By Jordyn Gleaton
DUBLIN, CA — As a result of an apparent miscommunication from the Dublin Public Defender Office, Avez Ahmed was left alone to in Alameda County Superior Court Friday without an attorney and facing a persistent Deputy District Attorney Ashley Caldwell who wanted to proceed with the hearing even though Ahmed was not represented.
In accordance with state guidelines and in efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus, California courts have opted to hold proceedings through Zoom and other online alternatives. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the operations of the court through miscommunications.
When the court asked counsel to state their appearance for the record during Ahmed’s scheduled arraignment and bail hearing, there was a deafening silence—where the defense attorney was supposed to unmute their microphone.
Ahmed revealed to the judge that he did not have an attorney present despite his efforts to contact a public defender. Ahmed claimed to have called the Dublin Public Defender Office the previous Friday where the person on the other end of the phone relayed to him that the office would call him bac, but the office failed to do so, he said.
DDA Caldwell reminded the court that Ahmed was required to appear in court with an attorney in order to address bail Friday. However, the judge stated that the court will not be able to proceed without counsel for the defendant.
The judge suggested Ahmed’s experience was common, stating, “Oftentimes they call and information is relayed to our attorney interviewer of the day, sometimes they are able to get back the same day and sometimes they are not, so sometimes the ball gets dropped. So, I have no reason to disbelieve what Ahmed is representing to the court.”
While the district attorney understood that they could not proceed with the hearing in the absence of a defense attorney, Caldwell asked that the court order the defendant to continue to appear in court and reach out to the Dublin Public Defender Office until Ahmed establishes contact with an attorney.
The district attorney reminded the court of the urgency needed to proceed with the case asserting that “he (Ahmed) is on felony probation for robbery, and has a new case and hasn’t been able to contact an attorney in several weeks.”
In response, the court acknowledged the defendant’s efforts to contact a public defender and emphasized the lack and failure of communication from the Dublin Public Defender Office.
Ultimately, the court agreed that the DDA’s point was fair as well, and decided to put the proceedings on hold briefly until next week. The court ordered Ahmed to go to the Public Defender Office downstairs immediately following court to attempt to schedule an appointment.
The court stated their belief that if Ahmed explains the situation and consults with the office in person, rather than over the phone, Ahmed will be able to complete an interview sooner than later—possibly that same day.
Yet, the court has decided that if Ahmed does not have an attorney by his next hearing, the court will move forward with the district attorney’s proposition since they have provided him with ample time to acquire an attorney.
In closing, the court gave the defendant specific direction to the Public Defender Office from the courtroom and ordered Ahmed to have an attorney at the newly-scheduled arraignment and bail hearing on Oct. 13.