Friday, March 31, 2006

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Why no posts? Jury service...

I haven't posted anything new lately for good reasons. First, I took a vacation during spring break. And then when I got back I was on jury duty in Seattle Municipal Court. A few quick notes about jury service:

  • Yes, lawyers do serve on juries. (Many people have asked: "They let you on???" I assume their surprise is because of my legal training, not because of erratic behavior or obvious lack of judgment.) One of my fellow jurors was even a prosecutor with experience prosecuting the type of case we heard. (See earlier post about lawyers on juries.)
  • There's a lot of waiting around. The Seattle Municipal Court's Jury Assembly Room is a nice space with a good view, comfortable furniture, plenty of magazines, four PCs with Web access, a soda machine, and jigsaw puzzles -- but still, many people got restless. I wasn't even called for a venire until 2:30 on my second day.
  • I thought that both attorneys did a good job during voir dire. When I've been on jury duty before some attorneys asked such convoluted questions that I didn't know what they were asking. This week, the attorneys were very clear. The defense attorney did a good job getting the potential jurors to think about themes that he later raised in his questioning and closing argument.
  • Last fall I saw that Seattle Municipal Court uses interpreters in about 420 hearings a month. This was one of those cases, so we saw interpreters (three in all) whispering into a microphone so the defendant could follow everything and interpreting for the defendant when he was on the stand.
  • We were encouraged to take notes. The bailiff gave us each a notepad. (The notes are destroyed after deliberations.) This is a change since I served several years ago. I liked it, and I think it was helpful.
  • The case turned on credibility. Did we believe this witness or that one? I think we jurors did a good job sorting through the testimony. Everyone had really paid attention and was ready to focus.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Guilty Plea by Former Youth Coach

Christopher Stefanik, a former youth baseball coach in Redmond, pleaded guilty last week to sexually abusing or taking explicit photos of four boys. King County Deputy Prosecutor Scott O'Toole said that he'd never seen families so damaged by the impact of sexual abuse. The guilty plea helped the victims, who at first felt isolated, "feel absolutely vindicated that what they said was the truth." Ex-youth coach admits sex crimes against 4 boys, Seattle Times, March 24, 2006.

(By the way, Mr. O'Toole is also a UW Trial Ad instructor.)

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Supreme Court Considers 911 Statements

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral argument in two cases involving the admissibility of statements from victims who later refuse to testify. One involves a 911 call; the other case involves statements to police. The Seattle Times: Nation & World: Justices skeptical of using victims' unsworn statements

The 911 case, Davis v. Washington, is a review of a Washington Supreme Court case. See earlier post.

For summaries of both Davis v. Washington and its companion case, Hammon v. Indiana, along with links to the lower court opinions, see On the Docket (from Medill School of Journalism).

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

WSBA Board of Govs Votes Down Legal Technician Rule

The WSBA Board of Governors voted down the Legal Technician Rule that had been proposed by the Practice of Law Board at its March meeting.

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The Trials of Darryl Hunt - Documentary Film

Last night at the Innocence Project conference I got to see a new documentary, The Trials of Darryl Hunt.

North Carolina, 1984.
A brutal murder leaves a white woman dead, and a young black man accused. This exclusive portrait of a harrowing wrongful conviction offers a provocative and haunting examination of a community - and a criminal justice system - subject to racial bias and tainted by fear.
It took 20 years for Mr. Hunt, who consistently maintained his innocence, to be exonerated.

Some of those years came after DNA testing of the semen left in the victim showed that he could not have been the rapist. At that point, the prosecutor changed his theory of the case and said that Mr. Hunt must have been a lookout or there in some other capacity. Even another man's confession did not open the prison doors right away. But eventually, a judge looked at the evidence, said that a mistake had been made, and exonerated Mr. Hunt.

During those twenty years, Mr. Hunt's cause was supported by a team of tenacious lawyers, many advocates in Winston-Salem's black community (particularly a man who was an alderman at the time of the arrest and first trial), and the woman who became his wife. One element that created additional pressure was an eight-part series, Murder, Race, Justice, in the Winston-Salem Journal by reporter Phoebe Zerwick.

After the film, Mr. Hunt, one of his attorneys, and one of the filmmakers addressed the audience. It was very moving and gave a sobering look at the potential for miscarriage of justice.

