Cases Logjammed In Steelman Division Of Criminal Court As Public Defender Files Recusals On All Cases

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cases are backing up in Judge Barry Steelman's division of Criminal Court as Public Defender Ardena Garth daily files motions to have the judge go off all her office's cases.

Ms. Garth on Monday morning handed another stack of indigent cases to the clerk for Judge Steelman, saying the office wanted another judge on those matters.

She claims that Judge Steelman is biased against her office.

So far, she has filed for recusals in over 50 cases starting the middle of last week.

Judge Steelman has set a hearing next Monday afternoon on the mass recusals.

The confrontation apparently began when Judge Steelman put down an order transferring the capital case involving Jesse Mathews from the public defender's office to private attorneys Lee Davis and Bryan Hoss. Judge Steelman was critical of assistant public defenders Mary Ann Green and Karla Gothard in that order.

He was also critical of the public defender's office last week at a hearing on a request by Ms. Green for recusal in the kidnapping case of Frederick Anderson.

At one point in the hearing, he called one action by Ms. Green in the case "sloppy" and, at another, he asked Ms. Garth and Ms. Green if they were taping the hearing. When Ms. Garth asked if she had to answer, he had her stand up and take an oath. She did so, then said she did not have a tape recorder on her. 

On Monday, Judge Steelman asked several indigent defendants if they had been told about the recusal motions. Ms. Garth objected to such questions, saying that got into the area of attorney-client privilege.

Ms. Garth declined to answer the judge if she would object to proceeding with cases in which pleas had already been worked out with the district attorney's office. She said the next move was a decision by the judge on the recusal motions.

Judge Steelman said continuing to put the cases off meant that some clients would have to stay in jail longer and it would involve more costs for the county to incarcerate them.

Some clients of the Transformation Project had their cases worked out and had been set to be released on Monday, it was stated. However, those cases were delayed with all the other public defender matters. 


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