Pardon the scarcity of blog posts into the fall and early winter of 2013. The end of the year has been an extremely active, busy and satisfying time here at the Office. One of my new years resolutions is to post more information to the blog, and I really hope to live up to it in the coming year.
I did however want to share one success story before we turn the page to 2014.
I was able to secure a not guilty verdict after trial for a client charged with Criminal Contempt in the First Degree, which is a felony level offense that carried with it the possibility of state prison time. The trial occurred in the unique setting of the Integrated Domestic Violence (IDV) part of Supreme Court, something that few clients have ever even heard of before they find themselves there.
The idea behind IDV is to consolidate criminal cases and family court actions into one court where the parties in each of the cases are the same. So, for instance, in the recent case that I tried, my client was charged criminally with violating an order of protection (hence the criminal contempt charge, in that the client was accused of violating a court order) by having contact with the same person who the client was opposing in a family court custody and visitation action regarding a child that the parties had in common. The theory is to make the proceedings more efficient by having them occur in one court simultaneously. (Whether the theory actually matches up with how things go in real life I will leave for another day.)
In IDV you will find criminal cases from simple misdemeanors all the way up to violent felonies combined with family court cases like custody, visitation and family offense proceedings. The program is about a decade old, and has had many judges presiding over it through the years, including Judges Alex Renzi, Daniel Doyle, Elma Bellini and Gail Donofrio of Supreme Court. At present Judge John Gallagher of Family Court is assigned there. The DA’s Office and Public Defender also staff IDV with attorneys specifically assigned there. Oftentimes and depending on the circumstances there are also attorneys assigned by the Court to represent the children involved in the cases. These attorneys (I am one of them) are specially trained as part of the Attorneys for the Child Program.
It takes a unique skill set to practice in IDV. Obviously an attorney needs to know how to handle both criminal and family cases, but it goes a little deeper than that, in my opinion. Whether for good or ill, there is a give and take and an interplay between how the criminal and family aspects of the cases proceed. While in theory the criminal and family cases are supposed to proceed on parallel tracks, how cases are evaluated and screened, how negotiations proceed and how resolutions are crafted often bring the two cases together in attempts to reach “global” solutions. Many times outside agencies like Child Protective Services and Probation are involved in the cases too. As always, experience is the best teacher for attorneys in representing clients in a unique court like IDV. Speaking for myself, I have been handling cases there going back to at least 2007.
Specifically as to this most recent trial, my client, thank goodness, was smart enough to take advantage of the recording capabilities of a cell phone, at the encounter was captured entirely on audio and partially on video so everyone could hear and (somewhat) see what happened. It was clear, at least to me, that at no time did my client violate the terms of the order of protection as was alleged in the indictment, and the verdict reflected that. There was some discussion prior to the trial about the admissibility of the recording, but relying on the great work of my investigator and my computer forensics expert we were able to take care of that potential issue.
I look forward to being able to report more positive results for clients just like this in 2014. If you find yourself in a situation where you think I might be of assistance, I invite you to contact me right away.
Happy 2014, everyone.
(As always, past results do not guarantee future outcomes.)