren Demesme, who is currently awaiting trial in New Orleans. By a 6-1 majority the court denied that motion, which maintained that statements Demesme had made should be thrown because the police had ignored his request for legal counsel during interrogations.

What’s gotten a lot of attention (and rightfully so) since that ruling is the courts’ contention that Demesme’s request was ambiguous and unclear. But even more so for the reasoning behind the ruling. Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Kyle Daly argued in his response to the motion that Demesme’s statement, “just give me a lawyer dog,” could be misinterpreted by a “reasonable officer” based on the use of the words “lawyer dog.”

In a brief accompanying the decision, Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton agreed that the defendant’s use of “lawyer dog” could be misconstrued to mean something else and therefore did not qualify as a request for counsel.

Via the Washington Post:

Warren Demesme, then 22, was being interrogated by New Orleans police in October 2015 after two young girls claimed he had sexually assaulted them. It was the second time he’d been brought in, and he was getting a little frustrated, court records show. He had repeatedly denied the crime. Finally, Demesme told the detectives:

“This is how I feel, if y’all think I did it, I know that I didn’t do it so why don’t you just give me a lawyer dog ’cause this is not what’s up.” The punctuation, arguably critical to Demesme’s use of the sobriquet “dog,” was provided by the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office in a brief, and then adopted by Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton.

Demesme subsequently made admissions to the crime, prosecutors said, and was charged with aggravated rape and indecent behavior with a juvenile. He is being held in the Orleans Parish jail awaiting trial.

The public defender for Orleans Parish, Derwyn D. Bunton, took on Demesme’s case and filed a motion to suppress Demesme’s statement. In a court brief, Bunton noted that police are legally bound to stop questioning anyone who asks for a lawyer. “Under increased interrogation pressure,” Bunton wrote, “Mr. Demesme invokes his right to an attorney, stating with emotion and frustration, ‘Just give me a lawyer.’” The police did not stop their questioning, Bunton argued, “when Mr. Demesme unequivocally and unambiguously asserted his right to counsel.”

Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton

Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton

Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Kyle Daly responded in his brief that Demesme’s “reference to a lawyer did not constitute an unambiguous invocation of his right to counsel, because the defendant communicated that whether he actually wanted a lawyer was dependent on the subjective beliefs of the officers.” Daly added, “A reasonable officer under the circumstances would have understood, as [the detectives] did, that the defendant only might be invoking his right to counsel.”

Bunton’s motion to throw out Demesme’s statement was rejected by the trial court and the appeals court, so he took it to the state Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in a ruling issued last Friday and first reported by Reason, could have denied the appeal without issuing a written ruling, which it does in most cases. But Justice Crichton decided to write a brief concurrence “to spotlight the very important constitutional issue regarding the invocation of counsel during a law enforcement interview.”

Crichton noted that Louisiana case law has ruled that “if a suspect makes a reference to an attorney that is ambiguous or equivocal . . . the cessation of questioning is not required.” Crichton then concluded: “In my view, the defendant’s ambiguous and equivocal reference to a ‘lawyer dog’ does not constitute an invocation of counsel that warrants termination of the interview.”

So…

There’s a lot of things wrong with that decision. The most obvious issue is that they didn’t actually provide him with a dog who is a lawyer, as they claim they thought he had requested. It’s probably not the wisest move to request a dog to represent you in court, but if he’s a good boy and graduated from an accredited law school, who am I to cast aspersions?

Of course, that’s kind of the biggest problem with the “logic” of this ruling. They couldn’t give him a “lawyer dog” because, outside of memes on the internets, it’s not an actual thing. At this point in history, not one single dog has ever managed to pass the bar exam. Not Lassie, not Rin Tin Tin, not Benji, not even Snoopy. Scooby Doo is way to high to even think about taking the SAT’s, let alone the LSAT’s, and don’t even get me started on Marmaduke.

If any dog could have pulled it off, it obviously would have been Brian Griffin, but he died tragically after eating chocolate out of the garbage years ago. So, he’s not available right now.

What it boils down to is, if somebody asks for legal council, as is their constitutional right under the Sixth Amendment, you shouldn’t just be able to pretend you didn’t understand them because they used some (not uncommon) slang. In fact, if for some reason they ask for a “lawyer dog,” but there aren’t any available (or willing to work pro bone-o), then you give them a lawyer human instead.

It’s hard to have a lot of faith in the U.S. Injustice System, especially after rulings like this (not to mention all the coerced confessions and false convictions they allow for). However, you would hope that some sense of common decency and shame would compel the next appeals court this goes in front of to render a proper ruling on this nonsense.

