COURT WATCH: Public Defender Faces Motion for Sanctions Over Use of Language  

By Emeline Crowder 

WOODLAND, CA- This past week, at the Yolo County Superior Court, Judge Sonia Cortés rejected a motion to impose sanctions on Deputy Public Defender Daniel Hutchinson.

The motion, which was due to Hutchinson’s use of language in a closing argument during a trial in January, came from the District Attorney’s Office, in retaliation after the verdict ruled in favor of the defense.

In late Jan., the DA’s office filed a motion to impose sanctions on DPD Hutchinson for use of inappropriate language during the closing statements of a trial which occurred earlier in the month.

The DA’s office alleged that DPD Hutchison’s use of curse words in his closing argument went outside of the bounds of zealous advocacy, and violated Business and Professions Code section 6068, which states that lawyers must maintain due respect to the court and judicial officers.

The DA’s office charged DPD Hutchinson’s use of curse words was inappropriate, and that it was outside of the context of the trial.

In response to the motion, the Public Defender’s Office filed an additional motion in Feb. opposing the sanctions and requesting additional admonishment of DDA David Wilson for filing a frivolous motion, which the PD’s Office claimed came from a place of “spite.”

The Public Defender’s Office maintained the motion against DPD Hutchinson was due to an “animus” against the DPD from the Office of the District Attorney, because the motion of contempt was filed only after the verdict on the case, which was in favor of the defense.

During the trial, while on the stand, the accused used swear words in his testimony. During closing arguments, the Public Defender’s Office claimed DPD Hutchinson was referencing the words of the accused, and used swear words within the context of the case.

They note that while DDA Wilson made objections to other statements during DPD Hutchinson’s closing argument, there was no objection made to the use of swearing until after the verdict, when the motion was filed.

In addition, the Public Defender’s Office recognized the purpose of conduct rules in court was to uphold the reputation of the legal profession in the eyes of the public. After the trial, a juror who was on the case reached out to the Public Defender’s Office commending DPD Hutchinson’s advocacy work.

The Public Defender’s Office stated that “the impression that Mr. Hutchinson left was not that the integrity of the profession has been violated, but that the integrity of the profession was upheld.”

Judge Cortés found DPD Hutchinson acted within the bounds of zealous advocacy, and the swear words were used within the context of the case, and thus would not uphold the motion for sanctions.

Judge Cortés also found that because both DPD Hutchinson and DDA Wilson were professional and well comported during the trial, she would not move forward on the motion to admonish the prosecution, either.

About The Author

Emeline is a third year undergraduate at UC Davis, studying International Relations and French. She is passionate about law, the criminal justice system and international politics, and hopes to pursue a career in diplomacy in the future. In her free time, Emeline loves to read, craft and hike.

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