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Summoning Bill Clinton and Paula Jones on the path to a DWI victory

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Recently, a  Maryland prosecutor left me a voicemail asking my consent to continue our drunk driving trial date because the main police officer was on paternity leave, saying that police department policy was for officers not to testify while on paternity/maternity leave. That struck me as fanciful, at the very least, when considering that such parental leave can take months and thus would threaten speedy trial rights if judges routinely trials around paternity and maternity leave.

Moreover, one knows months in advance that parental leave is around the corner, when considering that even prematurely-born children take several months to be born. I asked the prosecutor how long the officer had been on paternity leave — to counter his late notice to me the day before trial about paternity leave — and the prosecutor did not know.

In 1997, a unanimous Supreme Court rejected Bill Clinton’s argument to defer the Paula Jones litigation until his presidential term ended. Clinton v. Jones, 580 U.S. 681 (1997). Seeing that Clinton had such weighty matters on his presidential plate, clearly a police officer is no more entitled to have litigation deferred for parental leave than Clinton was for handling affairs of state.

When I raised Clinton v. Jones in arguing against the prosecutor’s postponement request, the judge chuckled and asked whether Clinton involved parental leave. Of course Clinton did not involve parental leave. Nevertheless, the judge denied a postponement, noting such factors as our case’s advancing age and the prosecutor’s prior continuance (over my objection) for the same officer’s alleged illness.

Before the prosecutor presented his oral continuance motion to the judge, a colleague opined that many judges are reluctant to deny prosecutorial continuances on drunk driving cases, out of concern for public safety. Hopefully that is not true. Prosecutors, not judges, are solely responsible for being prepared for trial.

After the judge denied the prosecutor’s continuance request, the prosecutor proceeded forward that same day with the trial. putting on one sole witness, who says he saw my client in his rearview mirror before being rearended by my client. The prosecutor told the judge in opening that he was not sure whether the witness would have information to prove the drunk driving allegation, and would explore that on the witness stand. Prosecutors should check such matters before starting trial, but I was more than happy to have a DWI acquittal around the corner, rather than to have the prosecutor dismiss the drunk driving charges only to risk my client’s being recharged for DWI (but if there was a recharge, I would have argued to dismiss on speedy trial grounds).

Although the judge convicted my client for the non-jailable moving violation of failure to control speed to avoid a collision, he acquitted my client of the drunk driving charges. For my client, that was a great result.

ADDENDUM: As an aside, I briefly worked at the same law firm (I was there nearly two years before becoming my own boss in 1998) with Joe Cammarata, who with Gil Davis (arguing before the Supreme Court) won Clinton v. Jones in the Supreme Court, before withdrawing from the case and at some point being replaced by the Rutherford Institute. Joe, a likable man, is still at that same law firm (primarily representing injury victims), where television reporters occasionally came to interview him on the Paula Jones case after his representation of her had terminated.