Recent Broward Law Blog Features

Monday, March 23, 2009

Judges on 4th Remember Gideon by Asking for Shorter Briefs

No, this picture has nothing to do with Gay Pride Weekend in Fort Lauderdale. First a blog about Gideon's anniversary, now a 4th District Court of Appeal ruling that too much of Gideon is not a good thing. In today's Sun Sentinel, a piece by Dianna Cahn lamenting the jurists' complaint that they need to limit the number of pages in post conviction briefs in non capital cases.

Say the justices who campaigned for their jobs by the way, the growing number of lengthy motions to the court by convicts can hinder rather than enhance justice. Not feeling lots of sympathy here, sorry.

The evidence that led to a guilty verdict in Alan Hedrick's murder trial was so "overwhelming" that an appeals court declared his 130 pages of arguments claiming an unfair trial to be not only without merit but "unfounded," and "abusive" of the process. But wait a second, team, the guy did this on his own. He had no freaking lawyer.

While the court was concluding that the "defendant's abusively lengthy post-conviction filings which raised unfounded claims of prosecutorial misconduct and paranoid allegations of vast conspiracy by government officials were wholly without merit," somewhere somehow you gotta note the dude was acting alone.

In January 2005, after his conviction, Hedrick — acting as his own attorney — filed a 109-page motion raising 24 claims alleging he had not received a fair trial or a proper defense. He then filed another motion through a lawyer with more allegations, the opinion states. The trial judge held hearings on two of the claims, then rejected the rest. The appeals court upheld those decisions.

The appellate judges added that the rule for post-conviction relief "was intended to provide relief for a very narrow class of serious errors that could not be corrected on direct appeal." Instead, they said, these motions are now filed in almost every case, forcing a search for a possible needle in a haystack. And I am supposed to feel sorry for them? Whoa, hold the horses. Okay, impose page limits like you do with attorneys. Go right ahead.

After all, 'pro se' litigants are a pain in the ass, right. See that Mr. Gideon, see how we are remembering you on your anniversary? And Bruce Winick jumps right in as an echo, chiming it would be a good thing to reduce 'frivolous claims.' Because why, the Gideons of the world are all frivolous?

How about this? How about establishing an Office of the Public Advocate, and turning each and every pro se appeal over to a law clerk, or law clinic, to effectively summarize and weed out the arguments advanced by the frustrating 'pro se' petitioners, but insuring that they get their claims and arguments heard nevertheless. I know they suck, they are long, they are discombobulated, they are a mess, they are compounded, they are complicated. But sometimes there are diamonds in the rough. And it's your job to read them. OK, impose limits not restraints; impose regulations, not restrictions; but don't whine about them.

All we are saying, is give 'pro se' a chance.,0,5460329.story

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