And, as to the criminal case that was the reason for disciplinary history, "coincidentally", both attorneys in that case were disciplined, for different reasons - one was reprimanded and the other was disbarred.
The reprimanded attorney Mitchell Robinson, the one who was denied entry into the ISIS-suspect case, allegedly did not do investigations in a drug-trafficking case in 2014 which resulted in invalidation of the conviction, instead, relying on investigation by the co-defendant's counsel, and reportedly did not utilize potentially exculpatory evidence to absolve his client of charges, instead entering a stipulation that helped the government secure a conviction.
Yet, Mitchell Robinson was not suspended or disbarred, he has a valid law license, and thus, the court had no right to interfere into a criminal defendant's choice of counsel.
Nor was there any indication that the PROSECUTION in the same case where the prosecution pushed for conviction - and convicted - Mr. Robinson's client, despite having exculpatory evidence indicating that she was not guilty, was disciplined.
Two criminal defense attorney out of the same case disciplined, and no prosecutor - how typical.
As to ineffective assistance of counsel because of failure of the defense counsel to hire investigators, in some areas, like our God-forsaken Delaware County, New York, failure to order investigations, including to make a motion to the court by an assigned counsel for funds for experts and investigators - is simply a new standard of representation.
I know of several botched-up criminal cases in Delaware County, NY and in surrounding counties, both assigned and private, where a lot of money was paid to local attorneys, where attorneys hired no investigators whatsoever and did no investigative work of their own, instead pushing their clients into pleas or into unprepared trials, with no discovery or motions made before the trial.
Actually, being on the list of assigned counsel in Delaware County, New York is conditioned on:
- doing no discovery,
- making no motions, especially motions to recuse a judge or disqualify a prosecutor;
- asking for no money for investigators or experts.
Going back to the ISIS-suspect case, any criminal defendant has a right to a counsel OF HIS CHOICE, whether that choice is right or wrong, and a judge has no authority to deny a criminal defendant his choice of counsel. I believe, the judge's denial of the choice of counsel to the criminal defendant, because the counsel requested was Mitchell Robinson, previously reprimanded and disciplined for "ineffective assistance of counsel", is a constitutional violation and a reversible error.
Mr. Robinson's failure to hire investigators in the previous case has no bearing on his ability to TRY a case. Once again, his license was not suspended or revoked, and he was not prohibited to handle more criminal cases.
I will follow this case, as the judge apparently made a reversible error, depriving a criminal defendant, in a high-stakes case, of a trial counsel of his choice.
I am not making any judgement calls about Mr. Robinson.
I am only indicating that when a criminal defendant chooses his private counsel in a criminal case, a court has no authority to interfere with that choice.
By the way, here is the list of counsel for the criminal defendant in the matter, Mr. Hamza Ahmed, and the list of prosecutors, just for comparison.
The list of criminal defense counsel (this is as of today, where Mr. Robinson was not allowed to be substituted, but is still listed as Mr. Ahmed's defense attorney):
So, at this time, Mr. Ahmed is represented by ONE ASSIGNED defense attorney.
Here is the prosecution team:
The prosecution team counts FIVE prosecutors against ONE assigned defense attorney.
Now - why wouldn't the court assign FIVE defense attorneys to counter FIVE prosecutors? And while denying Mr. Ahmed representation by a private attorney of his own choice?
Here is the decision of Judge Michael J. Davis denying Mr. Ahmed's right to a retained counsel of his choice.
Judge Michael J. Davis claims concern about alleged lack of experience of attorney Mitchell Robinson in a "high stakes case".
The case is a "high stakes case", just look at the number of counts against Mr. Ahmed:
Yet, a retained attorney of Mr. Ahmed's choice is denied to him, and an assigned counsel, ONE against FIVE prosecutors, is forced upon Mr. Ahmed, even though Mr. Ahmed has FIRED her, HIRED ANOTHER ATTORNEY, and the fired assigned counsel consented to the substitution:
While the judge claims concern about the criminal defendant, that concern whether a retained attorney will be able or willing to look through thousands of pages of discovery, is undermined by the judge's failure to equalize resources of the defense to resources of the prosecution by assigning as many attorneys to the defense team, as the prosecution team has, and by providing extra resources for review of those thousands of pages of documents by the assigned counsel.
It is more that I sense in this case the same motivation as Becker had not assigning David Roosa to the case and insisting on assigned counsel - in order to be able to control the amount of advocacy provided to the criminal defendant in a "high stakes case".
I must note here that Judge Davis' biography shows an extremely scant time that he worked as a private criminal defense attorney, while he did work for a considerable time as a public defender.
