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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

DA: No Law Clerk May Serve Two Masters (Updated)

In a series of reports that began last week, I've been critical of Northampton County's nine overpaid and underworked judicial law clerks. But I only told you part of the story. There's another kind of law clerk brought in just for senior judges or whenever a case is too complicated for a recent law school grad to handle.I call these contract law clerks..I am in the process of finding out who they are and how much Northampton County taxpayers are paying for them every year. These are Northampton County lawyers with their own caseload. other cases, too. If you have a matter in Northampton County, and the lawyer on the other side is someone the court hires to write opinions from time to time, you would obviously be concerned that the judge will be more willing to listen to his pet than you. But this potential conflict is never disclosed.

One of these contract clerks was challenged in criminal court yesterday by DA John Morganelli. Ironically, it's in a drug overdose homicide, a case in which ironically the entire bench was required to recuse itself. So Senior Judge John Braxton was imported from Philadelphia. Attorney Catherine "Kate" Kollet was brought aboard as his law clerk.

Catherine the Conflicts Counsel

Kollet is an Easton attorney with an active law practice.She is also a "conflicts counsel," meaning that she represents indigent criminal defendants where the Public Defender's office is unable to represent them because there is a conflict in that office. But even that representation has been perverted by the court.

Kollet is at every arraignment. That's the day in which a Defendant is formally notified that he's facing criminal charges in county court. The court usually schedules over 100 of these at a time, and they are heard by Senior Judge Leonard Zito.

This is "Let's make a deal" day. Defendants are told this is the day they are going to get the best deal they're going to see. Though arraignment is supposed to be a day in which a defendant is advised of his pretrial rights, he's instead urged to cop a plea.

Public defenders are there to represent defendants who have been approved. But many defendants are there pro se (without a lawyer) and have not yet applied for a lawyer.

This is where Kollet comes into play. She represents these pro se defendants for a day, even though they've made no application for a public defender. Some of them have jobs and could afford a lawyer, but the court wants to wrap things up. Her real role has nothing to do with assuring that important constitutional rights are preserved. She's there to play "Let's make a deal. Instead of serving as a true counsel, she's a third wheel on the criminal justice bicycle that makes a mockery of a defendant's rights.

The defense bar should be up in arms about the way things are, but they've learned to go along to get along.

Catherine the Clerk

In addition to being a conflicts counsel, Kollet is also used by Senior Judges Leonard Zito to write opinions. When Judge John Braxton was imported from Philly to hear the heroin overdose case, Kollet the Conflicts Counsel was wearing her Catherine the Clerk cap.

Morganelli objected.

His argument is that Kollet has two masters. She is simultaneously a criminal defense attorney who is at least supposed to be representing Defendants and at the same time is assisting a court do legal research and write opinions in a criminal matter.

This is an obvious conflict of interest. But Braxton the journeyman judge overruled the DA.

He's wrong. The Code of Conduct (pages 6 and 7) specifically prohibits a full-time law clerk from representing clients in the court by which she is employed. A contract clerk should be similarly barred from representing clients in Northampton County while working for the court.

You might ask what the hell does a bottom-feeding blogger know about ethics. Well, as someone whose license was suspended in 1985 for ethical misconduct, I'm a frickin' expert.

Updated 9:55 am: I have been contacted by the courts and informed that Kate Kollet does NOT write opinions for Senior Judge Leonard Zito. She apparently only works for Judge Braxton. I have corrected my story accordingly.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another example of corrupt conduct running rampant in NC. We know it pervades the government, but the non-bias judiciary? This whole batch of political whores got to go; including the judiciary. The problem is that the common voter in NC is apathetic when it comes to judicial retention!

Ken Kraft said...

This keeps getting deeper and deeper

Anonymous said...

Why was the entire Norco bench DQed? Did every judge have a conflict?

Anonymous said...

Very interesting

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
I was subjected to this kate conflict lady in lehighcounty too? She was presented with third party evidence that has never ever seemed to be put to the case before her and it has been almost two years and the local conflicts shitstew is still brewing? Hence; palumpas political pot o blue juice?
As for defending, I do not know what infact this lady done if anything, but I do know for a fact she was paid to act as if she done something when in fact she was like some counterparts and just a cardbord cutout prop at the circus entrance gate!
REpublican redd
not joining nor traveling in eithier carnival circus sideshow parade throughout the nation

JoAnn Kennedy said...

this reminds me of the old circuit preachers who go from court house to court house doing the legal-ease preaching ? here 's a question how much money is Kollet et al getting for this travelling Legal road show ? Oh he just answered the question Bernie Yes it's going on in other county court houses as well. At least Lehigh County Court house -- and I for, one am having a hard time justifying the appointment of other judges from other areas, for trial. If this Judge was from Philly (another home charter political sub division) why did they not move the trail to Philly. (yes you can file for change of venue )

JoAnn Kennedy said...

she is there to make a deal quid pro quo

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
with the story published today about the importation and incubation of a cistern in pa, you just can't find humor in the entire area like this anywhere. Sorry but I have REredd this one with a different colured tint to my tinfoil cap that seems to be glued to my head to keep my brain from spilling out unto the floor with laughter.

JoAnn Kennedy said...

Well I posted this story on facebook and I was censored hmmm

Anonymous said...

There have been numerous allegations from other attorneys as I have been conducting business on a regular basis with Kollet. She is favored essentially by many of the Judges in Northampton County. She's an ambulance chaser looking for cases, she's unethical in her pleadings to the court and often does ex-parte communication and has yet to be reprimanded by the court. Where does it end.