Relationships in the Law
No this is not a boy–girl blog about relationships. This blog is about relationships that are developed over time working in the criminal justice system in the District of Columbia.
Defense Lawyer Relationship with Prosecutors
As you may have read in our previous blogs, in the District of Columbia there are two prosecuting entities in DC Superior Court, United States Attorney for the District of Columbia and Office of Attorney General Office for the District of Columbia. After 20 years practicing in DC Superior Court, you get to know the prosecutors and their office policies. Prosecutors over time come to respect the defense attorney and vice versa. The relationship the defense and prosecutor develop over time is that of trust. Now that’s not to say that I have not run into some dirty prosecutors over the years but that is highly unusual, and usually, that’s a young prosecutor just starting his career. Career prosecutors know that if they develop a bad reputation, that reputation will stick with them throughout their career. While you may see prosecutors and defense lawyers joking from time to time in the hallway, rest assured that each side takes their job serious and the line is not blurred in the courtroom. It also stands to reason that having a good relationship with a prosecutor. Defense lawyers want to maintain good relationships with the prosecutors
Defense Lawyer Relationship with Courtroom Staff
Most clients don’t realize that the Court is not run by lawyers but by the support staff. If you have a bad relationship with courtroom clerks, court security, Judge’s law clerk, and the US. Marshalls, it will make the defense lawyer’s job difficult to do. In DC Superior Court the courtroom clerks call the cases – enough said about that.
Defense Lawyer Relationships with Judge
Our ethical rules prohibit ex parte communication with Judges. Furthermore, in DC Superior Court you will rarely see Judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers hanging out together. There are some jurisdictions where the line may look blurred. Judges and lawyers in DC Superior Court keep a very formal relationship. It’s not because the Judges don’t like the lawyers – it’s the appearance of impropriety that both are trying to avoid. That’s not to say that there is no relationship with lawyers and Judges. In fact, on the contrary, Judge’s pay attention and respect lawyers they know will show up to their courtroom on time and prepared. The Judge will tend to respect that lawyer, and although not intentional, the public will see the respect the Judge gives to the lawyer. Lawyers also have to know how that Judge has ruled in similar cases, and so having an experienced lawyer who has tried cases and handles cases in front of that Judge are very important. However, it is highly inappropriate and unethical for a lawyer ever to say “I know this Judge he will do x or y.” The lawyer may give his best advice on what he thinks the Judge may do, but it’s just an educated guess from prior cases.
Rollins and Chan Law Firm