By Carlin Kempt
SACRAMENTO – Thursday, in virtual courtroom 84, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Phillip Stanger faced the tricky task of hearing 48 cases in four hours—recent court closures and hybrid reopenings, with stockpiles of unheard cases, flood the courthouse daily.
Judge Stanger, however, tackled the challenge with a strategic game plan.
Like Chip Kelly’s no-huddle offense, Stanger hurried through his arraignment cases. Because each arraignment case simply required the setting of a future court date, Stanger was keen on keeping his attorney interactions momentary.
When moments bled into minutes, Stanger grew visibly frustrated—especially when attorneys didn’t seem to know their future calendars off the top of their heads when asked for a date.
He was also quick to call out Prosecutor Michelle Carlson, and Carlson’s intern, Hannah Martinez, when they slowed or interrupted his fast-paced plays.
Although Stanger’s hurried start was strict and aggressive, it allowed him the time to fully address cases of driving under the influence with care and wisdom. Stanger spoke to four similar charge degree cases at once, yet stopped to personalize the charges for all four individuals.
His common rhetoric and terminology clarification provided each defendant with a clear understanding of his/her charge.
In every case, he repeatedly reminded the defendants that “nobody wants you to serve jail time” due to incarceration costs and COVID-19 conditions. Instead, defendants can avoid fines and jail time if they choose a work project or home detention option.
Additionally, he took the time to define all legal terminology, such as what pleading no contest means. He noted that most attorneys advise their defendants to plead no contest, instead of guilty, in these situations to avoid future lawsuits.
Although the long day in court did not conclude with a celebratory Gatorade dump, Stanger seemingly conquered the day as if he had six Super Bowl championship rings on his fingers.
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