EXPOSING UNFAIR PROCEDURES IN A COMPTON COURTHOUSE

Heres a good article i found on the Wave newspapers website. Everyone can relate. Nothing is worst than dealing with the court system.

In challenging what he sees as unfair procedures against defendants in the Compton Superior Court Traffic Division, Rod Henley is taking action not just for himself — his own case was eventually dismissed — but for others whose rights he believes are routinely violated.

According to Henley and others who agree with his interpretation of the law, his rights were violated when Commissioner Robert McSorley violated Penal Code 1050, which gives defendants the right to a speedy trial within 45 days after arraignment. The law also calls for charges to be dismissed if the defendant is not brought to trial within a 45-day period — provided the delay was not requested by, consented to or caused by the defendant.

In March of last year, Henley received a traffic ticket, to which he later pled not guilty. He was scheduled for a court appearance less than three months later. Upon appearing for his arraignment — at which time he posted bail — the court set a July trial date that was within the 45-day limit.

During the trial, the citing officer failed to appear without good cause — an absence many defendants would expect to result in dismissal of the case. Still, over Henley’s objection, the trial was continued until September. A motion to dismiss — filed in August — was denied. The case was eventually dismissed in September, after the citing officer failed to appear for a second time. In all, 88 days passed after the arraignment.

Determined to expose what he saw as a clear violation of his and others’ rights, Henley detailed his grievances in a Sept. 14 letter to Presiding Superior Court Judge John Cheroske. In a follow-up letter written the next month to Supervising Judge Peter Espinoza, Henley wrote that “The Compton court is routinely violating the constitutional rights of a poor and underrepresented class of people. They fail to follow the law and instead have instituted their own policy abrogating the mandates of Penal Code 1050.

“This case should have been dismissed July 29,” he added. “The commissioner had a second opportunity to dismiss my case based on my motion filed on Aug. 20. Furthermore, on my initial trial date on July 29 the commissioner, after calling a Somali defendant that had an interpreter to the podium, postponed the trial twice within one hour, and asked him to ‘wait around’ until the officer got there from a case in Long Beach. The commissioner ultimately continued this trial when it was discovered that the officer would not make the trial. He also continued other defendants’ trials when other officers did not show up on that day … I saw no less than five violations on the date of my first trial setting.”

It is Henley’s impression that the McSorley felt justified in taking these apparently improper actions, because few defendants in the Compton courthouse have the resources or legal knowledge to challenge his rulings.
Cheroske did not return calls for comment, but in a Sept. 29, 2009 letter to Henley, he backed up McSorley’s actions, writing that he “has the authority to continue a traffic infraction court trial within 45 days of the arraignment. Your arraignment date was the same day as your court trial date which was scheduled for July 29, 2009.”

However, an attorney who has worked in the Compton Superior Court and asked not to be identified, confirmed Henley’s belief that the judge in this case acted outside the law.

“When you post your bail for trial, you’ve entered your arraignment. The arraignment is not your next court date,” said the attorney. “If you look at Judge Cheroske’s letter, it references this document by saying that ‘your arraignment was on this date,’ when Rod thought he was going to trial when the police officer was supposed to show, and that the court now had another 45 days to bring him back for trial. You can’t do that without a time waiver. … In essence, when the commissioner continued it, his matter exceeded the 45 days.”
Henley’s arraignment and trial were both set on July 29, according to a court document.

Added the attorney: “You cannot continue a person’s arraignment without their permission. What they’re doing with that form is waiving your time without asking you. Until somebody challenges it, it will continue. Unfortunately, there are rare people that will challenge it … The majority of people that go in there don’t even know their rights. This is so wrong. They are violating people’s constitutional rights every day by the thousands … just to ensure that they collect that fine.”

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