Call (614) 733- 9999 For a Free Consult

Ethical Rules Prohibit Judges from Talking to One Party About a Case

Ethical Rules Prohibit Judges from Talking to One Party About a Case
March 25, 2020 Shannon Dawes
Shannon Dawes, a small business law attorney in Columbus, Ohio.

Even in a city the size of Columbus, it is not uncommon to run into people you know in and around the courthouse. The clerk who takes your payment for your speeding ticket may have been someone you went to high school with, or you may see your child’s sports coach at his “day job” as a bailiff. You may even know and be on a first-name basis with one of several judges. When you are on a first-name basis with the judge assigned to hear your criminal case, the temptation to call up or write to the judge to talk about your charges is real and potentially damaging to your case.

First, you should know that judges are prohibited from talking about the subject matter of a pending case without both litigants being present. In other words, a judge cannot discuss your case or your charges with you without affording the prosecution an opportunity to be present as well. This is because (in part) the judge is not supposed to give the appearance that they are siding with one party or the other before a case has been fully presented in court.

If you write a letter to the judge explaining “your side of the story,” you can expect that the judge will not likely reply to your letter but will provide the prosecution with a copy of your letter. If your letter contained any sort of inculpatory statement (“Your Honor, I did threaten the other guy with a knife but I had a good reason to …”), the prosecution will now have that statement and be able to use it against you.

Your Lawyer May Be at a Disadvantage if You Try to Contact the Judge

People may try to speak with the court directly if they feel frustrated with the pace of their case or with the representation their attorney has been providing to date. When that person tries to air their grievances or advance their defense directly to the judge, not only may it provide the prosecution with even more evidence of the person’s guilt but it may frustrate their defense attorney’s strategy in defending the person. For example, a defendant who writes a letter or calls a judge’s office and admits that they possessed a knife in an altercation may have defeated their own attorney’s efforts to have evidence about a knife being found at the scene kept out of trial.

What Can You Do if You Feel the Court Needs to Know Something?

Whether you know the judge hearing your case or not, if you have information that you believe the court needs to know it is always advisable to speak with your attorney first. Your attorney may be able to directly address your concerns or can help you make a fully-informed decision as to whether you should make a statement to the court.

Seek Advice from a Qualified Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney

Dawes Legal, LLC can help you avoid making costly and unnecessary mistakes in handling your criminal case. Our firm has years of experience in helping clients successfully resolve their criminal charges, and the knowledge we have gained doing so can be helpful in guiding you through the maze of rules and laws that pertain to your criminal case. Let us show you what we may be able to accomplish in your situation. Schedule a consultation with us by calling (614) 733-9999 today.