I have a suspicion this might be a big part of the reason why the State of Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world.

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Ellwood City Police Officer Files Disgusting, False Charge to Cover Up Hazardous Jail Conditions

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by Natalie Jacoby, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

Date of Incident: February 20, 2016
Officer Involved: Officer Matthew Kennedy – badge no. 5823
Department Involved: Ellwood City (PA) Police Department
Department Address: 525 Lawrence Ave., Ellwood City, PA. 16117

On Feb. 20, 2016, I was arrested for a public drunkenness in the back parking lot at Breakers Bar in Ellport, Pa, of which I am guilty. At the time of my arrest Officer Matthew Kennedy was extremely rude and forceful in cuffing me as the picture shows. I do also have more photos of other bruises and scratches left on my arms and legs by this officer.

That Monday the 22nd, my mother and I went to the magistrate so I could pay this charge off in full. To our surprise, a later charge was added stating that I had urinated and defecated in the cell I was being kept in. We were appalled to learn of this later charge. A few days later, about two months before I even had my hearing, I was sent a bill for $369.08 from the Borough of Ellwood City Public Works Supervisor Randy Gatto for the clean up of this cell!

When I was in the cell I had to beg for about 30 minutes for water and toilet paper. When this was brought to me I went to use the toilet when I noticed the disgusting condition of the area. There was old caked on urine and feces covering the toilet and the floor surrounding the toilet. Now, I’m sure it would be obvious to us all what old caked on waste looks like as opposed to something that was supposedly just done. I WAS going to urinate in the styrofoam cup the water was brought to me in and then dump it into the toilet because I refused to touch that toilet. However, I could not urinate so I tossed the cup aside.

Believe me, I know how bad this must have looked. I took the toilet paper I had pulled from the roll and used it to cover the toilet area so I would not have to look at this filth. The entire night I was in the cell I loudly complained about the old urine and feces covering the area. I did become vulgar about the incident when I was in the cell stating that “someone could seriously gets sick from this shit, you need to clean this shit up, someone is going to get Hepatitis from this!” I did request to at least be put in a clean cell-no answer.

Upon my release a different officer was working. This officer was also extremely rude. He asked me “what did you do piss all over the place?!” I found this absolutely insulting and told him I did not but judging by the state of that cell maybe I should have. And that if he didn’t believe me to check the tape as I was being recorded the entire time I was there. I asked if I could use a phone to call my mom to pick me up and I was told to “get the hell out of here. We don’t even have to let you go!”

My address is in Ellwood City, however I do not live in town. I live on the Ellwood/Fombell line a few miles away and would have had to walk down a very busy four lane highway to get home. I stopped at a gas station in town and was able to use their phone. When my mom picked me up on the side of the road, I immediately started to tell her what happened and showed her the black, sticky filth and grime all over me. When I got home I washed my hands twice and took a shower.

I did file a police complaint form and a 7 1/2 page report of what happened that night, this information was sent certified with return receipts to the mayor of Ellwood City, Anthony Court, the Magistrate Jerry Cartwright Jr. and the chief of police, William Betz. None of this did me any good.

I am on SSI because of my bipolar, so I unfortunately could not afford an attorney, I did contact two different Family Legal Services and public defenders offices and was advised against getting an attorney even if I could afford one. They told me it would be difficult to find someone that would take this case because it was my word against a police officer’s and because “they work with these officers on a daily basis.”

The day of my hearing came, April 4, 2016. In court, Officer Kennedy entered as evidence to the judge the police complaint form I had filled out against him. As I already stated the judge was also sent one of these in the letters I had previously mailed certified. Judge Cartwright thought this police complaint report was something they had written up against me. He did not even know what it was. This tells me either he did not read the information I had sent or more likely he was not taking this false charge seriously.

Officer Kennedy brought with him another officer who was there that night, Officer Disher, as a witness. There were times during this hearing when Kennedy again blatantly lied and where these officers contradicted each other . Kennedy stated when I supposedly urinated on the floor I was standing on the bed. Disher stated that I was between the bed and the toilet. When Officer Disher was asked if he would like to specifically describe what happened in his own words he replied “no I just agree with what he said”, referring to Kennedy.

We all know that if I had had a witness and they would have replied that way their testimony would have been immediately thrown out. Judge Cartwright asked me “why would a highly trained police officer lie?” At the time, I was not sure how to respond to this. I cannot answer for someone else. However, after thinking about this question I know why he lied. He lied for the same reason any person lies…to protect himself. Either that disgusting mess came from me or it was there before I was put in that cell.

