By Luke Kyaw
VENTURA, CA – Private Attorney Brian Vogel was in Ventura County Superior Court Dept. 14 Friday for several preliminary hearings for his clients – and he drew the judge’s wrath.
Before Judge Gilbert Romero, Vogel intended to go over his cases one by one and even claimed for some of them that he “ is optimistic that he might [even] be able to resolve [them] today.”
However, as the court was reviewing his first case for defendant Brandon Hansen who had allegedly disturbed the peace by throwing a house party, Judge Romero noted he had issued a previous order for the defendant to appear for the preliminary hearing, but he was not present in court.
The judge then asked attorney Vogel why defendant Hansen was not in court, and Vogel said Hansen was “on vacation far away” at the moment and that he can show up to court to accept the ruling later if necessary.
This prompted Judge Romero to emphasize that he had already ordered the defendant to be in court, and Vogel admitted that he did make prior efforts to contact Hansen regarding his mandatory court appearance but was unsure of the time and method of contact used.
Informing Vogel that he was now seriously considering issuing a warrant, Judge Romero then told counsel to go take a few minutes, look at his email history, and figure out precisely when and how he contacted the defendant.
Before Vogel stepped off the podium, Judge Romero asked him if he had any other case lined up. Vogel had three other cases, two of which also had defendants who were ordered to show up in court but were not present.
Judge Romero then took a moment to tell Vogel that “based on the last few cases, [he thinks] there has been a misunderstanding by [counsel Vogel]” about his orders to appear in court. He stated that it is not a “wait-and-see [situation of] if we can resolve [the case before] … trying to get the defendant” in court.
The judge reiterated that he needs the defendants present in court unless there is a strong reason for them to be absent. Vogel then expressed that he understood and asked for a second call on all cases with absent defendants.
*Note: Legal counsel can appear for defendants, and do routinely. Unless the court specifically requires the defendant’s presence.
After about an hour passed, attorney Vogel came back up to the podium and informed Judge Romero on the Hansen matter that he called and texted the defendant two days before the hearing. However, the defendant did not respond to Vogel until a day later when he was already out of state on vacation.
Judge Romero told Vogel that he is “not going to … punish Hansen for something that [he doesn’t] believe was his fault” as the defendant was just notified of his mandatory appearance two days before the hearing.
However, the judge brought up his primary concern of communication between him and Vogel regarding his orders for court appearances, once again reminding the latter that he needs to understand and abide by the court orders and timely inform his clients.
Defendant Hansen was granted judicial diversion as requested by Vogel and was subsequently scheduled for a review on next January in the same court, Ventura County Superior Court Dept. 14.