Advertisement

Public Defenders Lose in Campaign to Reassign Judge : Courts: The attorneys called for the transfer after he had their colleague pulled from a courtroom. The county’s top judge changes assignment policy instead.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Van Nuys judge whose order resulted in a deputy public defender being dragged out of a courtroom won’t be reassigned, despite a campaign by public defenders, the county’s top judge said Monday. But public defenders will no longer appear before him.

The judge, Raymond T. Mireles, won’t be transferred to another courthouse or to a civil or family law court as the public defender’s office wanted, Presiding Judge Richard P. Byrne of Los Angeles County said.

Instead, judicial officials Monday took the unusual step of reassigning 107 cases in Mireles’ courtroom to the seven other Van Nuys Superior Court judges who handle criminal matters.

Mireles will be assigned only those cases in which defendants are represented by private counsel or by the Alternate Defense Counsel, a county-funded lawyers group that hears cases when the public defender’s office is too busy or has a conflict of interest, Van Nuys Presiding Judge Richard G. Kolostian said.

Advertisement

“I believe that the public defender’s office is overreacting to the situation,” Byrne said after praising Mireles’ work. “I think the court has to determine judicial assignments, not the lawyers.”

Mireles angered public defenders on Nov. 6 when he asked two Los Angeles police officers appearing as witnesses in a drug case to bring the defense lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Howard C. Waco, into his courtroom.

Witnesses said Mireles jokingly added: “Bring me a piece” or “body part” of Waco.

The officers took him out of another courtroom and pushed him through the door of Mireles’ courtroom, bruising his leg.

Advertisement

At a hearing, the officers apologized to the judge from whose courtroom Waco was yanked, and the judge decided not to pursue contempt-of-court proceedings against them. Lawyers for the officers said the Police Department henceforth will let bailiffs get people from courtrooms in such circumstances.

William D. Weiss, head Van Nuys public defender, said last week that attorneys from his office would file affidavits requesting Mireles’ removal, on grounds of prejudice, from all cases in which public defenders take part. Weiss said Monday the new assignment policy will make the affidavit campaign unnecessary.

“As long as they continue to keep our cases from going in there, I’m satisfied,” Weiss said. “I think he has a negative attitude toward our office, and I think his attitude toward our office affects his judgment.”

Weiss said he thinks the reassignment policy will “cause some strain to the court system” and unfairly burden other judges.

Kolostian earlier said Mireles would be transferred from the courthouse or given non-criminal cases, but he said Byrne had decided that Mireles should remain in Van Nuys.

Judge Byrne said: “The public defender has waived jury on a number of cases before Judge Mireles, which indicates they have confidence in his ability to decide the cases fairly.”

Of the Nov. 6 incident, he said: “There’s enough fault to go around for almost everybody who is involved, including Mr. Waco.”

Judge Mireles said he wants to “resolve this thing first and foremost with the public defender’s office,” but that he is not sure how.

Advertisement

“I don’t think they’ve ever complained about my legal rulings or motions or sentencings,” he said. “Quite frankly, I’m still kind of in shock over the whole uproar.”


Advertisement