Today I got an unexpected treat in the mail from a California legal internet marketing company. They sent me a box of cookies in the hope that I would call them to see about getting some "tailor-made" marketing for my "unique needs."

There is a grammatical issue in the note, which reads, in part, "The only thing in life that should be mass-produced are cookies." The issue is that "thing" should be paired with "is" or "things" should be paired with "are." So "thing...are" is just wrong. See that? All those years teaching English has paid off.

But even setting aside the grammar, I am not inclined to call.

I can't speak for how things work in California, but in Maine we like our cookies small-batch and home-made. Cookies are not the only things that should be mass-produced. First, they shouldn't be mass produced. And second, things like bricks, railroad ties, wood screws, Model T Fords, and shoelaces should be mass-produced.

If the good people from Scorpion Legal Internet Marketing want to let me know why I should hire them despite the fact that their grammar and their marketing pitch are flawed, I am all ears. 

 

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Posted
AuthorJonathan Handelman

Made the newspaper this week. Argued that instead of saddling my client with $1,600+ in fines, the court should recognize that he would be struggling with many other things upon his release from prison so the financial burden would be another obstacle in his path to success.

The judge was sensitive to this reality and agreed to run the fines non-cumulatively so the client only owes $400. Both the judge and the prosecutor were reasonable and humane in this regard. Sometimes the system doesn't completely chew up and spit a person out.

http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/05/16/augusta-drug-dealer-to-serve-a-year-in-prison/

Posted
AuthorJonathan Handelman

Generally speaking, I am no fan of jails and prisons. Today, I have nothing but good things to say about the Kennebec County Jail. 

A client of mine pled yesterday and received a time-served jail sentence. The idea was that he had already served the time for his criminal charge and related probation violation, so he would be released that afternoon.

This morning I came in to the office and listened to a panicky message from the client's mother. She said the jail told her son he had to serve an additional 45 days because he hadn't been held on the criminal charge, only the probation charge. So even though the conduct was the same, from the same incident on the same day, and even though the client sat in jail for more than a month, the two separate cases were treated differently by the jail.

And because the jail wasn't holding him on the criminal charge, he had no time-served on that charge. And he was told he still had to sit in jail for those 45 days.

Unfortunately, this sort of mistake happens all the time. Everyone figures that he was arrested and held on the two things he shows up at court to resolve. Only when it is too late does the reality of how the jail views things come to light. And at that point I need to contact the DA, contact the court, file a motion, get a hearing date, and sort things out.

Today I started by calling the jail to make sure I properly understood the story. The Classifications Officer I spoke with could not have been more helpful and friendly. She suggested that I email her copies of the Complaint and the Probation Revocation Motion. If the charges and the conduct arose from the same incident, she said, the jail would retroactively apply credit for the time my client had served. And release him today. This never happened before: so easy, so logical, so sensible, so humane.

Client gets released. Justice is served. Bureaucracy is kept at bay. Thank you Kennebec County Jail Classifications Officer!

Posted
AuthorJonathan Handelman

Yesterday in Wiscasset I had a very satisfying success in court. My client was subject to a Protection From Abuse order for the past two years. That meant no contact with the plaintiff, and no use or possession of firearms for the duration of the PFA order. 

A month before the two years were up, the plaintiff filed a motion requesting another two years on the order. My client had been in perfect compliance with the order and just wanted to get on with his life, wanted to have his Second Amendment rights back. The plaintiff, it seems, was more interested in continuing to be a thorn in his side.

We got to court for what I expected would be a pretty quick hearing, when we realized that the plaintiff was represented by a lawyer from Pine Tree Legal. Nothing quick, nothing easy, nothing reasonable when Pine Tree got involved.

Now, Pine Tree does important work in Maine. When I was in law school I volunteered many hours at Pine Tree. But I have realized that frequently the lawyers at Pine Tree have a hard time recognizing that their clients are not the angels they make themselves out to be. Often in court, BOTH parties are at least a little bit wrong. And a lawyer who refuses to acknowledge this fact is both a pain in the neck to deal with, and doing their client a disservice.

They do their client a disservice because judges know better. And a lawyer who represents that everything their client says is true will draw skeptical looks from the judge. And skeptical looks lead to adverse rulings. Like the one Pine Tree got yesterday.

Anyway, after a half-day hearing that included all sorts of unpleasant testimony and audio recordings, the judge found that there was no reason to extend the PFA. My client walked out of court with no restrictions on his conduct (besides behaving like a law-abiding citizen and a gentleman) and I walked out of court plenty pleased with the outcome.

Posted
AuthorJonathan Handelman

I saw this by the side of the road today on I-295. The pilot had to make an emergency landing and, amazingly, walked away.

