Scott Greenfield writes the best criminal defense blog in the country: Simple Justice. It is the only blog I subscribe to and read on a daily basis. Today Scott posted a story about Nicholas Bourff, the newly elected District Attorney from Starke County , Indiana. Scott reports that only three months into his new job Bourff has an idea to speed up the criminal defense system in Starke County and save taxpayers costs:
One of the proposals I’ve made is to try, even if it’s with the C and D Felonies, to see if a case is going ahead to trial, and we know it will, to see if we could get a bench trial set, which just involves the Judge, instead of a jury trial,” said Bourff.
Scott then reports that the reason Bourff came up with this great cost-saving tool was based on his experience: In my experience as a defense attorney, the majority of my clients would not have had a problem with going to a bench trial. Say what?! Scott found this statement as ludicrous as I did so he checked into Bourff’s “experience.” :
What can we learn about Bourff’s legal experience?
|Name:||Nicholas Allen Bourff|
|Practice In:||Administrative Law, Adoption, Criminal, Corporate, Business Organization, Collection, Construction Contracts, Contract, Dissolution, Divorce, Education, Estate Planning, Family Law, Juvenile Law, Land Use & Zoning, Landlord-Tenant, Mediation, Misdemeanor, Municipal, Wills & Probate, Property Damage, Public Schools, Real Estate, Residential Real Estate, State and Local, Traffic, Wills|
A bit, how shall we say, diverse for such a new lawyer? But see, right between “adoption” and “business organization,” there it is: criminal. Later on it says “misdemeanor,” though nowhere in the laundry list is felony mentioned. It should have been squeezed between “family law” and “juvenile law,” but it’s not there. Significant?
Not only is this description all over the place (never mind that it mentions every practice area EXCEPT felonies) but Bourff gained all of this experience in less than four years of practice! This DA was admitted to practice law in 2007! That means he graduated high school in 2000! Are you kidding me? The good people of Starke County elected a guy with less than four years of experience as their chief prosecutor? Who was his opponent – Justin Bieber? I dug a little deeper and found that on his campaign website he boasted that “To date, he is unbeaten in jury trials.” There is an old saying among trial lawyers that I impart to all of my law students: “Show me a lawyer who never lost a case and I will show you a lawyer who never tried a case.” There is no way you can be an experienced trial attorney and not have lost a case. It means you never were forced to go to trial on a difficult case or never tried to advance a novel theory or claim or maybe you only tried two cases and won them both. I know that I have learned so much more from my losses than my wins -its not even close.
But at least The Boy Wonder is aware of that pesky document called the Constitution:
The one major drawback there is that if a defendant wants a jury trial, he or she has that right.
Yeah, that’s a drawback alright. So apparently Bourff’s great idea to save money requires defendants and their attorneys to give up perhaps the single most important criminal defense right granted in the Constitution. You know, we’d really save money if the defendants also gave up their right to counsel. That would speed things up as well.
But then again, if the jury has to be made up of the people of the county that elected this puppy to be DA, maybe waiving a jury is not such a bad idea.