I feel like this officer may have felt stuck. Either he press a false charge and blame me or the Ellwood City Police Dept. would be in quite a bit of trouble for allowing their cells to remain covered in peoples waste. Kennedy stated in court that he was worried about my safety and that was why I was arrested, however at the time of my arrest he refused to answer me when I asked why I was being arrested. Also, if he really was concerned for my safety, I would have been able to use a phone upon my release to get a ride home and I never would have been locked in a cell covered in filth and waste.

So now I am stuck paying on fines for over $600 for something I would never do. I have also been back in therapy because of all the emotional distress this officer has caused me. I have also learned of other people, including one girl who is a friend of my sisters, who were locked up right after I was and they have also said those cells are disgusting, covered in other people’s waste! This entire experience changed me and unfortunately I have become extremely angry and bitter towards the police since then. Obviously when you do not have a badge your words do not matter.

– Natalie Jacoby

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Judge Hafen Has Completely Lost It; Excluded Murder Victims’ Family From Court; Threatens to Arrest Reporter

Las Vegas Judge Hafen Straight JacketPreviously, I’ve done a number of stories (See related posts section below) on the train-wreck that Judge Hafen, a soon to be former Las Vegas Justice of the Peace has become over the past several months.

The downward spiral began (and has mostly revolved around) when he ordered Zohra Bakhtary, deputy public defender, to be handcuffed in the courtroom while she was attempting to defend a client, which according to him was intended to “teach her a lesson.”

As a result, hundreds of public defenders across the country criticized Hafen and a local union that represents over 100 defense attorneys also filed a formal letter of complaint against the judge. Not long after the incident, local voters also displayed their displeasure with Judge Hafen when he lost in the primary elections overwhelmingly. In addition, earlier this month the contempt charges Hafen had filed against Bakhtary for the courtroom incident were thrown out by another judge.

Now, with this latest twist in the bizarre road he seems intent on driving down, soon to be Former Judge Hafen has apparently completely lost any sense of proper courtroom procedures and the “decorum” that he has insisted was behind his inappropriate treatment of Bakhtary. In fact, whether it’s bitterness over his electoral loss or just yet another extension of the bullying nature he displayed on the bench that became public during the fallout over the handcuffing incident, he seems like he has pretty much just completely lost it.

Via the Las Vegas Review Journal:

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen, who lost his bid for re-election in June after the newspaper reported a series of stories about his decision to handcuff a deputy public defender in his courtroom, also refused to give a Review-Journal photographer access to the courtroom, even though television news cameras were allowed in.

The judge’s marshal specifically instructed the newspaper’s reporter not to use a cellphone in the courtroom for any purpose, even audio recording, which is typically permitted throughout the Regional Justice Center. The marshal said the reporter would be handcuffed and taken into custody if he used the phone. Meanwhile, several others in the courtroom continued to operate cellphones.

“Courts are presumed to be open and obligated to be fair,” said Review-Journal Editor J. Keith Moyer. “The Review-Journal will aggressively contest any attempt to limit public access to our justice system.”

A lawyer for the Review-Journal, Maggie McLetchie, plans to file further court documents asking the judge for camera access at future hearings in the murder case.

“Judge Hafen improperly denied the Review-Journal the ability to take photographs, despite the fact that other people were allowed to take photographs,” McLetchie said. “He improperly denied the ability to audio record, and he also improperly denied the public access to open court proceedings. All these issues are at odds with case law and Supreme Court rules, making clear how important the public and media access to courtrooms and court proceedings are. We hope he changes course so the public and the media have full access to the proceedings.”

Relatives of the two victims, 45-year-old Mario Jimenez and 27-year-old Angelica Jimenez, stood in the hallway outside the courtroom, unsure why they were prohibited from observing the arraignment.

The victims were left to die in a burning east valley home in November. They were zip-tied, duct-taped, stabbed repeatedly and doused in gasoline before being lit on fire, according to an arrest report.

Defendants Malik Watson, 27, Darrin Rafael Wilder, 26, and Hakim Rydell Blanche-Jones, 26, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder, kidnapping, arson, burglary and robbery charges. Las Vegas police said Watson was extradited last week from Philadelphia…

On Tuesday, the judge did not give representatives of the Review-Journal a chance to be heard regarding the use of a camera or cellphone at the hearing.

The Nevada Supreme Court Rules on Electronic Coverage of Court Proceedings address cameras inside courtrooms.