The film will air on HBO in 2007. In the meantime, stay alert for local showings -- for instance, it will be at a documentary film festival in Durham, NC, April 6-9. (I guess people in North Carolina have to do something after basketball season -- and a documentary film series is a great thing to do.)

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Want to Learn about Forensic DNA?

At the Innocence Project conference (here at the UW), I heard a talk by Dr. Greg Hampikian (Boise State) on the basics of DNA as it is used criminal investigations. Dr. Hampikian has a web page with a range of Forensic DNA links.

He recommended the Department of Justice's training modules (one beginning level, one advanced), What Every Law Enforcement Officer Should Know about DNA Evidence: Best Practices for Identification, Preservation, and Collection of DNA Evidence at the Crime Scene. The modules include interactive components -- e.g., a scene where you are the responding officer interviewing a rape victim and must make decisions about the investigation.

By the way, Dr. Hampikian says that he welcomes any "CSI Effect." A frequent expert witness, he finds that juries are much easier to educate about DNA than they used to be.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

How to Improve Eyewitness ID Procedures

It is well-known that eyewitness identifications can be mistaken -- even when the eyewitness sounds confident. Sometimes, in fact, the confidence comes from the way the identification was first made (e.g., if the police gave the impression that the a lineup surely included the guilty person).

What can be done to make the system better? A number of jurisdictions have adopted guidelines. One recent example is the State of Wisconsin's Model Policy and Procedure for Eyewitness Identification (adopted March 15, 2005), which not only lists the guidelines but summarizes the reasons for each recommendation.

Do guidelines like these make a difference? Yes. Hennepin County (Minneapolis) set up new procedures as a pilot project and studied the results. A recent article by the Hennepin County Attorney and an Assistant County Attorney concludes that the new procedures were successful: witnesses much less often identified one of the "filler" photos in a lineup (than in a comparable field study in California). Amy Klobuchar & hilary Lindell Caligiuri, Protection the Innocent/Convicting the Guilty: Hennepin County's Pilot Project in Blind Sequential Eyewitness Identification, 32 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 1 (2005)

Reducing the number of false identifications not only protects innocent suspects; it also protects the public by ensuring that the police keep looking for the actual perpetrator.

Eyewitness identification is just one of the topics being discussed at this weekend's Innocence Project conference. The leads to the two sources mentioned here were from Dr. Gary L. Wells, who spoke last night. Dr. Wells is a psychology professor at Iowa State University and one of the leading scholars in the area of eyewitness memory.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Deposition Tips

Evan Schaeffer offers some good tips on taking and defending depositions. The Illinois Trial Practice Weblog: Depositions

"Defending Depositions: Correcting Your Client's Unintentional Errors" (March 15) addresses what to do when you client misspeaks -- e.g., saying "May" when it should be "March," or forgetting to mention someone who was present during an event.

"When Taking Depositions or Making Oral Arguments, Beware Pronoun Soup" (March 6) reminds us to fill in names and not use vague pronouns repeatedly. Which of the following would be better cross-examination?

  • When I asked "Did you see Ms. Hennessey sign the contract?" you answered "Yes," didn't you?
  • When I asked "Did you see her sign the contract?" and you knew I was talking about Ms. Hennessey because here it is, um, uh, six pages back in the transcript, you answered "Yes," didn't you?
And those are just Schaeffer's two most recent deposition tips. There are dozens more!

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Need Trial Practice Tips? Browse the Stacks of Your Local Law Library

Here's some advice from Evan Schaeffer, author of the Illinois Trial Practice Weblog: Need Trial Practice Tips? Browse the Stacks of Your Local Law Library.

Really, libraries are filled with good stuff! Of course, I'm a librarian, so you might think I'm biased, but here it is from a practicing litigator.

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Section of Litigation Annual Conference 2006

The ABA Section of Litigation Annual Conference 2006 is coming up next month -- April 19-22, at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in LA. One option this year is a "trial track" where participants follow one case through the litigation process all the way to appeal.

In addition to solid content, the conference has some star power. It starts off with a talk by Dr. Phil McGraw. (Dr. Phil, the founder of Courtroom Sciences, Inc., was a highly sought-after trial consultant before his TV fame as troubleshooting psychologist. In fact, he got his start in TV after being a consultant to Oprah Winfrey when she was sued by a group of cattle ranchers for "defaming" beef. See short bio.)

Anyone infected by March Madness? John Wooden, legendary UCLA coach, will speak on "Success, Preparation and Ethics—How to Win without Losing Yourself."