It's not every day you see something like this by the side of the highway. I took the picture when I was stopped in traffic. And after driving past, I saw several drivers who were texting (probably sending their pictures to friends/Facebook). 

How someone can see and accident and then text and drive as if they are immune to the same fate is beyond me.

Posted
AuthorJonathan Handelman

Ok, so strictly speaking, this is not a post about the legal world. But in an effort to stay fit and healthy (which of course benefits my clients, right?) I've been taking breaks during the day to go for walks around Brunswick. It's still too cold for me to resume running.

Last week I discovered a new walk across the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge (connects Brunswick and Topsham, built in 1892 to help get the primarily French-Canadian mill workers from home in Topsham to work at the Cabot Mill in Brunswick. Designed by the same outfit that penned the Brooklyn Bridge).

Brunswick is a great little town.

 

Posted
AuthorJonathan Handelman

This afternoon I was at West Bath District Court for fine contempt hearings. Basically, if someone is ordered to pay a fine and then does not, the court will usually impose a penalty (let's not get into the logic of making you pay more when you couldn't pay less), occasionally issue an arrest warrant, and require the person to attend court for a hearing to address why they didn't pay and what should be done about the situation.

So one of the judges in West Bath is starting a program where people are given the option of paying their fines through community service work. People agree to work Fridays from 8am to 4pm doing manual labor under the direction of the Sagadahoc County Sheriff's Office. The work will include raking, scraping, painting, general maintenance kinds of activities. And people will be compensated at the rate of $9/hour taken off their fines.

It is such a reasonable, sensible way to address the ongoing problem of fines that would otherwise never get paid. And instead of putting people in jail, which costs the county more money, people get to do good work for their community. The labor goes towards benefitting the community instead of costing the community.

This idea is so very smart and logical it is crazy that it has taken until 2017 to get it in place in Maine. I am hopeful we will see more courts follow this pattern.

Posted
AuthorJonathan Handelman

Last week I got the excellent news that I won a suppression hearing in a Knox County case. 

The client (let's call him George) was accused of committing a crime while incarcerated at the Maine State Prison in Warren. George was taken from his cell and interrogated by law enforcement. George was never read his Miranda rights. His statements were written down and sent to the District Attorney's office to be used against him.

The curious question (as you probably gathered from the headline) is, when is a person in custody when they are in custody?

[Quick lesson: essentially, if you are in custody, you need to be told you don't have to talk to the Man. If you are already in custody for some other reason, do your interrogators need to remind you that you don't need to talk to them? If you are already in custody, should the Miranda warning be always given?]

Turns out, the Supreme Court decided that when a person is already in custody, they are not considered to be already in custody for the purposes of interrogation and Miranda rights unless there is additional restraint put on them.

So the Nine determined that bars and guards and cells and prison uniforms don't count as custody by themselves. Not being able to leave and go where you want does not count as custody. Or it doesn't count as custody enough.

Their logic is that an inmate is already used to that level of restraint. They are, essentially, already at home in prison. The real concern is probably more likely that if inmates are determined to be in custody, they would always need to be reminded they have the right to remain silent. And that would benefit the accused, not law enforcement.

In my George's case, the fact that he was ordered to "cuff up" by putting his hands behind his back, ordered to insert his hands through a slot in the cell door so he could be shackled and then escorted by two burly guards down to the "interview" room was in fact additional restraint.

Prosecutor disagreed, said that's the protocol every time an inmate in solitary confinement  is moved from place to place (the prison uses the euphemism "Secure Management Unit"). Said George was used to that level of restraint. That it was a daily thing for him. No big deal.

Judge agreed that extracting George from his cell, in handcuffs, with a guard on each side, and marching them to be questioned is in fact interrogation. And if a person is questioned while in custody, they need to be told they have the right to remain silent. And if they are not given that warning, what they say cannot be used against them in court.

Lucky George. 

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion when George gets his next day in court: the trial.

 

 

Posted
AuthorJonathan Handelman

I'll get right down to it: won a trial today. The case was about a juvenile accused of stealing from a day care. He didn't do it, but his idiot classmate did and then tried to drag my client down with him.

In addition to saving my client from a conviction , we also won on a  motion for judgment of acquittal. That means we successfully argued that the State's case was so weak, we didn't even need to have our turn. I always make the motion but have never won one until today. 

Also, last week the solar panels hit the ONE MEGAWATT threshold. We are a mini-powerplant here at Skysail.

Also, also the yard crew mowed down one of my apple saplings. The other one and its graft are soldiering on.

Posted
AuthorJonathan Handelman