Judges to defense attorneys: Withdraw or ‘marry’ your client

District judges who hear criminal matters at the Regional Justice Center have a bone to pick with defense attorneys.

On Wednesday, they picked it clean when they determined a failure to withdraw from cases after they are adjudicated means the lawyer will represent the defendant "for life."

Here’s a story excerpt readers can find in today’s Las Vegas Legal News:

What’s the difference between a client and a spouse to a defense attorney?

You can get rid of your spouse.

So consented – in a manner of speaking — a plurality of Clark County district judges at Wednesday’s Criminal Division bench meeting when it was agreed attorneys must file Notices of Withdrawal.

“If you don’t withdraw you’re on for life,” said Judge Donald Mosley.

Clark County Public Defender Phil Kohn said the formality must be observed so it doesn’t create conflict issues with his office.

Division Presiding Judge Jennifer Togliatti was succinct about what will occur in her courtroom: “In Department 14, you will appear as a private attorney whether you like it or not. If they didn’t (withdraw) because they forgot, too bad.”

Habitual offender language in plea agreements, presentence investigations

Judge Abbi Silver sparked a somewhat heated discussion regarding habitual offender language that, apparently, is boilerplate in both plea agreements and presentence investigation reports.

But only half the time.

Silver said deputy public defenders are creating undue delays in her courtroom by objecting to provisions in PSIs regarding an option to sentence a defendant on one of the state’s two habitual offender statutes.

Public Defender Phil Kohn said his deputies raise the issue because it could cause confusion – and leave imprisoned a man or woman eligible for parole at a future hearing.

Silver said she has ordered Parole and Probation, which investigates and writes the reports that help judges in determining appropriate sentences.

Parole and Probation is free to make its own recommendation independent from any plea agreement reached between prosecutors, defense attorneys and defendants.

Arraignment Court Judge Melisa De La Garza said only about half of the guilty pleas she accepts include the habitual offender language, suggesting there is inconsistency on the part of the district attorney’s office.

The state must prove the defendant has two certifiable prior felony convictions in order to pursue habitual status.

Silver said it has taken roughly 30 days to get the simple redaction, resulting in inmates staying longer than necessary in the Clark County Detention Center.

Judge Ken Cory said Parole and Probation shouldn’t play a role in negotiations.

Kohn said the language has the potential to stop justice in its tracks. “We will litigate every prior,” he said. “We don’t know what the parole department will do down the line.”

Kohn conceded the issue hasn’t yet created a problem, however.

Judge Jennifer Togliatti said individual judges could request redaction.

A spokesman from Parole and Probation said redactions could be made within a week and will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Losing Track … one track that is, eliminated by Las Vegas Justice Court

Judge Togliatti said a “Big Picture” case reassignment for the entire Civil and Criminal calendar at the Regional Justice Center will be finalized sometime in October.

Several factors necessitate the need for the new assignments, but the squeeze was put on when Las Vegas Justice Courts eliminated, sua sponte, a ninth track.

The lower court is in the process of conducting its own case reassignment.

“We couldn’t adjust our tracks until we knew what their tracks are,” said Togliatti.

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