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A Legal Advocate Against Injustice

Attorney Chris Hesse has worked hard to protect the Constitutional rights of his clients, both poor and affluent. To that end, he has provided pro bono legal representation to several clients who could not otherwise afford his services.

Unfortunately, not everyone who practices law sees justice in this same light, and they play games with people’s lives and manipulate the legal system to prey on the very people it was instituted to protect. The Law Offices of D. Chris Hesse has recently encountered such games and manipulations and is fighting back.

What Happened?

Attorney Hesse’s client, an Uber driver who supports his disabled, home-bound wife, was charged with “Following Too Closely”, a Class C, fine-only charge in the Amarillo Municipal Court. Attorney Hesse offered to represent this client free of charge.

Arrive at the Court House

Scheduled for a jury trial in Amarillo Municipal Court on October 30th, 2015 at 9:00 am, Attorney Hesse arrived at 9:07 a.m. and found that the courtroom doors had been locked. A bailiff informed Mr. Hesse that a warrant had been issued for the arrest of his client by Judge Jennifer Cates for appearing late. Upon arrival at 9:18 a.m., Attorney Hesse’s client was taken into custody.

Appear in Front of a Second Judge

At this point, Attorney Hesse and his client were brought before another judge. After explaining that they were both present to appear in court, Hesse asked the judge to withdraw the warrant based on the fact that his client was present. The request was refused and bail was set for $500.

The judge then offered Attorney Hesse’s client two options:

  1. He could pay the $500 cash bond out of pocket and be immediately released from custody.
  2. He could get a surety bond from a bail bondsman and pay additional fees to the bail bondsman.

Both negative options. On the one hand, if he pays the cash bond he will not see those funds until months after his case has closed, and if he gets a surety bond he will lose roughly $150 in fees.

More importantly, if the client chooses to simply pay the original fine and go home, then he gives up the right to a jury trial. This is typically the decision made by defendants because they can’t afford to put more money into the case. This may help shed some light on understanding the possible motivation for arresting an individual for showing up to court 18 minutes late.

It’s also significant to note that most courts in Texas allows the defendant to arrive late and don’t revoke bonds. After all, the entire purpose of a bond is to ensure that the defendant shows up for court. In fact, most Texas courts do a roll call at the end of the morning by calling the defendant’s names in the hallway to insure that the defendant was given every opportunity to appear.

Confer With the Client

In the hallway, Attorney Hesse informed his client of a third option, he could get an attorney bond. In essence, an attorney bond allows an attorney to vouch for the defendant, and if his client fails to present himself in court, then the lawyer pays $500 to the court. Attorney Hesse’s client confirmed that he would like to get an attorney bond.

Attempt to Obtain an Attorney Bond

Once an attorney bond was decided on, Attorney Hesse informed the court that he was going to his office to draft an attorney bond. When he returned, both courtrooms were locked. Attorney Hesse then attempted to present the attorney bond to the clerk, a Ms. Karen Lacy, at the clerk window. Ms. Lacy refused to accept the bond even after she was reminded that it was her job to do so. She also refused to inform Judge Cates that Attorney Hesse needed to speak with her.

After demanding that Ms. Lacy accept the attorney bond, Attorney Hesse was then approached by a Ms. Victoria Jaramillo-Medly, the Court’s Administrator and Clerk of the Court. She informed Hesse that his attorney bond would be filed but denied by the court because there was no financial statement on file showing that Attorney Hesse could pay the $500.

When asked what financial statements were needed, Hesse was told that he needed to file a statement with the court that detailed his finances. When asked to be more specific or for a form to fill out, Ms. Jaramillo-Medly could not clarify or provide the appropriate forms. What was required is still a mystery. A W2? A 1099? A tax return? A cashier’s check?

Attempt to Get a Ruling from a Judge

Attorney Hesse then requested Ms. Jaramillo-Medly to unlock the courtroom doors, so he could get a ruling on the attorney bond. She refused, stating that the court was locked for “security reasons.” When Ms. Jaramillo-Medly was informed that closing courtroom doors was a violation of the Texas Constitution, she laughed.

Attorney Hesse continued to insist on getting a ruling on the record in open court. At this point, Ms. Jaramillo-Medly left and then came back with a “CT Violation Status Maintenance” document. The document stated that the attorney bond had been presented in court and rejected by the court. This is hard to believe, considering Attorney Hesse never presented the bond on the record in court. Again, Ms. Jaramillo-Medly was asked to open the courtroom doors, and again she refused.

Breaking Bad News

With no other immediate options available, Attorney Hesse informed his client that there were three options:

  1. Post a $500 cash bond and get released from custody immediately, but lose that $500 cash until several months has passed until the case has ended.
  2. Contact a bail bondsman and arrange a surety bond, but lose roughly $150.
  3. Wait in custody, while his attorney petitions for a Writ of Habeas Corpus to a local District Court, although the petition would be filed Friday afternoon and not heard by a judge until the upcoming Monday.

Needing to be released immediately in order to work, Attorney Hesse’s client chose to post the $500. He told his lawyer, "Chris, I know it's not your fault, but I have to get out now because tomorrow is Halloween and I need to be out there with Uber making money to support my wife. It's not your fault."

Attorney Hesse Has Filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus & Prohibition

In an effort to salvage justice, Attorney Hesse has filed a lawsuit against Judge Jennifer Cates. Filed at the end of October of 2015, the suit is ongoing and yet to be determined. Regardless, Attorney Chris Hesse is undeterred and will continue to fight for the rights of his clients.

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