Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

Court Watch

Posted by Maggie on December 6, 2007

The Fulton County DA has a less than stellar reputation among the local bar. I’ve railed against them repeatedly for their inefficiency in the prosecution of Brian Nichols. I recently heard about a program the DA’s office is bringing back called Court Watch. The program is similar to one I read about a few months ago on I Was The State. It consists of bringing members of the community in to observe court proceedings in cases where the DA really wants to win. My guess is that they particularly target bond hearings. Their specific goal: to influence the Judge. (No, seriously. I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth.)

I wanted so badly to look at them and say, “Really?” Because I always thought judges were supposed to be fair and impartial. Sure, prosecutors and defense attorneys have a job to provide two sides of an argument to the Judge, but the Judge is supposed to be a fair arbiter. I’ve heard plenty of Judges say how they aren’t influenced by the crying mothers of defendants in their courtrooms. It happens a lot, they can’t necessarily let it influence their decision. But I would argue that the same should be true for community members all crowded in the courtroom because the DA sent them an email saying this is a case they should care about. They’re not there because of any personal knowledge of the defendant or victim, but because the DA got the word out. To me, they have less of a right to influence a Judge than the mother of that defendant who’s getting sentenced.

I hope the Judges of Fulton County are able to step above and be fair, no matter who is in their courtroom. Simple Justice gave a nice example of this today. Any attorney, no matter what side they’re on, is happier going into a courtroom if they trust the Judge and know they’ll get a fair fight.

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