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'Keeping Court Doors Open'

March 01, 1987

Dist. Atty. Cecil Hicks in his Commentary (Feb. 15), "Keeping Courtroom Doors Open," said his client, "the public," has a right to know all the actions of its lawyer, the district attorney, and for that reason all cases must be discussed in open court, not in the judge's chambers.

Shame on Mr. Hicks. His statements can only be based on a belief that his own deputies have been doing something wrong in chambers and that they have been refusing to tell their client (the public) or anyone who asks what exactly they have done.

Such a belief is far from the truth. Having observed these deputies on a daily basis for the last 20 years, I can attest that they are extremely dedicated to their client (the public) and almost all have spent a great deal of time explaining accurately to anyone who asks what went on in chambers.

I recall, more than 20 years ago, Mr. Hicks, himself, personally participated in "secretive conferences." Did he refuse to tell the public what went on in chambers? Of course not. His deputies now are no different.

Since these chambers conferences have existed for 20 years, where is the hue and cry from the client (public) saying, "You never tell me anything!"

The district attorney's edict prohibiting conferences in chambers is simply a very expensive and troublesome answer to a non-problem.

Most defense attorneys are seriously trying to settle cases. No one goes to trial solely to prove the district attorney's policy is unworkable.

Likewise, no one seriously believes that there will be dismissals if trial is demanded. The district attorney's policy, however, makes the system cumbersome and thus fewer cases settle.

Deputy prosecutors over the years have performed well, serving the public in chambers, demanding heavy prison sentences and speaking to the public upon request.

My suggestion for Mr. Hicks is this: Have faith in your deputies. They can communicate extremely well with your client.

ALLAN H. STOKKE

Santa Ana

Stokke is a former deputy district attorney and a certified specialist in criminal law.

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