Law students: this is a tremendous bargain (if you can get yourselves to LA). Online student registration is only $10!

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Pretrial hearing gave sufficient confrontation

Division 1 rules that a 911 call is admissible, despite the declarant being unavailable at trial, because the defendant had an opportunity to examine her in a pre-trial hearing. State v. Mohamed, --- P.3d ----, 2006 WL 598146 (Wash. App. March 13, 2006), Westlaw (Becker, J.).

In the 911 call, the caller said that the defendant, her ex-boyfriend, had come to her apartment, and beaten her. She had a court order prohibiting him from contacting her. Police arrived while she was still on the phone and found the defendant outside in a car. They described her as crying, hysterical, and bleeding from the mouth.

Before trial, the State proposed to admit the 911 call and the complainant's statements to the officers. The defense wanted to exclude them, and so the court held a pretrial hearing to determine whether they met the requirements for the excited utterance exception. At the hearing, defense counsel asked the complainant about the events and she said that she had lied on that night. In fact, she had seen the defendant with another woman, become jealous, and fought with the woman.

The complainant was not available at the time of the trial. Could the prosecution introduce the hearsay evidence? The trial court ruled -- and Divison 1 affirmed -- that it could. The pretrial hearing provided the defendant the opportunity to confront his accuser demanded by Crawford, and the defense was able to introduce the complainant's hearing testimony at trial for the jury to weigh.

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Cumulative error in evidentiary rulings, thus new trial

Division 2 rules that a trial court erred in a number of evidentiary rulings, thus denying the defendant (who was accused of murdering his wife) a fair trial and requiring a new trial. State v. Cahill, 2006 WL 620478 (Wash. App. March 14, 2006), Westlaw (unpublished) (Houghton, J.; Quinn-Brintnall, C.J., dissenting).

There were ER 404(b) issues with several items -- that the defendant had used drugs in the weeks before the murder, that he spent two days with a prostitute around the time of the murder, and that he ordered pay-to-view adult movies in the days after the murder.

The majority found that the trial court did not engage in the proper four-step analysis for each of these:

it must (1) determine, by a preponderance of the evidence, whether the prior bad act occurred; (2) determine the purpose for admission; (3) determine whether the evidence is relevant to prove an element of the crime charged or to rebut a defense; and (4) balance, on the record, the probative value of the evidence and its prejudicial effect.
The appellate court also found it error to admit several hearsay statements -- the wife's statements about marital difficulties and her plans to go to a doctor's appointment and the bank.

Finally, the majority found two witnesses' statements about their suspicions of the defenant to be improper opinion testimony. The witnesses were the victim's daughter and the detective.

Although Judge Quinn-Brintnall "share[e] the majority's concern that Cahill's trial was less than perfect," she would have found some of the questioned evidence admissible. She would have found the other rulings to be harmless error, given the strong evidence present in the case.

On the opinion testimony, the dissent commented:
[W]hen the jury properly knows that a detective investigating a missing person report has obtained a search warrant for the defendant's home and a warrant for the defendant's arrest, testimony from the detective that he believed that the defendant committed the crime with which he has been charged is little more than a redundant statement of the obvious. To hold * * * that such a redundant statement is a manifest error of constitutional magnitude depriving the defendant of his right to a jury trial by usurping the jury's ability to independently determine the credibility and weight of the other evidence of the defendant's guilt shows disrespect to the intelligence and integrity of the 12 people who by their oaths make up the jury and safeguard the public's interest in a fair trial.
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Friday, March 10, 2006

Another "CSI Effect" - Prosecutors Say TV-Savvy Criminals Benefit From 'CSI Effect', Nat'l L.J., Feb. 17, 2006.

District attorneys across the nation are grumbling about a new kind of 'CSI effect' that makes their jobs tougher.

Not only are juries requiring more sophisticated scientific evidence linking defendants to crimes, but suspects have learned how to destroy that evidence by watching the CBS 'crime scene investigation' TV shows, according to prosecutors. Techniques such as bleaching away DNA, scrubbing away fingerprints -- even those on a neck limp from strangulation -- and torching bodies and crimes scenes top the list.