“News reporters desiring permission to provide electronic coverage of a proceeding in the courtroom shall file a written request with the judge at least 24 hours before the proceeding commences, however, the judge may grant such a request on shorter notice or waive the requirement for a written request,” the rules state.

In addition, the rules state that “there is a presumption that all courtroom proceedings that are open to the public are subject to electronic coverage.”

The Review-Journal’s reporter submitted camera access papers to the judge shortly before Tuesday’s hearing.

In denying the newspaper’s request, Hafen wrote that the reporter failed to provide “good cause” for filing the request on short notice.

A Justice Court media request form suggests that the document be filed within 72 hours of a hearing.

The Supreme Court rules also carve out exceptions for the use of cellphones in court.

“It will be understood that these devices will be used only for accurate transcriptions of the court proceedings, and are not to be used for broadcast,” the rules state. “Use of an electronic device without permission, other than as described in this rule, may result in the confiscation of the device.”

Civil rights lawyer Allen Lichtenstein, who is not involved in the case, said Hafen was “wrong on several counts” and that public access to courtrooms helps guarantee fair hearings.

“Secret justice is no justice at all,” Lichtenstein said. “We’ve learned that through history. When the public has the opportunity to see how our system works, it operates as a check on abuse. … The default position is that in this country, our court system should be open for scrutiny.”

One of the things that I did when I designed the Cop Block Press Passes several years ago was research the rules and legalities of press passes and the granting of press access. As is stated in the LVRJ articled quoted above, when it comes to public officials there are clear legal precedents relating to reasons they can exclude people or media organizations from press access. (Press passes themselves are fairly irrelevant to this.)

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They can legally set up certain criteria for who qualifies for press access, however that criteria has to be equally applied across the board. They can’t base whether you will be approved for formal press access solely on arbitrary things such as whether you are a blogger or internet based media representative instead of print or television media. Nor can they base their decision on editorial direction or you having written (or a media organization having published) something critical of them.

Video and photography can also be prohibited when they are deemed to represent some sort of threat to one of the participants in a court case. However, once again that must be applied universally and not just to specific individuals. Obviously, since their were other media representatives that had been approved and were allowed to film and audio record during the proceedings in question that was not the case and it would seem to be a clear case of bias against a reporter from the paper that has been reporting on Judge Hafen’s negative behavior.

So this latest tantrum by Judge Hafen was not just silly and vindictive, but pretty clearly badly at odds with the law and legal precedent. It’s not hard to figure out why he decided he didn’t approve the request for photography rights of a reporter from the Review Journal and then specifically told a court marshal to pace him in handcuffs if he used his cellphone in a manner that media regularly does. And the part where he (for some unexplained reason) barred the relatives of two people who were viciously murdered from observing the trial of the people accused of those murders is even worse and downright disrespectful to them.

Related Posts:

  1. Contempt Charge Against Defense Attorney Who Was Handcuffed in Court by Las Vegas Judge Dismissed
  2. Las Vegas Judge Who Handcuffed Defense Attorney During Trial Taught Lesson by Voters
  3. An Open Letter to Las Vegas Judge Who Handcuffed A Defense Attorney in Court
  4. Las Vegas Judge Has Defense Attorney Handcuffed During Trial to “Teach Her a Lesson”
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Las Vegas Judge Continues Bizarre, Out of Control Behavior; Throws Family of Murder Victims Out of Court; Threatens to Arrest Reporter

Previously, I’ve done a number of stories (see related posts section below) on the train-wreck that Judge Hafen, a soon to be former Las Vegas Justice of the Peace, has become over the past several months.

The downward spiral began (and has mostly revolved around) when he ordered Zohra Bakhtary, a deputy public defender, to be handcuffed in the courtroom while she was attempting to defend a client, which according to him was intended to “teach her a lesson.”

As a result, hundreds of public defenders across the country criticized Hafen and a local union that represents over 100 defense attorneys also filed a formal letter of complaint against the judge. Not long after the incident, local voters also displayed their displeasure with Judge Hafen when he lost in the primary elections overwhelmingly. In addition, earlier this month the contempt charges Hafen had filed against Bakhtary for the courtroom incident were thrown out by another judge.

Now, with this latest twist in the bizarre road he seems intent on driving down, soon to be Former Judge Hafen has apparently completely lost any sense of proper courtroom procedures and the “decorum” that he has insisted was behind his inappropriate treatment of Bakhtary. In fact, whether it’s bitterness over his electoral loss or just yet another extension of the bullying nature he displayed on the bench that became public during the fallout over the handcuffing incident, he seems like he has pretty much just completely lost it.

