Judge Gives Tongue-Lashing to Tardy Lawyers as Same Case Recalled Repeatedly

By Anna Zheng, Lois Yoo and Savannah Dewberry

SACRAMENTO, CA – Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Goodman was more than a little upset here last week when many attorneys failed to show up in court.

Not only did it prolong other cases from being heard, but it resulted in an outburst from Judge Goodman, who called the attorneys out, in effect, for a lack of responsibility.

One defendant, Isaac Vargas, who was charged on six counts related to assault, possession of firearms, and several DUIs, had his trial readiness conference continuously delayed today.

This was due to a prosecutor’s absence and the lack of a Spanish interpreter representing Vargas. Although the public defender was present, the conference still could not proceed without the DA’s presence.

Judge Goodman moved on to hearing the next case, but was once again met with the same problem; the opposing counsel was not present.

Judge Goodman exclaimed, “So, what is the deal? When you guys have cases in our department in the afternoon what is so hard about showing up or having somebody stand in for you? What is so hard about that?”

Judge Goodman continued: “We called the case; nobody’s here. Half the time somebody is asking ‘Oh, can somebody stand in?’ That’s your responsibility.

“If it’s your case, it is your responsibility to make sure you are present … or at least to tell the court when you are going to be here,” Judge Goodman said. “But it’s not our job to track you guys down.”

He connected the absent attorneys back to the pandemic, as now most court proceedings take place over Zoom. “You know it was one thing when you had to physically be in different places,” said Goodman. “Now it’s just a matter of clicking on a screen—and you still can’t be here.”

Judge Goodman wrapped up with a clarification, “I’m sorry. I’m venting a little, and I’m trying not to personalize this, but it’s been a building frustration.”

Goodman appealed to the present attorneys, “Can you just spread the word? That you should try to be present when you have a case?” The attorneys on the Zoom call agreed.

When a prosecutor finally showed up, it had been 17 minutes since the Vargas case was first called.

When he heard the bailiff call Vargas’ case again, Judge Goodman joked, “Oh yeah, about the fourth time we’ve called this one, huh? All right, so now we can actually proceed.”

In the end, Vargas and the attorneys were ordered to come back the next day for a bail motion and to set new trial dates.

Before leaving, one attorney addressed Judge Goodman. “Your Honor, if I may quickly just let the court be aware that I have been attempting to communicate with (opposing counsel), but I have not received any response,” he said. “I have sent at least five emails and I have not received any response.”

Judge Goodman directed the other attorney that he must communicate with the defense counsel, and he responded, affirmatively responded, “Absolutely, your Honor.”

Anna Zheng is a fourth year at UC Davis from Sonoma, California. She is studying International Relations and Economics with the intent of pursuing a J.D. degree in the future. Ultimately, she hopes to pursue a career in consulting, finance, intellectual property or business immigration law.

Lois Yoo is a third year at UC Berkeley and is originally from Los Angeles, California.

Savannah Dewberry is a student at the University of San Francisco. She is pursuing a Media Studies major with a minor in Journalism. Savannah Dewberry is an East Bay native and currently lives in San Francisco.

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