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Sunday, May 06, 2012

"Ask the Judge" Column continues in La Prensa of SA, 5-6

Ask the Judge: Legal advice in Court, Part 3 recap
By Judge Steve Walker

For the past two weeks in “Ask the Judge” I informed La Prensa readers that it is not out of the ordinary for plaintiffs or defendants to pose the question “Now what do I do?” to the Judge once their case is heard.

I also pointed out in the column both Sundays that as the sitting Judge I am not allowed to answer that question or many others from the bench based on the fact that it would be construed as “legal advice.”

I wrote, “By doing so I would in essence be acting as your lawyer.” In the judicial it is considered “conflict of interest” if I act as a judge and as an attorney simultaneously. It is deemed unacceptable by law and as judge I can face reprimand or worse if I do so.

In most courts it is standard practice for the majority of judges to direct the defendants or plaintiffs to “Consult an attorney.” It keeps us out of legal harm’s way. Most questions both sides tend to ask can be better answered by court clerks who can direct you to someone knowledgeable, be it a lawyer or other than the judge for answers.

Defendants and plaintiffs can request assistance by the clerks in the procedure to filling out necessary various forms and additional paperwork. There are usually at least one or more clerks to assist you in filling out the requisite forms.

In Pct. 2, the clerks can be found in the lobby hallway behind one of 12 glass booths to help anyone who needs assistance and re-direction to the right person to solve their problem, which again most likely will be an attorney.

As stated in the columns from the past two weeks, I am able to only offer “suggestions” with the reader that I am not allowed to express when I am in court and hearing cases on the bench.

Two columns ago I addressed questions about traffic tickets. Last week I addressed common questions from both sides that I hear in Small Claims Court after I award a judgment in favor of the plaintiff.

I cannot stress enough that either side that loses, has the option to appeal to County Court if they do not like the decision made in Justice of the Peace Court.

In Small Claims the litigants have ten days to file an appeal of the verdict. In Traffic Court it is half that. If he/she does not contest the verdict, the decision stands.

In Eviction Court, defendants also have five days to appeal or move out and plaintiffs can re-file at a later date when they can successfully prove a tenant legitimately owes them rent. If the defendant decides to appeal to the County Court, they must post a bond equal to one month’s rent and the process goes from there.

Being knowledgeable beforehand on any kind of case will also make the process go much quicker for a better result.

Lastly as always, if you are due in court, be sure to show up to court on time. It is in everyone’s best interest.

Justice of the Peace, Pct. 2 Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and a former Journalist. Published in the Sunday edition of La Prensa for the 62nd consecutive week.

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