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View Full Version : What did lawyer Carla do wrong?


fhaber
March 21st, 2006, 06:03 PM
Could somebody explain to this non-lawyer the basics of Carla M's idiocy? She's not litigating the case, but she has to listen to everything (every judge's order)? She's not an officer of the court, but is liable, why? And why couldn't they prep witnesses here?

-he who only knows law from Law and Order, where they tune witnesses with a fork.

Judy G. Russell
March 21st, 2006, 06:34 PM
Could somebody explain to this non-lawyer the basics of Carla M's idiocy? She's not litigating the case, but she has to listen to everything (every judge's order)? She's not an officer of the court, but is liable, why? And why couldn't they prep witnesses here?First off, Carla Martin -- like every attorney -- is an officer of the court. You get tagged with that as soon as you're sworn in. As such you have an obligation greater than that of, say, a plain ordinary bureaucrat. Secondly, she was a member (albeit a casual and not day-to-day member) of the prosecution team in this case. She co-signed at least one pleading in the case, which is the same thing as if she'd stood up in court and said, "Your Honor, I appear here on behalf of the Government."

Now... as to what she did wrong, the answer is two things: first, she misrepresented to other Government lawyers that certain witnesses would NOT be willing to meet with defense lawyers when in fact they would have been willing (which disadvantaged the defense); and second, she violated what is called a witness sequestration order by telling witnesses who were to testify later what earlier witnesses had said (and, thus, doing exactly what a sequestration order is trying to prevent -- enabling those later witnesses to conform their testimony to what the earlier witnesses said). She emailed trial transcripts to the later witnesses and coached them on what they should say. That's a BIG time no-no, and anybody who does litigation of any kind would have (or should have) known that there was a sequestration order in place.

rlohmann
March 21st, 2006, 08:07 PM
In addition to what Judy said, Martin was the worst kind of government lawyer. Unfortunately, she isn't unique.

It is in the nature of government to be so big that it's insulated from reality. Lawyers in private practice have the Bar Counsel, the chief disciplinarian of the state's organized bar, looking over their shoulder. While the Bar Counsel doesn't always nail the malevolent, he usually does catch and shut down the incompetent. (The Virginia Lawyer, the organ of the Virginia State Bar, publishes a section on attorney disciplinary actions, with names and details, in every issue.)

State bar counsel don't care about government lawyers because they're usually malpracticing in somebody else's jurisdiction. Besides that, there are within government so many internal agendas, localized vendettas, and special political agendas (affirmative action and the like) that nobody's accountable for anything.

Martin got as far as she did because nobody was responsible for her.

If you doubt that, wait and see whether the General Counsel of the TSA even gets a wrist-slap.

This is, in part, why I have so little confidence in schemes that rely on government to save humanity.

fhaber
March 21st, 2006, 09:04 PM
And these witnesses were sequestered by judge's order, but not locked up in a room, like a sequestered jury? I have a lot to learn here, it seems.

I think I read only the journalists' tut-tuts, which concentrated on, "ex-flight attendant; hauled herself up by her own bootstraps, but with (ahem) connections to the airline industry. That sounds Bush-ish. Not hearing a judge's order sounds, well, just cretinous.

(Sorry for asking you guys for catchup; I've been busy. It's a bit hard for a citizen to understand this. How can an ADA coach the living daylights out of his witness in a criminal trial, and.... you know what I'm asking.)

Judy G. Russell
March 21st, 2006, 11:38 PM
And these witnesses were sequestered by judge's order, but not locked up in a room, like a sequestered jury? I have a lot to learn here, it seems.Sequestering the jury requires keeping them away from everybody else, so the only evidence they're exposed to is what they hear in the jury box. The point is to keep the jurors away from all OUTSIDE influences. That's why you physically sequester the jurors together and away from everyone else.

With witnesses, the only thing you want to keep them away from is other witnesses, so they can't get together and conform their testimony to each other. The last thing you'd do is lock them up in a room together! Sequestering witnesses, then, simply means not allowing witnesses B and C to listen when witness A testifies and not allowing anyone to tell B and C what A said nor to suggest to B and C that they should testify in a particular way (because you, the lawyer, know what A said).

Not hearing a judge's order sounds, well, just cretinous.Yep. Big time stupid.

(Sorry for asking you guys for catchup; I've been busy. It's a bit hard for a citizen to understand this. How can an ADA coach the living daylights out of his witness in a criminal trial, and.... you know what I'm asking.)You can "prep" your witnesses all you want, but you can't "coach" them, and particularly you can't coach them once the trial has already begun. Specifically you can't tell one sequestered witness what another witness has testified to on the witness stand. It's at times a fine line between prep and coach, but a good lawyer -- even a half-wit lawyer -- knows where the line is and how to stay on the good side of it.

rlohmann
March 22nd, 2006, 08:51 AM
How can an ADA coach the living daylights out of his witness in a criminal trial, and.... you know what I'm asking.)As Judy points out, there's a line between preparing a witness and manufacturing testimony. The line is sometimes very difficult to draw, but the Martin situation doesn't come close to it. The judge said, "don't contaminate the testimony of the witnesses."

So Martin did.

Karl Semper
March 22nd, 2006, 12:48 PM
>>Sequestering witnesses, then, simply means not allowing witnesses B and C to listen when witness A testifies and not allowing anyone to tell B and C what A said nor to suggest to B and C that they should testify in a particular way (because you, the lawyer, know what A said).<<

Not being a lawyer, it would seem to me that you always want the witnesses sequestered or does that require a judges order? If the witnesses in any trial are allowed to hear the foregoing testimony, what is to prevent them from changing their testimony to conform?

Judy G. Russell
March 22nd, 2006, 03:28 PM
Witness sequestration always requires a judge's order. It's routinely requested in criminal cases, and routinely granted, with only the defendant(s) and perhaps a case agent for the prosecution excepted from the order.

Sometimes it really doesn't matter: the witnesses may have been so locked down in prior statements that they don't have any real room to conform their testimony. But that's the exception; the rule is to request sequestration.