By Zhuoshan Liu
SACRAMENTO – An attorney-client spat highlighted action in Sacramento County Superior Court here Friday when private criminal defense attorney Scott Waterman had a billing “discussion” with his client in the middle of a courtroom session.
This hearing was for a motion to suppress, to exclude evidence at trial. But it was never heard.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Helena R. Gweon began the live-streamed continuation hearing by directing her questioning to the defendant, Patrick Stebbins, who had been driving prior to the hearing and the judge asked him to stop and park the car for the beginning of the Zoom court session.
The private attorney, Scott Waterman, who appeared on behalf of Patrick Stebbins, mentioned that he and Deputy District Attorney Divina Gracia agreed to continue the hearing to Sept. 9.
According to the district attorney, she still didn’t have the motion—which was to be filed last March before the COVID-19 interruption of court activities, adding, “It was continued last time because he had said he had little to no contact with his client and yesterday when we spoke on the phone Mr. Waterman told me he still had not had any contact with his client, so I still don’t have a motion. I’m a little frustrated with the fact that this has taken so long to progress.”
Waterman suggested that they were supposed to continue this to Sept. 9. He highlighted to the court that no one from his firm was able to contact defendant Stebbins for months, and additionally the private attorney had not been paid by the defendant, Stebbins. As a result, Waterman’s firm gave him instructions to drop the case, and that was part of the reason the motion had not been filed.
“No, no, no I just paid you $500. Your billing department was misappropriating the funds…the first case was overpaid and then the second case…” Stebbins said.
“Mr. Stebbins, the judge is not gonna want us…” said attorney Waterman.
The judge intervened.
“Excuse me, this is what we’re gonna do. I’m gonna confirm the trial readiness conference which is set on Sept. 15 at 2:05 in Department 2 and the trial date for Sept. 29 at 8:45 in Dept 9 [and Patrick Stebbins] can file a motion to suppress to be heard before the trial at the same time,” ruled Judge Gweon.
The judge eventually set up the next hearing on Sept. 9 at 8:30 a.m. in Dept. 2 as originally desired.
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