The Legal Profession blog is cmmenting today on a case in which the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed a drug possession and distribution conviction despite the fact that the defendant and his attorney met for the first time on the morning of the suppression hearing and trial. The court majority concluded that the defendant failed to demonstrate ineffective assistance of counsel or other prejudice. The trial judge scoffed at the need for any preparation, likening a drug case to an intersection collision civil trial.
It makes me sick to hear that a judge would force a lawyer to represent a criminal defendant without preparation. What kind of system is that? What kind of moral grounds do we have to say that our criminal justice system is fair? This is ridiculous.
One of the justices dissented stating "I deem it self-evident that a rational and just criminal justice system cannot accept as valid a conviction predicated on a scenario in which a defendant, through no fault of his or her own, meets his or her lawyer for the first time on the day the case is scheduled for trial" and concluding that "A system of criminal justice that permits a conviction to stand in a case where an indigent man, through no fault of his own, meets his attorney for the first time on the day the case is scheduled for trial, carries with it the indicia of a "show trial," a sham proceeding in which the outcome is perceived as predetermined."