This is directed mostly to those who will never read it: inmates awaiting trial.
But it's a situation that we see every week, so I thought I'd share. Here's what happens:
A sexual assault case. The prosecution is seeking prison time because of the nature of the crime and the defendant's history of violence. The defendant, having been to prison and not liking it, wants a probated sentence. There is, then, an impasse in negotiations.
The defense lawyer explains that probation will never happen and that if his client doesn't take the deal, they are headed to trial. The client doesn't want a trial, he thinks he'll lose.
What he does want is to talk to the judge.
So the defense lawyer tells the judge negotiations are failing and his client wants to talk to him directly and won't accept any other course of action. Why? Because he doesn't understand the judge's role. He thinks that a judge, because of the many powers he does have, can also forge a deal.
But he can't. A plea deal can only be reached by a prosecutor and defendant('s lawyer). The judge merely signs off on it.
So what usually happens is that my judge, Mike Lynch, tries to explain that. He'll tell the defendant he's not a party to the negotiations and that if he doesn't like the deal his only other option is to go to trial.
The way inmates talk to each other, spread rumors and give "advice," you might think the role of the judge would be better understood by now. But apparently not.
A long docket this morning, and I bet at least one inmate will ask to speak to the judge, hoping he'll sweeten the deal and take the defendant's side in plea negotiations. The judge won't, of course, he'll give his usual speech.
But think about it the other way around. Imagine if the judge weighed in on our side, pressured the defendant to take our deal. That possibility, I trust, makes it clear why a judge must remain neutral.