Like the other "CSI Effect," this one can hurt the defense as well as the prosecution. One defense lawyer noted that "when a crime scene has been cleansed and a jury still rightly expects hard evidence linking a defendant to the crime, prosecutors turn to pseudoscience."
"The net 'CSI' effect was that whoever cleaned up the crime scene opened the door to the admission of junk science that could point the finger at almost anyone," he said.
One man who allegedly used latex gloves and removed bedding after two rape murders had listed watching CSI as a hobby when he filled out a parole form. The prosecutor believed that the suspect "taught himself to be a proficient killer, skilled at leaving little evidence." This seems plausible -- but I'm reminded of Prof. Anderson's article about the admissibility of criminal defendants' taste in entertainment.

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Yale L.J. Watches CSI

The Yale Law Journal published an article examining the alleged "CSI Effect." Tom R. Tyler, Viewing CSI and the Threshold of Guilt: Managing Truth and Justice in Reality and Fiction, 115 Yale L.J. 1050 (2006).

The CSI Effect is based on reports by prosecutors that it is sometimes harder to get convictions because some jurors expect the whiz-bang high-tech forensic evidence they see on TV. On the other hand, some observers say that jurors might be more prone to convict because CSI (and othe TV shows) make them have more faith in the skills and resources of investigators. See earlier post.

Prof. Tyler, observing that there are no empirical studies of the CSI Effect, examines the hypothesis in light of empirical studies on juror psychology that do exist (e.g., those looking at the effect of pre-trial publicity). (His review of the studies in interesting in itself.) He concludes that the hypothesis is consistent with existing studies. But he cautions that other hypotheses could well account for the prosecutors' perceptions of harder convictions. (1) Prosecutors might believe their cases are stronger than they are. (2) Jurors might have more distrust of the state (police, prosecutors, courts). (3) Jurors might be more sympathetic toward defendants.

The Pocket Part, Yale Law Journal's online companion, adds more:

  • An article by the chief prosecutor for Maricopa County (Phoenix and the surroundings) reports on a survey his office did of its own prosecutors. There are ways the prosecutors are working to counteract the effect, so convictions are not necessarily down, but they believe the effect is real.
    In about 40% of these prosecutors’ cases, jurors have about evidence like “mitochondrial DNA,” “latent prints,” “trace evidence,” or “ballistics”—even when these terms were not used at trial.
    * * *
    Even statements by defendants themselves have failed to persuade some juries. In State v. James Calloway, Arizona Department of Corrections officers found a syringe in a cell with a note signed by “Jimbo” attached to it. Inmate “Jimbo” was found with a fresh mark on his arm consistent with syringe use, and admitted the syringe was his when he retrieved it from prison officials and signed the receipt. The jury criticized the prosecution because there was no DNA or fingerprint analysis on the syringe, and the jurors wanted a handwriting comparison on the note and the receipt.
  • A writer and technical consultant for CSI responds to Tyler's article. He suggests that there are benefits to any CSI Effect, in that it has helped educate the public about forensics and create an interest in science.
    Most importantly, CSI returns the focus to exonerating the innocent. In every episode the evidence convicts the bad guy, and at the same time it frees an innocent person. If it’s such a crime to reinvigorate the cliché that defendants are innocent until proven guilty, as a CSI writer, I’ll happily take the charge.
  • Tyler also has a short piece in the Pocket Part. (If you don't have the time for the full article, this is a good overview.)

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The Cultural Foundations of Tort Law

The University of Denver Sturm College of Law is hosting a conference next month on The Cultural Foundations of Tort Law.

This unique conference will assemble a group of preeminent legal scholars and social scientists to examine the cultural roots of tort law’s central concepts, including causation, person, injury, and compensation. Focusing on contemporary and historical American practices, and comparing such practices to those in Europe, Asia, and the United Kingdom, the conference will offer pioneering insights into the ways in which tort law institutions are shaped or contested by cultural understandings of risk and responsibility, by gender and race relations, and by communitarian and individualistic values.
Valerie Hans (earlier post) will present "Juries as Conduits for Culture?" a paper examining the
assertion that the American civil jury is a key factor in incorporating social, economic, and cultural elements into the tort system. A number of questions will be addressed. How do core concepts of tort law --judgments of injury, liability, the reasonable person standard, and the appropriateness of compensation -- depend on the jury's infusion of social norms and cultural understandings into its decision making? What are the psychological and social processes by and through which culture affects jury decisions, if it does? Are jury decisions more influenced by cultural norms than judicial decisions? What happens when legal rules governing tort liability are at odds with popular understandings and conventions? The paper will draw on existing research that pertains to some of these questions, and will suggest empirical strategies for answering others.
The conference is April 7-8. One of the co-organizers is Michael McCann, an adjunct professor in the UW School of Law (primary appointment: political science).

