Judges have a very important role in the criminal justice system, and to fulfill that role they must remain impartial. When judges step outside of the veil of impartiality and put on the hat of a prosecutor, the criminal justice system–as it was meant to be here in America–fails. In such instances, criminal defense attorneys are the last remaining hope for a fair and just trial. It is our job to preserve these issues for appeal, so that maybe an appellate court will do as the Michigan Supreme Court did here. It is important to note however, that two of the three justices at the lower appellate court level saw absolutely nothing wrong with the trial judge’s behavior. In effect, these justices had become prosecutors as well.
I am proud to be a criminal defense attorney, to provide that last line of defense for the citizen accused. When we protect the citizen accused, we protect every single citizen. For how far is the line between one and all?
Justices Slap Prosecutorial Judge
Kristin R. Brown
Trial and Appellate Attorney
State, Federal, Habeas
I spent most of last week in the little tiny town of Round Top, Texas–population 90. I was there for a CLE (continuing legal education) course on “psychodrama,” a term that I became very familiar with last July while at Trial Lawyer’s College in Wyoming. Psychodrama is defined as the use of guided dramatic action to explore the problems or issues facing a person, so it can be used in all phases of life. It is particularly useful in trial because through action we can gain real understanding. This is true not only for the protagonist (the person facing the problem or issue), but for everyone involved. Imagine your favorite TV show at a pivotal scene; now imagine that you can hear everything, but you can not see the action unfolding. How much of the true story are you missing out on? Studies show that only a small percentage of the story is communicated verbally, everything else is visual. This is key then when I, as an attorney, want and need to understand my client’s story–both of the incident at issue and of their life. This is also key when, at trial, I need the jury to truly understand the issue at hand.
Another important part of psychodrama is the ability that it gives one to look beyond the facing emotion and discover what truly drives a witness to do what they have done–is it an officer with a prejudice? An expert on sexual assault, whose mother was assaulted and the impetus for her choosing this occupation? Or maybe a complaining witness, who blames the father of her child for the injuries to him–simply because if he didn’t do it, she might have, and that is something she cannot face. If I, as a trial attorney, can fully understand the motivation for the action or the testimony, then I can often respectfully expose it for what it is to the jury.
I am deeply grateful not only for the opportunity to continue discovering, learning, and practicing the Trial Lawyer’s College method, but to do so in such a beautiful environment and with so many other wonderful attorneys who, like me, are dedicated to becoming the best they can be for the sake of the clients they serve.