In his order denying representation by a private retained counsel, after the public defender (one) appointed by the court to counter a team of five prosecutors, was fired, Judge Davis wrote this:
Ok, so Judge Davis, based on his alleged own personal 40 years' experience with the criminal justice system, makes a judgement call, as an advocate for the criminal defendant, that the new retained attorney chosen by the criminal defendant is not good for him.
That's a violation of the Mr. Ahmed's constitutional right to counsel of his own choice, especially that the attorney who he is forced to accept representation of the attorney who he just fired - and it makes no difference whether he, as the court noted, did or did not have arguments or irreconcilable differences with that attorney.
Nobody denies Mr. Ahmed's assigned counsel JaneAnne Murray her credentials as a criminal defense attorney.
Yet, in this case, she is a FIRED attorney, FORCED upon the client who FIRED and REPLACED her.
A fired attorney can, at least theoretically, hold a grudge - and that is a problem in a "high stakes case". That's as one problem.
The other, main problem, that the currently assigned attorney is not Mr. Ahmed's attorney of choice. Mr. Ahmed's attorney of choice, Mr. Robinson, a criminal defense attorney of 30 years of experience and only 1 reprimand (not matched with reprimand of the prosecutor in the same criminal case, which screams selective enforcement of laws), was not allowed - because of Judge Davis' personal dislike of private criminal defense attorneys who charge a flat fee, and that statement spells jealousy of the judge, and requires, in my opinion, removal of the judge from the case, because:
- the judge attempted to pretend to be an advocate for the criminal defendant;
- the judge substituted the defendant's choice of counsel by the judge's choice of counsel;
- the judge assigned an inadequate - in number - criminal defense team as opposed to the existing prosecution team and did not provide to that defense team adequate resources to deal with the "high stakes case";
- the judge forced upon the criminal defendant a just-fired criminal defense attorney as his only counsel in a high-stakes criminal trial
- the judge denied the criminal defendant a retained counsel of his choice because of the judge's dislike of private criminal defense attorneys charging a flat fee for trial.
It seems to me that we see in Mr. Ahmed's case a Becker syndrome Mr. Roosa described in his lawsuit, where a judge prefers to have on the case a just-fired assigned counsel whose "scope of advocacy" the judge can control (by future assignments) instead of a retained counsel who the judge simply disliked and had jealousy about because of his "flat fee".
Here, Ms. Murray's scope of advocacy will be controlled not only by the waiving of the "carrot and stick" by the judge - the express intent to satisfy the billing of an outgoing assigned counsel before the final resolution of the case while banning from a case the hired retained counsel because of his "flat fee" retainer agreement that the judge did not like.
Ms. Murray's scope of advocacy was and is clearly controlled by her lack of resources. One assigned criminal defense attorney faced with about 60,000 pages of discovery against a team of five prosecutors, with the supporting resources and power of the U.S. Attorney's office has little, if any chance of effective representation and successful defense.
It is clear that Judge Davis sends signals to the assigned counsel "to be good", at least by expressing a touching concern for the assigned counsel bills - before the criminal case even concluded:
Satisfying billing of an outgoing counsel before the final resolution of the criminal case seems strange.
And, the retainer agreement of Mr. Robinson was irrelevant to the decision of the judge whether to allow his representation, and should not have been even requested or considered by the court.
One other problem is that the judge required from the defendant to "provide to the court justification for substitution of counsel at this time".
The court is not entitled to an explanation on this subject. A criminal defendant, especially in a case with stakes as high as here, has an absolute right to an attorney of his choice at ANY stage of litigation. He can change his counsel, if he feels the counsel does not represent him to his satisfaction, in the middle of the trial, and the court has no right to inquire as to why.
The amount of discovery "turned over to date" is irrelevant as to whether Mr. Robinson could or could not step in to represent Mr. Ahmed.
It was clearly unfair to expect Mr. Robinson to review 28,000 pages of discovery BEFORE he was allowed to step into the case. Usually, the new counsel does it AFTER he steps into the case, and the court provides him an adjournment to do that.
Mr. Robinson did not state to the court that he WILL NOT review discovery.
Mr. Ahmed's previous attorney had a year to review those thousands of pages, and Mr. Robinson should not have been put on the spot because he did not do in the short time after he was hired, what the previous counsel did over a year's time.
Judge Davis' claims of protecting the criminal defendant from an allegedly bad retained lawyer Mr. Robinson do not fly very far because the judge himself did not assign enough defense attorneys and resources to provide effective representation of counsel.
It is clear that Judge Davis was seeking to prevent a retained counsel to step into the case and see what may have been done wrong there - and in that, Judge Davis is clearly helping the prosecution.
My expert opinion is that the case is going towards a reversal on appeal full swing, because of Judge Davis' refusal to allow Mr. Ahmed to have a criminal defense attorney of his choice - and that is a huge waste of money for the taxpayers, not only injustice to Mr. Ahmed.
Stay tuned for the continued coverage of this case.
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