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Thursday, March 9, 2006

Wash. Supreme Court Approves Revised Rule on Sealing Records

The Washington Supreme Court today unanimously approved revisions to GR 15 on the destruction and sealing of court records and to GR 22 on access to family court records. Washington Courts press release.

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King County Judge to Brief on "Reclaiming Futures"

King County Superior Court Judge Patricia Clark will participate in Capitol Hill policy briefing on the Reclaiming Futures initiative. The initiative, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, brings together courts, treatment providers, and enforcement agencies, and others, in an effort to help substance abusing youth "rise above a downward spiral of substance abuse and crime." As Chief Judge of the Juvenile Court, Judge Clark leads the project at the Seattle/King County site, where it serves over 100 youthful offenders with substance abuse and/or mental health problems. Washington Courts press release.

Judge Clark graduated from the UW in 1987 with a JD and a Master's in Public Administration. She worked in private practice, at the King County Prosecutor's Office, and in the Seattle University law clinic before being appointed (and subsequently elected) to the bench.

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Tips from Bailiffs

Getting motions calendared, delivering the right copies of papers to the right offices, having all the right information on the front page of pleadings, ... you need to be aware of lots of details to have your cases go smoothly. The Bar Bulletin offers some advice from two King County Superior Court bailiffs:

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Jury Selection Tips

A trio of litigation consultants offers tips on jury selection in the KCBA Bar Bulletin:

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Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Innocence Network National Conference 2006

The University of Washington's Innocence Project Northwest is hosting the Innocence Network National Conference 2006 next week (March 17-18). Registration information is here.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Rule will mandate court openness

The Washington Supreme Court is considering a proposed rule to make it harder to close court hearings or seal court records. Tracy Johnson, Rule Will Mandate Court Openness, Seattle PI, March 7, 2006.

Chief Justice Gerry Alexander said it is only a coincidence that the rule discussion comes right after the Seattle Times's investigation into sealed records in King County Superior Court, since the Supreme Court took public comment on the rule from June to September.

The PI article mentions an organization I wasn't familiar with: the Washington Coalition for Open Government.

The changes would be in GR 15. Here is the proposed new GR 15.

After the Seattle Times report appeared on Sunday, King County Superior Court Judge Mary Yu asked whether any of the improperly sealed files the reporters had found were from her cases and volunteered to unseal them without a motion. None of the 420 were hers. Ken Armstrong & Justin Mayo, Changes Take Aim at Secrecy in Courts, Seattle Times, March 7, 2006.

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Governor Signs Med Mal Bill

Governor Gregoire signed HB 2292, the new medical malpractice bill yesterday. Governor's press release. See Governor Signs Malpractice Compromise, Seattle Times, March 7, 2006 (AP).

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Unanimity Instruction When Offense Has Alternative Means

Division 3 reverses a conviction for intimidating a witness. The offense (RCW 9A.72.110) includes using a threat against a current or prospective witness to attempt to influence the person's testimony, induce the person to elude legal process, induce the person to absent himself or herself, or induce the person not to report information relevant to a criminal investigation or information about the abuse of a minor.

Here, the Court of Appeals found that there was not sufficient evidence to justify a conviction on at least two of the alternative means. So did the jury convict on one of the others? Or did some jurors find the defendant guilty because of one, some another, and so on?

The Court of Appeals held that there should have been a unanimity instruction, to ensure that the jury was unanimous on whatever means it found.

State v. Boiko, 128 P.3d 143 (Wash. App. Feb. 9, 2006), Westlaw.

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Visible Proofs: Forensic Views of the Body

Visible Proofs: Forensic Views of the Body is an exhibit by the National Library of Medicine highlighting the history of forensic medicine and the efforts of "physicians, surgeons, and other professionals" to "develop scientific methods that translate views of bodies and body parts into 'visible proofs' that can persuade judges, juries, and the public."

Who was it who thought up a way to organize mug shots? Did you know that fingerprint identification was developed in Argentina? What was the first use of DNA in a murder investigation? You can learn about all this and more in the online exhibit.

The image at right is of the Cook County Coroner in 1913.

