By Michael Frye
WOODLAND – Yolo County Superior Court Judge William Lebov, in effect, lectured lawyers in his courtroom last Friday that a little communication between lawyers and clients allows judges to respond more effectively to the needs of the client, which leads to more effective representation.
Lebov reminded lawyers to communicate with their clients before appearing in court—even arraignments, which were the order of the day here Friday.
The first matter before the court was a probation violation charge. Deputy Public Defender Daniel Hutchinson did try to speak to his client in the morning but could not because the Yolo County Jail was on lockdown once more due to COVID-19.
Without more to go on, Judge Lebov suggested the matter be delayed to allow Hutchinson to call his client to discuss the matter, and then come to court and change his plea after adequate consultation.
Hutchinson agreed and Judge Lebov again stressed the importance of communication with clients before arraignments.
The next matter involved two misdemeanor charges, one for prowling and the other a hold on probation. Halfway through the proceedings the client was confused as to whether his charges were dismissed or not. The defendant’s probation officer, Jennifer Martinez, asked for the probation hold charge to be dropped because, if it were, the remaining charges did not need be heard at all.
Deputy District Attorney Robin Johnson confirmed by saying the “remaining matters on $0 dollars bail did not need to be heard on custody status if the probation charge was dropped.” The probation charge was dropped and Judge Lebov released the defendant on his own recognizance on $0 bail for the remaining two charges.
The client then asked Judge Lebov if his charges were dismissed or not, and the judge said, “Sir, we are going to try and get through this hearing and then you’re going to have a chance to speak to your attorney…don’t put anything on the record—everything you say is going to be on the record right now. This is just the arraignments calendar, nothing is going to be decided here today.”
Judge Lebov added, “All right, listen, we’re not going to get this figured out today. We have too much on our calendar. We’re going to put this over until next week and we’re going to do Nov. 12. These are good cases where some communication between the parties ahead of time would be helpful—I know it’s not always possible but, something to think about.”
The next case on the docket alleged a 1994 kidnapping for purposes of robbery, which is a more serious offense because it requires a defendant convicted of any new felony, having suffered one prior conviction of a serious felony, to be sentenced to state prison for twice the term otherwise provided for the crime.
Here the client was represented by private defense counsel Justin Terrence Mixon, who made it a point to advise his client as soon as possible. Even without reading the complaint, Mixon had communicated with his client beforehand, and in doing so was able to work out a disposition to ensure the judge could respond more effectively to his client’s needs and wishes.
Mixon told the judge, “I did not have an opportunity to see the complaint, and I have been in communication with Mr. Hamilton. We worked out a disposition already in the case. I was going to request to continue the arraignment to Dec. 11, at 1:30 for resolution at that time, your Honor.”
Deputy District Attorney Garrett Hamilton confirmed the meeting with Mixon and Judge Lebov agreed to put the arraignment forward to December.
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