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What does it mean when my nonpayment tenant hires an attorney and requests a jury trial?

“Hires” an attorney? Or becomes represented? If the tenant is not paying rent, that tenant is almost certainly not paying the lawyer. The lawyer is either being paid by someone else (In Oregon we have Legal Aid attorneys who are salaried and do not charge the client, but they don’t seek damages) or thinks there is money to be made on the case, or is working pro bono because the tenant is a friend or relative or is somehow sympathetic.In Oregon a demand for jury trial triggers a couple things. The case is moved from Small Claims to Circuit Court and gets a new number. The plaintiff has to file a formal complaint and pay a higher filing fee. The defendant then files an Answer and can bring counterclaims, which in Landlord Tenant cases often include habitability claims. It can also be a simple stall tactic, or a bluff by a lawyer who thinks you will not match the bet.Research the lawyer. Does he/she work for Legal Aid or a not-for-profit? Does the lawyer have a website? If yes, is Landlord Tenant (LLT) one of the listed “practice areas?” Are they a hungry new admitee? Do they answer landlord tenant questions on Quora?I once filed suit against the three people left in my rental at the end of a tenancy. I asked for $3,000.00 in cleaning, painting, and unpaid rent. One guy got his dad to hire a lawyer and that lawyer really put up a fight, though pretty minimal actual work. He kept citing one case, which was a commercial rental case and not applicable to residential. And when he filed a response to my motion for Summary Judgment the Declaration he prepared for the client said only that the contents of the lawyers motion and memorandum were true so I could tell the client was not interested in helping and the lawyer was really lazy. At one point I asked him if he had ever tried an LLT case to a jury (Jurors tend to be retirees, landlords, salaried people, bosses. Tenants dont show, or beg off. His client had 0 jury appeal. Landlords on the jury were going to want to wring his neck.) The young lawyer told me he hadn’t tried a jury trial at all.Tenant #1 had no money and I would have dismissed her if she would agree to testify that the others caused my costs. Tenant #2 had money and no lawyer and he was my main target. Tenant#3 was a student with med school plans and his dad had paid the young attorney. He was a total jerk to me on the phone when he claimed to be my tenant, and he completely changed his story after talking to attorneys so I had no sympathy for him. The day of trial I told the young attorney I wanted to settle with his client with a walk-away (neither side pays the other, each pays his own attorney and costs.) The idiot lying pre-med student asked his lawyer in front of me (!) if he would owe any more than the $3,000.00 his dad had paid already and the lawyer, in front of me (!!!) said no, the $3,000.00 was non refundable but any more attorney fees he might earn would be contingent on winning. I had suspected that might be the case, but never expected to know for sure. What a gift to have him say that in front of me. What a blow to that young attorney. He had set himself up with an impossible situation where he needed his client to want a trial to punish me, but the client just wanted to get out of the case and was happy his Daddy was paying. That lawyer probably spent 100 hours or more preparing for his first ever jury trial, creating a trial notebook, learning how to handle jury instructions, marking exhibits, creating his list of premarked exhibits, maybe he even had some motions in limine all written, and a special trial memorandum. All to fight a $3,000 claim for which he charged $3,000. And I had worked my side, filing motions, taking the jerks deposition, so his $3,000 was already stretched to a small amount per hour.Where are they now? I dismissed Tenants 1 and 3. Tenant #2 didn’t show for trial. I put on some evidence, got the $3,000 and a large award of attorney fees and costs, emptied his bank account a couple times then got a check from his dad. The young lawyer, last I checked, was no longer practicing. So don’t give up just because a lawyer is representing the tenant on your case.

In the US, which cases are judged by the judge alone? Which cases are judged by the jury?

You have a federal constitutional right under the 6th Amendment to a jury trial in a criminal case. In federal diversity cases you get a jury trial if is a matter that would have been heard at common law in 1791 when the 7th Amendment was passed or is analogous to such a right, as an employment discrimination claim is to a tort claim. Most if not all states give you a state constitutional right to a criminal and a civil jury trial as well. Generally you have to demand a civil jury trial in your complaint. In criminal cases the courts will ask you in those cases whether you waive your right to a jury trial, if you want to. If you don’t waive it, you get a jury trial. Almost all criminal cases are resolved by plea bargains with stipulated facts. Most civil cases are settled. In those sorts of instances there is no trial at all.

As an attorney, what's the most ridiculous case you've been on?