It's not just online: if you're in the DC area, you can see the artifacts and images at National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, through Feb. 16, 2008.

Thanks to Cheryl Nyberg, who featured this as a Website of the Week.

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Monday, March 6, 2006

Sealed Records in King County Superior Court

A team of reporters from the Seattle Times has launched an investigation of sealed civil court records in King County Superior Court. The reporters have found that many records have been sealed without an explanation of the reasons for doing so. They maintain that denying public access to the records is often contrary to the public interest.

These sealed records hold secrets of potential dangers in our medicine cabinets and refrigerators; of molesters in our day-care centers, schools and churches; of unethical lawyers, negligent doctors, dangerous dentists; of missteps by local and state agencies; of misconduct by publicly traded companies into which people sink their savings.

The Washington Constitution says: "Justice in all cases shall be administered openly." To this, many King County judges have effectively added: "unless the parties don't want it to be."
Ken Armstrong, Justin Mayo & Steve Miletich, The Seattle Times: Local News: The cases your judges are hiding from you, March 5, 2006.

The reporters say that the judges and commissioners have not been following the standard for sealing set forth in GR 15(c)(2)(B) :
(B) Sealing of Files or Records. On motion of any party to a civil proceeding, or on the court's own motion, and after reasonable notice to the nonmoving party and a hearing, the court may order the sealing of any files and records in the proceeding (i) to further an order entered under CR 12(f) or a protective order entered under CR 26(c); or (ii) under compelling circumstances where justice so requires.
They say that the court orders to seal records often show no reason at all. When they do give reasons, the statement is often conclusory, stating "good cause" rather than "compelling circumstances." See also GR 31 (Access to Court Records).

The reporters plan to file motions to unseal many of the records.

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Friday, March 3, 2006

King County Local Rules

Wherever you practice, you need to be aware of any local rules that might change the rules you learned in Civil Procedure and your bar review. King County Superior Court is a good example. A recently amended rule -- LR 26 -- imposes limits on discovery (for instance, the number of interrogatories a party may file) that are not in the state-wide CR 26. LR 33 (adopted effective Sept. 1, 2005) concerns pattern interrogatories. LGR 31(e) covers the identification of children (by full name, etc.) in court records.

The local rules, effective Sept. 1, 2005, are available on the King County Superior Court Clerk's Office website.

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Changes to Rules of Court

There were changes to two state-wide court rules in February:

IRLJ 6.7, "Identity Challenges and Relief from Judgment" (The old rule was just "Relief from Judgment.") The new provisions set up a procedure for defendants to "move to vacate a judgment that was entered after a failure to respond to a notice of infraction on the basis that he or she was mistakenly identified as the person who allegedly committed the infraction." That is, if your gives your name when she is caught speeding, you can contest it. See the comments to the rule.

("IRLJ" stand for "Infraction Rules for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction" -- the infractions are mostly traffic infractions but also include some other areas, such as boating and conduct in state parks.)

CrR 7.1, Procedures before Sentencing.

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Solo's Errant Spell-Check Causes 'Sea Sponge' Invasion

Spellcheck can be a marvelous tool, but one attorney learned to be cautious about accepting suggested changes when his program changed "sua sponte" to "sea sponge" in his brief -- a substitution he didn't notice until the brief had been filed and his client asked what the heck was going on. - Solo's Errant Spell-Check Causes 'Sea Sponge' Invasion The attorney is getting some ribbing, but who among us hasn't been tripped up by something equally silly at least once?

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Thursday, March 2, 2006

WSBA meeting - access to justice issues

WSBA's Board of Governors is meeting in Seattle tomorrow. Press release.

The Practice of Law Board will present a proposed new rule authorizing the provision of legal and law-related services by nonlawyers. The rule would enable certified legal technicians to perform some functions formerly limited to attorneys. "The rule is intended to permit non-lawyers to provide limited legal assistance in a more accessible fashion to those who do not require the full services of a Lawyer."

The legal technicians would have to work under the supervsion of a lawyer. To be eligible for certification, an individual would have complete a paralegal program, get a couple of years experience (depending on the program), perform 20 hours of pro bono service in an approved legal services organization, and pass a test.

The Access to Justice Impediments Committee will present a new guide, "Ensuring Equal Access for People with Disabilities: A Guide for Washington Courts." The committee is co-chaired by Judge Catherine Shaffer, who is also a Trial Ad instructor.

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