Disabled, Homeless Woman Target of Judge’s Ire for Failure to Appear in Court on Time

By Destiny Gurrola and Brinda Kalita

MODESTO, CA – A homeless woman with disabilities was yelled at by a judge because of the accused’s multiple failures to appear in court, and showing up late this week here in Stanislaus County Superior Court.

The charges brought before the court were unspecified misdemeanors and failure to appear in court.

When the accused did arrive, it was apparent as she entered the courtroom the accused was clearly severely disabled.

Later in the proceeding, her representing attorney, Assistant Public Defender Kanwal Singh, revealed to the court her client suffers from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, is generally homeless, lives in a motel, and struggles with substance abuse issues.

Despite the backstory, Judge Rubén Villalobos proceeded to reprimand the accused on multiple occasions about her attendance.

In his recounting of the accused’s case history, Judge Villalobos yelled at both the defendant and PD Singh, exclaiming, “She was asked to appear twice. She did not show up on any of those dates…rather than being remanded on the spot, she was given a bench warrant to appear at 8:30 a.m. today. Explain to me why I just shouldn’t remand her now.”

Then, as PD Singh was reminding Judge Villalobos of the accused’s disabilities, Judge Villalobos cut him off, charging, “The court has no reason to believe that her disability of understanding her promise to the court. I am failing to understand how her disability affects her to a way of being unable to show up.”

PD Singh then once again reminded Judge Villalobos of the accused’s living situation, and how because she had to take public transportation, she was late for the day’s hearing.

In response, Judge Villalobos argued, “The court isn’t a drop in when you want an open house. It doesn’t seem fair that she is missing things because of a disability. We need to figure out if she needs to be remanded or not.”

Public Defender Singh then assured Judge Villalobos that this time, the accused will comply with the court’s orders, because she is recovering from her alcohol addiction.

Judge Villalobos then added, “Now this is something I can understand. It is a disease, and an acknowledgement of this is something I can work with.”

PD Singh then shared the steps she will be taking to move toward her new life, including her moving into a homeless shelter and taking further steps to end her substance addiction.

Judge Villalobos asked PD Singh if the accused had proof of AA programs since the last court date, to which he replied yes. Judge Villalobos then congratulated the accused for doing so despite all of the other concerns in this case.

Deputy District Attorney Daniel Newton also defended the accused’s character to Judge Villalobos, stating, “Despite the bad relationship the defendant has with you, we commend her for appearing today and we saw her letter she wants to send to the court. She is taking accountability for her actions.”

Judge Villalobos then clarified to DA Newton that he had absolutely no “beef” with the accused, and accepted the letter as the hearing ended.

About The Author

Brinda is a student at UC Riverside, pursuing a degree in History with a Law and Society emphasis. She plans to attend law school after receiving her bachelors.

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