I prosecuted a constitutionalist/sovereign citizen in a municipal court for a misdemeanor involving the filing of false liens against judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, county supervisors, etc. (How I avoided being on the hit list I don’t know.) The charge was originally a felony, but the County Attorney (who was on the list) conflicted the case to another County Attorney, who reduced the charge to a misdemeanor and transferred it back to our municipal court. Lucky me.Of course, the woman refused to show up to court, since she denied that the court had authority over her, and a warrant had to be issued for her arrest. When she was brought over in custody the judge made it clear to her that if she refused to come to court again, the judge would have no choice but to impose a high bail, which meant she would spend the next month or so in custody awaiting trial. The judge also entered a “not guilty” plea on the woman’s behalf, and asked her if she would like to be appointed a lawyer. (The woman had constantly complained that she couldn’t get a lawyer to take her case, even though they were required by law to do so because they accepted Federal funds, and besides that lawyers were using titles of nobility by putting “Esq.” after their name and were therefore committing treason.)Normally, a lawyer is not automatically appointed to a defendant without a showing of indigency, and the possibility of a jail sentence, but the judge considered court-appointed counsel to be “in the interests of justice.”Upon release from jail, the defendant immediately began inundating the court with extremely lengthy, poorly-constructed, gobbledygook-filled motions, claiming, among other things:*the state had no right to prosecute her because she had never given permission for the state to “own” her (because she refused to get a driver’s license);*the case had to be removed to Federal Court because it involved the Uniform Commercial Code;*the court had no jurisdiction over her because of the fringe on the flag, which somehow rendered the court into a “maritime court of war” or a court of “admiralty”;*the complaint against her did not properly identify her because it was captioned with her name in capital letters;*the United States government itself was illegitimate and without the power to conduct business due to some perceived failure to ratify certain constitutional amendments, and thus the statehood granted to Arizona was null and void, as were all statutes enacted since statehood, including the one under which she was charged.She also filed a “counter-claim” against the state, demanding payment of $300,000,000 (payable in gold only, as US currency had no legal authority).Fortunately, the municipal court judge had plenty of experience dealing with such frivolous pleadings (the woman had been cited into court many times for driving without a license), and summarily dismissed the motions due to their failure to abide by the formal requirements for pleadings, and because all pleadings had to be signed and submitted by her appointed counsel.I felt bad for her attorney, a friend of mine who was very low-key and very smart, and I often wonder how he managed that case, since his client was just as likely to sue him as to sue the judge and me and the court clerk and the officer who provided court security. But somehow he managed to keep on her good side (I did notice that none of his pleadings bore the designation “Esq.” after his name).Her attorney filed a request for jury trial, apparently at his client’s insistence, and the judge granted it over my objection. Misdemeanors typically do not qualify for jury trials, unless they are DUI charges, or charges involving theft or moral turpitude. The court granted the request on this last ground, in that the charge - filing a false lien - included an element of dishonesty.Jury selection was interesting. The defendant conferred with her attorney over every question he asked, and it seemed clear that he was “editing” her requested voir dire questions to make them acceptable to the court:“Are you or any member of your family a Mason, a member of the Illuminati, or an employee of the Federal Government?”“Do you agree with the Founding Fathers that sometimes rebellion against a tyrannical government is justified?”“Do you believe that some laws are unjust, or unjustly enforced?”It was apparent to me, after my objections to these questions were quickly overruled, that the judge was trying very hard to avoid giving the defendant any grounds for appeal. So I sat back quietly until we finished jury selection, and proceeded to present the state’s case.This was actually the most boring part of the trial, as it involved very few witnesses, a lot of documents which were admitted without objection, and a fairly dry recitation of the facts from the witnesses who were called. Our discovery rules are such that neither side gets to spring a surprise on the other - no last-minute witnesses or dramatic revelations here. At the close of my evidence the defense made the standard motion for acquittal (required in order to preserve certain issues for appeal), and included a reference to the state “failing to establish personal jurisdiction over the defendant.” The motion was overruled, and the defendant took the stand.I shudder to think what the testimony would have been like, and how long it would have taken, without her attorney guiding her through the salient points of her argument. She would try to take little narrative side-trips into the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Magna Carta and the Sixteenth Amendment, but her lawyer always brought her back to the relevant matters. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that she readily admitted the charges - she was proud of what she did, striking a blow for free people everywhere by issuing and then recording her own legal orders and liens against the evil men who ran the corrupt government apparatus which was “strangling the lifeblood of this country.”My cross-examination was brief, courteous, to the point, and phrased in yes/no question form, to avoid her rhetorical diversions. I neither wanted to hear her long dissertation about the Uniform Commercial Code again nor to generate sympathy from the jury, and I think I managed that. She was the only witness, and I had no rebuttal, so we proceeded to closing argument.Mine, like the presentation of my case, was short, sweet, and to the point. Here’s what she did, here’s the documents which proved it, you heard her admission of her actions. I wondered what her attorney would say, as he was ethically constrained as to how far he could argue against the law without crossing the line. He straddled it fairly well, performing as much for his client as for the jury, urging the jury to find her not guilty because what she did wasn’t that bad, she had a good faith reason to believe that she was right, and her hand-written judicial “orders,” complete with her hand-made seal of her personal authority, would not fool anyone into thinking they were real court documents. This was a protest, he argued, political speech, and while we may disagree with her, that didn’t make her a criminal.My rebuttal close was very brief: according to the legislature, filing these documents with the County Recorder’s office is what rendered the acts illegal. She can protest all she wants, but she isn’t allowed to impair someone else’s property rights by placing an illegal lien against their property.The jury (thankfully) convicted her in short order. Had they taken longer than a half-hour, I would have worried that one of them had bought into her arguments and we’d have a hung jury, and have to do it all over again. The defendant seemed satisfied with the result, coming as it did from her fellow citizens rather than “The Government,” and she thanked them for their service.At sentencing, the judge came down on her hard, harder than I expected. I thought a week in jail would suffice, given that it could have been a felony charge (or several felony charges, one for each lien she filed), followed by probation. The defendant declined her opportunity to speak, and her attorney argued for leniency given her advanced age, her good-faith conviction that she was right, and the lack of actual harm. The judge disagreed with both of us, and gave her two months in jail. No fine, no probation, just jail time. The judge even waived the payment of the $70 per day jail costs, which meant the city would be paying over $4,000 to keep her locked up.The defendant, the judge explained, would never abide by any term of probation. She would never pay any fine or obey any court order. She would continue to deny the authority of the court and to waste the court’s time with frivolous motions and demands, and because she was convinced that she was right, she was going to continue to file liens against people. The judge had her taken into custody rather than permitting her to turn herself in at the jail. As the defendant was being placed in handcuffs, the judge offered her one more admonition.“You’ve been told by a jury of your peers that your actions are wrong. This wasn’t the prosecutor, it wasn’t the court, it wasn’t the police. The people disagree with you. You were shown amazing forbearance by the government you despise so much, who could have stacked your felony charges and put you in prison for the rest of your life. I hope that two months in jail will be enough to cure you of your delusions, because I doubt you will receive the same forbearance if you do this again.”

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