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D.A.'s Policy on Discussing Cases in the Courtroom

November 23, 1986

Recently the Orange County district attorney's office has adopted a policy of refusing to discuss cases in chambers with the court and defense counsel. This attempt by Dist. Atty. Cecil Hicks is not only unwise, it's a maneuver that will backfire and cause serious ramifications to our criminal justice system. It has already caused a serious logjam in the system.

All defendants accused of felony crimes are entitled to a jury trial within 60 days of the day of their arraignment in Orange County Superior Court. What is happening is that these cases are not being discussed and they are all being set for trial. It is impossible, due to the lack of availability of judges, prosecutors and courtrooms, to try these serious matters within the 60-day time limit if this policy of the district attorney continues.

Although Mr. Hicks's intentions may be good, the effect of this policy will be that within a very short period of time serious felony cases will have to be dismissed and defendants released from custody on charges such as rape, murder and robbery because there will be no personnel or courtrooms available.

Prior to that, what will occur is that courtrooms set aside to handle all other legal matters (civil jury trials, probate matters, domestic matters) will not be able to do so; the judges in those courtrooms will have to handle no other cases but criminal matters. This will seriously affect all of our citizens who should be entitled to access to our courtrooms and justice.

Many citizens may wonder what is wrong with the policy that requires all discussions in felony cases to be held in open court. A continuation of this policy will not only affect our court system but will also hamper the arrest and conviction of serious drug dealers in our community. The most necessary tool in the apprehension of drug dealers is the utilization of informants or "snitches." Under this new policy, no defense attorney in his right mind would discuss in open court the fact that his client is working with the police to apprehend other drug dealers.

The judges handling these serious matters are opposed and/or frustrated by this new policy. Common sense and the support of our citizens will persuade the district attorney to reverse his decision. He must do so before serious felons are released from custody.

PAUL J. WALLIN

Tustin

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