Tuesday, February 06, 2007

People v. Freeman (Cal. Ct. App. - Feb. 5, 2007)

I'm typically pretty harsh when it comes to attorneys who commit misconduct, commit felonies, and are in general utterly insane. And why not? These are not good qualities.

So when I read this case, which involves the various activities of California attorney Marilyn Freeman, my initial reaction was that I was very glad that, at least for the present, she's no longer entitled to practice law. I'm not a big fan of beating your daughter, stalking her foster parents, and being convicted of solicitation to commit kidnapping, residental burglary, stalking, child endangerment, and battery. From anyone, and much less from someone we entrust to be an officer of the court.

That said, the more I read about Ms. Freeman, the more that my reaction was tempered by compassion. Don't get me wrong; you can't -- can't -- do the stuff she's done here. She's completely, utterly nuts. And engaged in conduct that's totally intolerable. Nonetheless, I couldn't help feeling that a lot of this insanity was caused by something that might make many people go off the deep end as well: the perceived loss of a child. As a result, my thoughts here were a little more nuanced than the harsh reaction that I usually have to the variety of inexcusable acts that are too-often performed by counsel.

Admittedly, even beyond the (horrible) nature of her offenses, there were other facts in here that made Ms. Freeman less amenable to compassion; for example, the fact that, in my mind, she continued to be a whack job even when removed from the situation, and during her criminal prosecution. Moreover, my weak sense was that there was some tactical stuff going on here in an attempt to get her conviction reversed -- including (but by no means limited to) conduct that, in the end, does indeed get her conviction reversed.

Justice Haller holds -- in a very interesting opinion -- that Judge O'Neill, who initially recused himself from the action due to Ms. Freeman's alleged stalking of his friend, Judge Elias, shouldn't have been reassigned to the matter merely because the district attorney concluded that no such stalking had transpired; moreover, that Ms. Freeman preserved (albeit, at most, barely, in my mind) this issue for appeal. There's some more stuff in the opinion on the merits that is both factually intriguing (e.g., the crazy stuff that Ms. Freeman was doing here, and hence why the evidence at trial was sufficient to convict her) as well as informed me of some doctrine of which I was not previously aware (e.g., that while child abduction is a crime, there's no crime of solicitation to commit child abduction in California).

So, all in all, an opinion worth reading. If only to remind yourself: "Stay sane. Don't do stuff like this. It's not good."