Observers lucky enough to be in John Contini’s courtroom this morning were treated to an unusual display of fireworks directed at Joel Silvershein, appeals honcho for the SAO. It happened shortly after the Fourth DCA issued a handful of Orders dated today, August 12th, containing the following language:
… We decline to modify our prior order but clarify that the stay imposed on the cases “pending sentencing” applies only to prevent the judge at issue from acting. The stay does not deprive the circuit court of jurisdiction or prevent other circuit court judges from entering orders in the cases at issue.
Today’s Orders follow on the AG’s response to the DCA last week, confirming there are only twenty-eight cases pending sentencing where a downward departure motion has been filed. Of course, the AG is still maintaining its position that all of the cases on the large list they submitted to the higher court should be stayed, and the Fourth hasn’t ruled on that issue yet. However, it seems clear by the language from today’s orders that the ban on other judges handling Division FG cases is lifted, which means lawyers can call Marty Bidwill’s office for direction if they’re so inclined.
As for the fireworks, things started getting interesting when Silvershein disputed Contini’s reading of the above quoted DCA language, as the judge was addressing courtroom staff as to Bidwill’s newfound ability to resolve FG cases. Silvershein basically stated that other judges should still be precluded from hearing any listed Contini matters, since the Fourth had also written that they weren’t ready to modify the stay in the sentence directly before the clarification language. (“We decline to modify our prior order but clarify that the stay … “).
It was classic SAO nitpicking. Even with the obvious language of today’s Orders, Silvershein was arguing to keep everything in place just as before (and people in jail whom other ASAs have already agreed to release the moment the stay is officially lifted), and it set Contini off. The transcript has been ordered, and it should make the news, so we won’t go into great detail except to say an infuriated Contini pressed Silvershein to admit personal involvement in helping the AG compile the large list of cases certified to the DCA as “pending sentencing”. The judge said the majority of those cases were “disingenuously” listed, that the AG had “perpetrated a fraud” on the appeals court, and had deliberately mislead the Fourth because Defendants who have not pled or been found guilty are innocent until proven guilty, and in broader terms, pending acquittal just as much as they may be pending sentencing.
Silvershein did admit SAO involvement in compiling the list with the AG, and stated they had acted in good faith, but refused to directly admit any personal involvement. Contini repeatedly pressed him to admit, and pointedly to answer “yes or no” as to his role. He was even ordered to answer as things heated up, with bailiffs being asked to escort Silvershein out of the courtroom when no answer was forthcoming. Under pressure, Silvershein finally offered that he had indeed personally helped put the list together, which pretty much put a close to the hearing. Silvershein ended by asking for the transcript to be ordered, and exited the courtroom.
So there you have it. Contini strikes a blow for the little guy, at least emotionally. It remains to be seen what will happen with the SAO’s request for disqualification, and how far reaching it will be. Today’s blow-out will also undoubtedly add fuel to the fire. However, Contini should be applauded for taking a public stand against the latest ham-fisted overreach by Satz and company. People have been sitting in jail for weeks, while the SAO throws up obstacles despite clear direction from a higher court. Jobs will undoubtedly be lost, and families will ultimately pay the price, all for the sake of __________ (fill in the blank).
Just another day in Satzland …