By Heather Hamilton
SACRAMENTO – Sacramento Assistant Public Defender Ashley Burg’s multi-tasking representation of her clients here last Monday afternoon brought some smiles and laughs to her fellow courtroom attendants, but ultimately exhausted the court with her antics and apparent lack of attention to detail.
Burg represented most of the clients who had hearings in Sacramento County Superior Court’s Department 61, heard by Court Commissioner Ken Brody. For some of the clients, Burg was acting as a stand-in for attorneys who could not be present in court.
Burg—appearing from her office and not actually in the courtroom—was “multi-tasking” during the afternoon’s proceedings. Her gaze was clearly and intently on another screen, her attention drawn from the matters at hand.
As Commissioner Brody and Deputy District Attorney Adrianne McMillian discussed facts between themselves as well as with the defendant, Burg could be heard constantly shuffling documents, loudly typing and even speaking words out loud as she wrote, distracting the court and making it more difficult to hear the conversation through Zoom.
During a short break, Burg is typing away, speaking the words out loud, albeit under her breath. Brody is seen smiling at Burg as she does this.
But later the court is less than amused with Burg’s antics.
Burg asks, “Do we have a Dorman?” and the DDA has to tell her that the case had just been heard. Burg asks what happened, and says she just wants to know if the person appeared so she “can get rid of it.” DDA McMillan remembers many of the details but tells the public defender she will email her the information.
Burg then asks the judge who the clerk is for the day, requesting they provide the information she failed to keep track of. “What’s the name?” asks Commissioner Brody. Burg says “Dorman.” Bench warrant issued, he tells her. The judge appears frustrated. There’s no longer a smile on his face.
“Cheer up, we’re almost done,” quips DDA McMillan to the Hon. Brody, whose face now lies heavily on his fist.
And not long after that Burg asks for information about two other defendants, whose hearings occurred in the afternoon’s proceedings and of which she has no record of what happened. The prosecutor cites from memory the details of both defendants’ hearings, and she laughs as Burg asks her to wait while she finds a working pen.
“You put it over until July 27, he was present in court,” the DDA said. Burg had no recollection of her client’s appearance. Surprised, she responds, “Oh! Okay, cool, thanks.”
At one point, the court discussed a defendant who did not consent to a Zoom court appearance. Burg says that, in that instance, she will waive his appearance, and believes this is justified because criminal proceedings have been suspended.
Brody corrects Burg’s thinking that she can assume the defendant’s rights and waive them despite his refusal to do so. The public defender is reminded by Commissioner Brody that, in fact, the defendant can make motions, one being a Marsden motion, through which a criminal defendant fires their court-appointed attorney.
During another proceeding, Burg has a visitor to her office and loudly greets the guest with a “Hey!” DDA McMillan brusquely asks Burg to place herself on mute. Burg engages in a short conversation with her visitor and is not wearing a mask during this interaction.
The visitor at Burg’s office wasn’t the only one not wearing a mask—the person walking around the courtroom adjusting the placement of the microphones had a mask on, but it was removed from her face and resting on her chest.
Courthouse rules require everyone—staff and visitors—to wear a mask. Properly.
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