|Judge Jennifer Sletvold|
A lawyer who represents someone in a criminal case has a duty to represent his client zealously within the bounds of the law Regardless of personal beliefs, his job is to insure that the person he represents gets the best possible defense he can provide. But this runs counter to a factory system of criminal justice in which defense lawyers are all too often regarded by judges as the third wheel on a bicycle rolling an accused off a cliff.
Judges are interested in putting up numbers. That's why they want a conflicts counsel present on arraignment day, when over a hundred people are herded in and out like cattle. That conflicts counsel, who should only represent indigent defendants because of a conflict in the Public Defender's office, will approach Defendants who could easily afford a lawyer and "represent " them for free. The goal is to rush an unwitting defendant, who just might be innocent, into a plea. If that ruins his life, well that's just too bad. The court can retreat to its sanctum sanctorum, isolated from the public, and grow increasingly concerned about low class people who always are getting in trouble.
Recently, there was a conflicts counsel who actually thought his job was to represent his clients zealously. So he filed all kinds of motions But some were febrile. He even tried to subpoena an assistant DA whom he thought had committed perjury. Some of his work was the product of being both callow and a bit too enthusiastic.
Instead of seasoning and encouraging him, the court stopped using him.
All of this brings us to Clinton Oxford, who was stalking and threatening his probation officer. She is a very nice person and consummate professional. I sat in on part of the trial. Oxford was guilty as hell, and obviously needs help for mental health issues as well as substance abuse. Not only did Sletvold deny a mental health evaluation, but she waxed him up with a 10-19 1/2 year sentence, which is ridiculously harsh. .
Was Judge Sletvold biased?
Before she was a judge, Sletvold once represented this probation officer and disclosed this fact. Nobody complained until Oxford was convicted, so he's in no position to complain now.
But Sletevold is most certainly biased. So is the entire court. That's because the victimized probation officer is a judicial employee. She works for the judges. There is no way they were going to allow Clinton Oxford to walk after terrorizing one of their own. But trial lawyer Tony Ryback was repeatedly chastised when he tried to make this argument, even to the point of admonishing him in front of the jury and dragging in the Chief Public Defender in an attempt to intimidate him further.
The NorCo probation office had the pre-sentence report prepared by another county precisely because they had the good sense to recognize they were biased. So is the court.
The two lawyers at whom Judge Sletvold has directed her venom - Tony Rybak and Tyree Blair - made many arguments I consider spurious. Rybak's courtroom antics and brief on appeal are feckless. Tyree Blair's reference to nonexsistent Facebook conversation between judge and victim or Morning Call conversations between judge and reporter are risibly absurd. But as Judge Sletvold seems to have forgotten, they both had an obligation to provide a zealous representation. Blair made clear that he had no evidence to back up these strange allegations, so he acted within the bounds of the law.
In short, they both acted ethically. Sletvold did not. She observed that Oxford, the man she sent away for ten years, demonstrated a "marked lack of boundaries." She adds that Rybak and Blair "have demonstrated that they share this quality."
Maybe she should send them away for 10-19 1/2 years.
Sletvold's opinion castigates two lawyers who decided to do their job instead of making it easy for the court to rack up numbers. Hopefully, the defense bar has noticed.