Unhoused Person Pleads with Judge to Appear Via Zoom for Next Court Date

By Elizabeth Garabedian

SANTA BARBARA, CA – There was some heavy-duty negotiating here Wednesday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court—not about a super serious plea deal, but just how and when to get an unhoused man to court.

In the end, Judge Clifford Anderson ordered Michael Ramsey to appear in person for his next court date, despite Ramsey’s request to appear via Zoom because he is homeless, and doesn’t have transportation.

Ramsey appeared in court Wednesday via Zoom for informational purposes regarding his misdemeanor and felony charges.  He is charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct while intoxicated from December of 2020, as well as inflicting corporal injury on a cohabitant, two counts of violating a protective order, and possession of a controlled substance in 2021.

Attorney Sanford Horowitz represented Ramsey, putting the information session on calendar for Wednesday after Ramsey failed to appear at a trial call for a prior warrant arraignment.  

As the court was calling Ramsey’s case, the accused lost connection and Horowitz explained that Ramsey is homeless and does not have “steady access to electricity, and his battery died on his phone…”

“I’m back, I’m back,” Ramsey said with relief once he rejoined the call, and Horowitz asked that court that the warrant be recalled at this time now that Ramsey had returned.  

At first, Judge Anderson ordered Ramsey to be present the next day, Thursday, in person: “May he appear via Zoom?” Horowitz asked, but the judge insisted, “No, in person, we don’t skip trial calls and get to appear by Zoom.”

After hearing that he was to appear in less than 24 hours, Ramsey became distraught and began explaining his situation to the court: “I am homeless and have all my stuff in Carpenteria… is that the only date that could be possible because I have to—a court date to get my stuff to Santa Barbara, I can’t take it on a bus.” 

He continued, saying that he was reporting to probation and would be taking the bus down there; this trip was planned in advance so it was not possible for him to make it to probation.  

Horowitz attempted to provide a solution by asking if the court would be “inclined to keep the warrant outstanding until Mr. Ramsey appears in person?” 

Judge Anderson responded: “I’ll recall the warrant, again if he skipped on a trial call, he needs to be present in court. I don’t know what the time waiver status is, I don’t know what the last date status is, all I know is that he failed to appear for a trial call.”

The court discussed the new dates of the proceedings since his court status had been reset after Ramsey missed his trial call, and Deputy District Attorney Justin Greene asked whether Ramsey was on supervised release.  The court stated that his pretrial supervision was terminated in July because his cases were consolidated and Ramsey failed to appear.  

Judge Anderson then reinstated the supervised release and read the pretrial terms and conditions, moving forward with the Sept. 2 appearance.  

Ramsey again pleaded with the court, and stated that it would not be possible for him to appear in person because, “like I said, I got everything I have in Carpinteria and I can’t make it down here tomorrow because I’ll have to logistically gather all my stuff so it doesn’t get stolen.  I was mugged twice this weekend, or last weekend and I was trying to pick up….”

Judge Anderson relented, and took this into consideration, moving the next court date to Sept. 9, and then addressed Ramsey’s previous statement about his plan to report to probation today. “I’m not sure there’s a difference between you going to probation for an hour and you going to court for an hour.  I’m not sure why you can leave your possessions in Carpinteria in one and not the other.”  

Ramsey sounded nervous and began stuttering as he explained that “I planned with pretrial already this last week to be there after I was done with court today, that’s why I did not plan on bringing all my stuff I just planned on being myself present down there today.” 

The information session ended with the court discussing future dates for Ramsey and what his final court date would be in September.  

About The Author

Koda is an incoming senior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Rhetoric. He is from Ventura, CA.

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