About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Judge Sletvold's Intimidation of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Judge Jennifer Sletvold
I was appalled this past weekend by Riley Yates' story that Judge Jennifer Sletvold had recused herself in a stalking and terroristic threats case against Clinton Oxford. I thought that Yates might have misinterpreted what she said, so I got the opinion myself (You can read it below). Yates was right on the money. Sletvold engaged in blatant judicial intimidation aimed right at the criminal defense bar. Her ruling is designed to have a chilling impact on the Sixth Amendment right to the assistance of counsel in criminal cases.

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.


22 comments:

Anonymous said...

An example of judicial arrogance from an inexperienced judge.

Harvey said...

Clinton Oxford was one of your best posters, hope you visit him often and put money on his books so the Black Guerilla Family doesn't make him into a meat puppet.

#FreeClinton

Anonymous said...

Bernie, be careful! Jen Sletvolt is a very vindictive person and she holds grudges in perpetuity.
I know this from personal experience with this shallow woman!

Watch how she treats you beginning today forward and you will see what I mean.

Anonymous said...

So this story has no GOOD guys only BAD guys. A terrible judge, who should not have been elected in the first place. A criminal, who has repeatedly broken laws. And a couple of feeble, inept lawyers. 3 blind mouses

Anonymous said...

She's our version of New Jersey and its bully / asshole of a governor.

Robert Trotner said...

In my humble opinion, the court has come down a long way since I practiced and Judge Friedberg was President Judge.

Anonymous said...

Better not run into her in the cafeteria, Bernie. A scolding cup of coffee may end up poured on your head.

Anonymous said...

Clinton was wrong. He really messed up but this extreme sentence was god awful unbelievable. He did not deserve to have a boulder dropped on him by this judge. It is obvious she had an axe to grind and was going to make a fine example of Oxford for all to marvel at and boy did she ever come thru. Reduction is sentence is called for under the now public circumstances that have been revealed here and at the Morning Call offices.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Bernie, be careful! Jen Sletvolt is a very vindictive person and she holds grudges in perpetuity."

I could understand her anger at having her integrity impugned, but she has to understand that the lawyers involved here were just doing their job, however inartfully. Criminal defense lawyers should take notice of these recent trends.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Clinton was wrong. He really messed up but this extreme sentence was god awful unbelievable. He did not deserve to have a boulder dropped on him by this judge. It is obvious she had an axe to grind and was going to make a fine example of Oxford for all to marvel at and boy did she ever come thru. Reduction is sentence is called for under the now public circumstances that have been revealed here and at the Morning Call offices."

Bingo. It is a ridiculously harsh sentence. But in my view, the ENTIRE bench is tainted by virtue of the probation officer's employment by the court. How can the probation office recognize this conflict, but not the court?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Clinton Oxford was one of your best posters, hope you visit him often and put money on his books so the Black Guerilla Family doesn't make him into a meat puppet."

Clinton Oxford was one of my regular commenters before he began using again. I was repeatedly and falsely accused of impersonating him by Jim Gregory and Tricia Mezzacappa. When I pointed this out, Mezzacappa claimed that comments from Clinton Oxford were posted here after his arrest. That was false, too. In fact, he stopped commenting here several months before his arrest because he was using again.

Anonymous said...

If sletvold is the committed public servant she should be, she will demonstrate that commitment by accepting her flaws and step down and over to something she can do appropriately to serve her community, her county, and her country, if she doesn't she validates her selfish need to be a person in power who stinkin' thinkin' will occasionally appear in special interest at the expense of the innocent or less established. Please step down judge, Deep inside you know you're not fit. You won't make this country great again, you're the privileged status quo.

Anonymous said...

Bernie this is a great searing piece but you're missing the elephant in the room, Clinton was one of Jim Gregory's biggest detractors on this blog during the summer of 2013. Gregory on his WGPA program "The Mouth That Roared" stumped eloquently for Jen Sletvold and made no secret Unity PAC 108 was backing her. Could the harsh sentence for Clinton have been some form of political payback for Gregory's handiwork?

Anonymous said...

Just another day in the life of Northampton County....

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Bernie, although I don't think you have the moral compass to dictate the ethical and moral integrity of the court you have hit the nail on the head here.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have a very nice moral compass, but I broke it.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it takes a broken man to identify and fix a broken system..so don't take it personal

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't. I'm hardly a role model for anyone and I also pick my nose. Fortunately, several persons who never sin or go to the bathroom have reached the same conclusion.

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:42, Let's refrain from calling people names or making misogynistic remarks. That helps nothing. I took Judge Sletvold to task because I believe her opinion is designed to chill the Sixth Amendment. I have avoided attacking her personally and will not host personal attacks.

Anonymous said...

Sletvold is vindictive and totally inexperienced. This is totally visible here. Hopefully the voters remember when retention of the judge is on the ballot!

Anonymous said...

Judges rarely admit they have a conflict or bias, but it's the appearance of a conflict that should have triggered her recusal. Scolding public defenders and criminal defense attorneys for doing their job is downright unacceptable. I wish some out of county defense attorneys would swoop down in Northampton County and change the sick environment that the present judiciary has created...an environment that the present bar succumbs to.