Michael Coard

As reported by Brian Hickey of phillyvoice.com, Common Pleas Court Judge Anne Marie Coyle, a Republican and a former Assistant District Attorney in the Ron Castille and Lynne Abraham administrations, “is drawing criticism from all sides of the legal spectrum after removing an assistant district attorney [in progressive District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office] from a case and ‘randomly’ appointing a defense attorney to represent the Commonwealth in the role of ‘special prosecutor.’”

This truly bizarre and extremely aberrational incident occurred on September 20 in courtroom 1002 of the Justice Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice. As Hickey wrote, “The move resulted in... a screaming match... and appeals to higher courts seeking to remove the case from Judge Anne Marie Coyle’s purview.”

It all stemmed from a case involving a defendant who was rearrested while on Judge Coyle’s probation. As was the practice in prior District Attorney administrations, defendants who were merely arrested during their probationary period and despite supposedly being constitutionally presumed innocent on that new arrest were- before being convicted on the new arrest- almost always violated by the back judge, which meant having their probation revoked, being sentenced to jail, and ordered to pay more money to stuff the racist and classist criminal (so-called) justice system’s already bulging pockets.

But the current administration has implemented a new, fair, and just policy in which it does not automatically seek a revocation unless and until an actual conviction follows the mere arrest. When Krasner’s office, through an Assistant District Attorney, refused to proceed at Judge Coyle’s scheduled pre-conviction revocation hearing on that aforementioned September date, the proverbial manure hit the fan.

The lawyer representing the probationer pointed out that he, the probation officer, and the prosecution “all agreed that the violation of probation hearing should wait until after the new case, which is how it’s done 99.9 percent of the time....” He also stated that Judge Coyle was “acting as an advocate, not a neutral factfinder.”

And he told The Inquirer in a September 27 published report, “I believe the court [i.e., Judge Coyle] was abusing its authority.” Jules Epstein, a veteran trial lawyer and scholarly law school professor made it clear that the judge’s order was unnecessary because “There’s already a law that lets a judge follow a process to get the [state] Attorney General involved if for some reason the District Attorney’s Office can’t do a case.” He then added, one concern is that ‘judges are supposed to be judges and prosecutors are supposed to be prosecutors.”

A supervisor in the city’s Civil Litigation Unit along with an assistant supervisor in the District Attorney’s law division told that newspaper they could find no statute or case law supporting the judge’s order.

As a result, the District Attorney’s Office filed an a appeal in the Superior Court, thereby putting Judge Coyle’s order on hold.

So, what now? Community activism is the what now. Allow me to explain by posting a copy of the flyer I distributed at a September 25 demonstration directly in front of the courthouse:

Why did Judge Anne Marie Coyle on 9/20/18 summarily remove an Assistant DA from a case? {br /}{br /}

Why did she then arbitrarily appoint a non-ADA as a “special prosecutor” on that case? {br /}{br /}

Why are many veteran lawyers and respected judges correctly describing her conduct as “absolutely unheard of” and “totally outrageous?” {br /}{br /}

Why did she act more like a partisan quarterback than an impartial referee? {br /}{br /}

What will Philly’s judicial administration do to reign her in?

Demand answers- and change- by calling the judicial administrative leadership at (215) 683-7020 or (215) 686-8334 and saying the following:

“I applaud the efforts of the vast majority of the city’s judges and especially its judicial leadership to bring about fairness and justice in the courts. But, as a voter, taxpayer, and resident, I need that judicial leadership to take immediate- and public- action to reverse and end Judge Coyle’s outrageous conduct.”

I’ll conclude this week’s article by stating that the flyer started the move toward a new, fair, and just criminal (so-called) justice system inside Philadelphia courtrooms. And you can finish it by making those calls from outside.

After all, as Clarence Darrow, arguably the greatest and “wokest” attorney in American history, profoundly said, “Justice has nothing to do with what goes on in a courtroom. Justice is what comes out of a courtroom.”

Case dismissed.

Michael Coard, Esquire can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. His “Radio Courtroom” show can be heard on WURD900AM. And his “TV Courtroom” show can be seen on PhillyCam/Verizon/Comcast.

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