Monthly Archives: May 2014

Attorney Alexander Ransom Selected to National Trial Attorneys “Top 40 Under 40”

Excellent news! The National Trial Attorneys awarded Attorney Alexander Ransom as a “Top 40 Under 40” criminal defense attorney in Washington State.

The National Trial Lawyers is a professional organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from across the country who exemplify superior qualifications as civil plaintiff or criminal defense trial lawyers. This national organization provides networking opportunities, advocacy training, and the highest quality educational programs for trial lawyers.

http://www.thenationaltriallawyers.org/search/?search_key=Alexander+Ransom

Membership into the “Top 40 under 40” is by invitation only, and is extended exclusively to those individuals who meet stringent qualifications and specialize in the legal practice of criminal defense or civil plaintiff.

State v. Lindsay: When Attorneys Act Unprofessionally

VERY interesting opinion from the WA Supreme Court discusses the issue of attorneys having bad manners in court.

In short, the WA Supremes reversed a defendant’s conviction because the lawyers “engaged in unprofessional behavior, trading verbal jabs and snide remarks throughout the proceedings in this case.”

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/884374.pdf

The defendants were charged with Robbery, Burglary, Kidnapping, Assault and Theft of a Firearm. The jury convicted them of some, but not all counts. The WA Supreme Court reasoned that although the trial court attempted to maintain civility, the magnitude of the problem, which spilled into the prosecutor’s closing argument, requires reversal. In short, a prosecutorial misconduct involves a two-part inquiry: (1) whether the prosecutor’s comments were improper, and (2) whether tjhe improper comments caused prejudice.

The court noted that although the conflict from both the Prosecutor and Defense Counsel seemed mutual and both attorneys were at fault, Prosecutors are held to a higher standard of conduct. Additionally, some of the Prosecutor’s hijinks at Closing Argument required reversal of the conviction. For example, the Court noted that Prosecutors may not refer to defense counsel’s closing argument as a “crock.” These comments impugn Defense Counsel, and imply deception and dishonesty. The Prosecutor also said that the defendant Holmes’s testimony was “funny,” “disgusting,” “comical,” and “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

Additionally, the Prosecutor’s attempts at coupling the jigsaw puzzle analogy with a percentage of missing pieces in the defense attorney’s case was also reversible error. Moreover, comparing the reasonable doubt standard to the decision made at a cross-walk is error. In addition, telling the jury that its job is to ‘speak the truth,’ or some variation thereof, misstates the burden of proof and is also improper. A prosecutor’s stating that a witnesses’ testimony is “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard” is an improper expression of personal opinion as to credibility. Finally, a prosecutor’s behavior in whispering to the jury is improper, highly unprofessional and potentially damaging to the fairness of the proceedings.

My opinion? The WA Supremes made a good decision. Practicing law is hard. Conducting jury trials is very hard. Now imagine dealing with another attorney’s unprofessional conduct during trial. Unbelievable! Yes, these instances of misconduct happen. I speak from experience when I say it’s easy to get sucked into malicious and negative behavior, especially when attorney’s advocate in the heat of battle. Nevertheless, section 3.2 of Washington’s Rules of Professional Conduct require that attorneys be civil toward one another and the tribunal. It’s incredibly difficult for judges to analyze the legal issues over the furor of shouting attorneys. And it hurts the credibility of the entire legal institution when our citizens see us behaving badly. My heart goes out to the lawyers involved in the case. Hopefully, they worked out their differences.

How High Is Too High to Drive?

An interesting news article discussed how high is too high to drive after smoking marijuana.

http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2014/05/06/3626959/how-high-is-too-high-to-drive.html

As usual, the answers to this question were widespread:

“Pretty damned stoned is not as dangerous as drunk,” said Mark Kleiman, professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, who served as Washington state’s top pot consultant. He said Washington state has a law that’s far too strict and could lead to convictions of sober drivers, with many not even knowing whether they’re abiding by the law.

Washington state and Colorado, the only two states to fully legalize marijuana, have set a limit of five nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. In Washington state, legalization proponents included the language in the ballot initiative approved by voters in 2012.

While police can use breathalyzers to easily measure the amount of alcohol in one’s bloodstream, the best way to determine marijuana intoxication is by examining a blood sample. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court complicated the situation for states by ruling that police must get a warrant before testing blood for a DUI.

As the debate heats up, both sides can point to competing research.

In February, researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health reported that fatal crashes involving marijuana use had tripled over the past decade, with one of every nine drivers now involved in a deadly accident testing positive for pot.

My opinion? The bad news is at the moment we don’t have have anything sensible to do about stoned driving. The good news is that it’s only a moderate-sized problem. I, for one, have not seen a dramatic increase in marijuana DUI’s and/or drug DUI’s. It simply hasn’t been an issue.  The best solution, it seems, is to wait for the science to improve.