Thursday, July 12, 2012

Republican Judge’s Failure to Communicate

One of the most important skills a judge can have when making rulings in court cases is that of the ability to clearly and precisely communicate their understanding of the laws to all concerned. Judges have to make sure that both defendants and lawyers understand their reasoning when it comes to rulings.

Judges who fail to correctly communicate, with either the District Attorney or the defense lawyer, often find other lawyers asking for another judge. Due to the high caseload in criminal cases in the second district court, it would be ill advised to have a judge that no lawyer wished to practice in front of. Cases are not decided overnight like on television but take months and sometimes years of hard work to resolve. Lawyers need to be able to trust the decisions made by a judge.

Governor Martinez appointed Judge Samuel L. Winder to the bench in the second district court. This week the judge made a decision in his courtroom, which should have been communicated to the lawyers long before they faced him in his courtroom. It is not wrong for a judge taking over a case to have second thoughts about the actions of the prior judge. It is wrong for a judge to not be able to communicate his reasoning to both lawyers when putting them on the spot in his courtroom. Clearly, both sides in this case expected a far different outcome.

It is very important to the district attorney’s office to be able to plea-bargaining with criminals to reduce the cost to taxpayers when it comes to court cases. If the lawyers cannot feel confident, that a judge will communicate any misgivings before negotiations reach the courtroom then their ability to resolve cases becomes a financial issue for the court system as a whole. One has to wonder if maybe Judge Winder in a fit of political grandstanding just wanted to draw attention to himself. His ruling did get him on the evening news and the front page of the metro section of the local newspaper.