Wednesday, April 23, 2008

People v. Soukomlane (Cal. Ct. App. - April 23, 2008)

Justice Cornell writes a concurring opinion in this case to try to be helpful to trial courts in confronting the challenges involved when a criminal pro per defendant may potentially be disruptive.

Let me add another one:

Chill out. Remain calm. Because if you don't, you may well engage in conduct that's clearly -- or, as Justice Gomes more tactfully (but equally correctly) puts it, "patently" -- erroneous. And, I might add, in manifest derogation of a defendant's obvious -- freakingly obvious -- constitutional rights.

So, for example, you may (1) obviously shackle a pro per litigant notwithstanding any evidence on the record whatsoever that would justify such conduct, and then (2) kick him out of court during the direct examination of the critical prosecution witness for no compelling reason; indeed, for virtually no reason whatsoever. The fact that (retired) Judge Couillard thought the latter was okay is especially stunning. Who could possibly think that not letting anyone on the defendant's side hear the testimony of the key prosecution witness before cross-examining her was okay?

This just in: It's not.