Via the Las Vegas Review Journal:

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen, who lost his bid for re-election in June after the newspaper reported a series of stories about his decision to handcuff a deputy public defender in his courtroom, also refused to give a Review-Journal photographer access to the courtroom, even though television news cameras were allowed in.

The judge’s marshal specifically instructed the newspaper’s reporter not to use a cellphone in the courtroom for any purpose, even audio recording, which is typically permitted throughout the Regional Justice Center. The marshal said the reporter would be handcuffed and taken into custody if he used the phone. Meanwhile, several others in the courtroom continued to operate cellphones.

“Courts are presumed to be open and obligated to be fair,” said Review-Journal Editor J. Keith Moyer. “The Review-Journal will aggressively contest any attempt to limit public access to our justice system.”

 A lawyer for the Review-Journal, Maggie McLetchie, plans to file further court documents asking the judge for camera access at future hearings in the murder case.

“Judge Hafen improperly denied the Review-Journal the ability to take photographs, despite the fact that other people were allowed to take photographs,” McLetchie said. “He improperly denied the ability to audio record, and he also improperly denied the public access to open court proceedings. All these issues are at odds with case law and Supreme Court rules, making clear how important the public and media access to courtrooms and court proceedings are. We hope he changes course so the public and the media have full access to the proceedings.”

Relatives of the two victims, 45-year-old Mario Jimenez and 27-year-old Angelica Jimenez, stood in the hallway outside the courtroom, unsure why they were prohibited from observing the arraignment.

The victims were left to die in a burning east valley home in November. They were zip-tied, duct-taped, stabbed repeatedly and doused in gasoline before being lit on fire, according to an arrest report.

Defendants Malik Watson, 27, Darrin Rafael Wilder, 26, and Hakim Rydell Blanche-Jones, 26, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder, kidnapping, arson, burglary and robbery charges. Las Vegas police said Watson was extradited last week from Philadelphia…

On Tuesday, the judge did not give representatives of the Review-Journal a chance to be heard regarding the use of a camera or cellphone at the hearing.

The Nevada Supreme Court Rules on Electronic Coverage of Court Proceedings address cameras inside courtrooms.

“News reporters desiring permission to provide electronic coverage of a proceeding in the courtroom shall file a written request with the judge at least 24 hours before the proceeding commences, however, the judge may grant such a request on shorter notice or waive the requirement for a written request,” the rules state.

In addition, the rules state that “there is a presumption that all courtroom proceedings that are open to the public are subject to electronic coverage.”

The Review-Journal’s reporter submitted camera access papers to the judge shortly before Tuesday’s hearing.

In denying the newspaper’s request, Hafen wrote that the reporter failed to provide “good cause” for filing the request on short notice.

A Justice Court media request form suggests that the document be filed within 72 hours of a hearing.

The Supreme Court rules also carve out exceptions for the use of cellphones in court.

“It will be understood that these devices will be used only for accurate transcriptions of the court proceedings, and are not to be used for broadcast,” the rules state. “Use of an electronic device without permission, other than as described in this rule, may result in the confiscation of the device.”

Civil rights lawyer Allen Lichtenstein, who is not involved in the case, said Hafen was “wrong on several counts” and that public access to courtrooms helps guarantee fair hearings.

“Secret justice is no justice at all,” Lichtenstein said. “We’ve learned that through history. When the public has the opportunity to see how our system works, it operates as a check on abuse. … The default position is that in this country, our court system should be open for scrutiny.”

One of the things that I did when I designed the Cop Block Press Passes several years ago was research the rules and legalities of press passes and the granting of press access. As is stated in the LVRJ articled quoted above, when it comes to public officials there are clear legal precedents relating to reasons they can exclude people or media organizations from press access. (Press passes themselves are fairly irrelevant to this.)

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They can legally set up certain criteria for who qualifies for press access, however that criteria has to be equally applied across the board. They can’t base whether you will be approved for formal press access solely on arbitrary things such as whether you are a blogger or internet based media representative instead of print or television media. Nor can they base their decision on editorial direction or you having written (or a media organization having published) something critical of them.

Video and photography can also be prohibited when they are deemed to represent some sort of threat to one of the participants in a court case. However, once again that must be applied universally and not just to specific individuals. Obviously, since their were other media representatives that had been approved and were allowed to film and audio record during the proceedings in question that was not the case and it would seem to be a clear case of bias against a reporter from the paper that has been reporting on Judge Hafen’s negative behavior.

