James J. Bell, Amateur Life Coach March 19

The information provided on this blog is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice. ICLEF assumes no liability for the content of this blog.

James J. Bell, ICLEF's Amateur Life Coach

 

Dear Bell,

There is a video floating around the internet of a female inmate giving the finger to a Florida judge. (Note: See Video Below).  While most inmates would have waited until they were off camera before giving the Judge the bird, and the inmate’s conduct cannot be condoned, did the Judge act appropriately in this hearing?  It seems like he doubles this woman’s bond simply because she got a little “smart” with him. 

What do you think?

Sincerely,

Fingers in Florida

Dear Fingers:

Let me start off by saying that “[l]awyers are completely free to criticize the decisions of judges. As licensed professionals, they are not free to make recklessly false claims about a judge’s integrity.” Matter of M.W., 782 N.E. 2d 985 (Ind. 2003) To be clear, my statements below are critical of the Judge’s decision, not the Judge. Whoever he may be.

In the video, the Judge set the bond at the standard amount of $5,000. At the conclusion of the hearing, the inmate then stated in a flippant tone, “Adios.” The Judge then called the inmate back to the bench and doubled her bond to the laughter and delight of the crowd in the courtroom’s gallery.  Only then does the inmate utilize her secret weapon, — her middle finger– to its fullest extent.  So did the Judge do anything wrong?  If this had happened in Indiana, the answer is “possibly.”

Rule 1.1 of the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct Code states that “[a] judge shall comply with the law.”  The considerations for setting bond in most jurisdictions are 1. Whether or not the inmate is a danger to herself or others; and 2. Whether or not the defendant is a flight risk.  The only evidence elicited in this hearing that would be relevant to these two factors is the defendant’s admission that she knows who Rick Ro$$ is. In spite of this, the Judge still sets the standard bond. The Judge only makes the decision to deviate from the standard bond, when the “adios” comment is made. I am not a Florida lawyer, but I am sure that a defendant’s smart alec tone is not one of the statutory considerations for a Florida bond. So arguably, there is a violation of Rule 1.1.

In addition, there might be a violation of the rules involving judicial decorum. Rule 2.8(B) of the Code states that “[a] judge shall be patient . . . and courteous to litigants.” More importantly, writer Dave Berry once said a “person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.” If Dave Berry can judge people by how polite they are to a waiter, can we judge the integrity of our criminal justice system by how polite we are to inmates? Couldn’t the Judge in the video have decided to simply laugh off the “adios” comment?  Instead, he made his own “adios” comment to the inmate and made a ruling that could be viewed as vindictive.   In fairness to the Judge, there are reports that he later lowered the bond.

I don’t have the toughest skin, but I am not a judge. And I would like to think that Indiana judges have tough enough skin to withstand an inmate taking a flippant tone with them. The Judge in the video may have been having a bad day, but I will bet the inmate’s day was off to a worse start than his. This is a long way of saying that I see problems with the Judge’s decision in this case.

Hope this helps.

Sincerely,

Bell
Amateur Life Coach

 _________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Bell,

As a follow up to your February 5, 2013 blog discussing March Madness, what are the realistic expectations of firm management that any work will be accomplished later this week?

March Madness equals long days of cutting out of work early and watching hoops from noon until midnight. This clearly means we are in for a very non-productive week. Is honesty the best policy when talking to the boss about my plans for later this week?

            Sincerely,

            Basketball Binging in Broad Ripple

Dear Basketball Binging:

I have some words of advice for you. First of all, be careful. I know your bosses, I know their habits and I know that they have spies in every watering hole in this city. They may even have the “find my associate’s iPhone” app with full GPS capability loaded and ready for later this week.

Secondly, beware of the “true, but deceptive” excuses that you use to get out of work on Thursday. Friends of mine have eaten Mexican food the Wednesday night before the tournament just so they could “truthfully” tell their employer the next day “I had Mexican last night and without going into detail, I don’t think it’s a good idea to come into work today.” I have also heard some lawyers call in with the old “my family is in town” excuse. The only problem is that those lawyers’ families live in town. My advice is for you is to get your work done early and simply tell your employer in advance that you are taking a “personal day” away from work.

Be safe.

Hope this helps.

Sincerely,

Bell
Amateur Life Coach

 _________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Bell,

About a month ago, I did a legal research project for a client. It took me 21 billable hours. This month, I have a new client who is faced with the same legal question. I am billing this second client hourly. Can I just bill 21 hours to the second client for the work that is already done? It simply would not be fair to the first client for the second client to get a smaller bill for work the first client paid for. 

            Sincerely,

            Double Dipping in Delphi

Dear Double-Dipping:

First of all, I must say that it is very admirable for you to want to bill the hell out of both of your clients equally. However, before you check out of work for the week on a Tuesday afternoon because you have already “billed” (but not worked) the amount of hours required by your firm for the next few days, please read ABA Formal Opinion 93-379.

In that Opinion, the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility stated that “A lawyer who is able to reuse old work product has not re-earned the hours previously billed and compensated when the work product was first generated.  Rather than looking to profit from . . . the luck of being asked the identical question twice, the lawyer who has agreed to bill solely on the basis of time spent is obliged to pass the benefits of these economies on to the client.”  The Opinion then goes on to say that billing for re-cycled work product can amount to an unreasonable, unethical fee under Rule 1.5 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

So sorry. Looks like are going to have to forgo that round of golf and look for 21 other hours to bill. I know your timesheet looks sad and empty. It sort of reminds me of your soul. But look on the bright-side. An empty timesheet is much better than a sharp stick in the eye

Hope this helps.

Sincerely,

Bell
Amateur Life Coach

_________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Bell,

My son wants to join the Army because his paternal grandfather and uncle were Army men. I want him to join the Navy because my dad, his maternal grandfather, was a Navy man. What do I need to do to get this kid into the Navy instead of the Army?

Sincerely,

Loving Mother in La Porte

Dear Loving Mother:

Both the Army and Navy have been so important to the preservation of freedom in this country and both institutions have produced so many fine Americans that I don’t really know how to help you.

On the one hand, former P.T. Boat commander and President John F. Kennedy once said “And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.’”  Other great Americans who served in the Navy include Neil Armstrong, Hoosier John Wooden, President George H.W. Bush and Indiana lawyers John McCauley and Doug Gallagher. On the other hand, baseball player Jackie Robinson, daredevil Evil Kinevil, President/General Eisenhower and Indiana lawyers Kevin McGoff, Karl Mulvaney, Bryan Babb and Mark Kamish all served in the Army.

Considering all of the above, I am going to have to go to my standard tie-breaker and ask myself WWED(What would Elvis do?) Having researched this question, it appears that the King/Sgt Presley was in the Army. Sorry mom. In a close call, I have to go with Elvis and with what your son wishes to do and support his decision to join the Army.

Hope this helps.

Sincerely,

Bell
Amateur Life Coach

 _________________________________________________________________________________

James focuses his practice in the areas of criminal defense, attorneys discipline defense and health care law. As a Marion County Public Defender, he represented clients in numerous jury and bench trials. James also represents clients in juvenile delinquency, appeals and post-conviction proceedings. James is a frequent ICLEF speaker on ethics, trial practice and criminal procedure. As of January 2013, he began serving as an adjunct professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law where he teaches a course on professional responsibility. To date, no student has yet stood on their desk and shouted “Oh captain, my captain!” Follow James on Twitter @jamesjbell

Questions for the Amateur Life Coach?  Email them to scottking@iclef.org.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

Leave a Reply