So this latest tantrum by Judge Hafen was not just silly and vindictive, but pretty clearly badly at odds with the law and legal precedent. It’s not hard to figure out why he decided he didn’t approve the request for photography rights of a reporter from the Review Journal and then specifically told a court marshal to pace him in handcuffs if he used his cellphone in a manner that media regularly does. And the part where he (for some unexplained reason) barred the relatives of two people who were viciously murdered from observing the trial of the people accused of those murders is even worse and downright disrespectful to them.

(Full disclosure: Maggie McLetchie, who is identified as one of the paper’s  attorneys in the LVRJ article quoted above is a former partner in the law firm that represented me and several others when we were illegally arrested for writing on public sidewalks with sidewalk chalk.

She’s also a member of the law firm that is currently representing me and two other people in a lawsuit resulting from those illegal arrests. However, I have not spoken to her in regard to this or any other posts I have written about Judge Hafen’s recent behavior.)

Related Posts:

  1. Contempt Charge Against Defense Attorney Who Was Handcuffed in Court by Las Vegas Judge Dismissed
  2. Las Vegas Judge Who Handcuffed Defense Attorney During Trial Taught Lesson by Voters
  3. An Open Letter to Las Vegas Judge Who Handcuffed A Defense Attorney in Court
  4. Las Vegas Judge Has Defense Attorney Handcuffed During Trial to “Teach Her a Lesson”
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Contempt Charge Against Defense Attorney Who was Handcuffed in Court by Las Vegas Judge Dismissed

On August 2nd, a contempt of court charge filed by Judge Hafen, a Las Vegas Justice of the Peace, against Zohra Bakhtary was thrown out by a Clark County district judge.

This is the second public rebuke of Hafen, who received much publicity and criticism when he ordered Bakhtary to be handcuffed by a court marshal during court as the deputy public defender was attempting to represent a client. In June, during the Nevada primary elections, Hafen was defeated by Amy Cheline in a landslide, rendering him a former judge, effective in January.

In addition, the client whom Bakhtary was attempting to defend at the time she was, according to Hafen, “taught a lesson” by being handcuffed in open court, has also been ordered released by another judge.

Via the Las Vegas Review Journal:

Bakhtary’s attorney, Dominic Gentile, said Hafen had confused Bakhtary’s “zealous defense” with obstruction of justice, and she was never given the opportunity to speak on her own behalf.

Nick Crosby, a lawyer representing Hafen, argued that attorneys should uphold a professional demeanor in court, speak in their own time with relevance and moderation, and allow the court to do its job without interference.

After Hafen ordered a court marshal to handcuff Bakhtary on May 23, she was left to sit silently, while her client was sent to jail for six months on a larceny charge.

In his contempt order, Hafen wrote that Bakhtary displayed “disorderly, contemptuous or insolent behavior” and that he had “asked defense counsel on numerous times/occasions to not interrupt” him while he was issuing his decision.

Bakhtary, 30, has said she was not trying to argue with the judge. She was released from the handcuffs after about three minutes, after the judge declared that she had “learned a lesson.”

Throwing out the contempt charge, District Judge Gloria Sturman ruled that Bakhtary was denied due process and not allowed to speak in her own defense or call her supervisor before a marshal handcuffed her and placed her in the jury box of the courtroom.

In response to Sturman’s ruling, Gentile said, “At a minimum, it means that judges need to understand that they themselves may not like what a lawyer is doing, but that does not mean that they can capriciously and arbitrarily hold them in contempt. It also means that lawyers have a duty to zealously represent their clients. And sometimes that means standing up to a judge that’s wrong.

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“Zohra exemplified what it means to be a zealous advocate. She really establishes herself as a model for standing up when you have to, even at a personal cost, such as this was to her.”

Bakhtary, who called being handcuffed in court “humiliating,” has not appeared before Hafen since the incident. Her client at the time, Daniel Fernandez, was later released from jail after another judge ordered the larceny case closed.

“The court’s constitutional duty is to listen to arguments, not silence them,” Bakhtary said. “While this act of physical restraint did not diminish my passion and devotion to continue to represent the indigent, it was extremely disturbing that the court continued to sentence my client without an attorney after having violated his right to counsel.”

At this point, it’s pretty clear who was in the wrong in this little standoff. Soon to be ex-judge Hafen not only went overboard while trying to show who the dictator in his courtroom was, but obviously picked the wrong time to do so, in light of the proximity to the elections and the (proper) reaction of local voters.

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