The Romero Case – Dead Reckoning

November 28, 2009

The arraignment was routine.  In a ritual as familiar to him as the catechism, Dan introduced himself as counsel for the defendant, waived reading of  the complaint, and entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of his esteemed client, Carson Romero. Carson, for his part,  seemed genuinely chastened from the Riot Act Dan had read him last night. Whether Carson’s  performance is worthy of an Oscar remains to be seen.  Given the seriousness of the charges and the client’s ability to make bail, there was no point trying to suggest to the Hon. ‘Hang-Em High’ Hanrahan less bail than the $2500 already set.  Discretion being the better part of valor, Dan let that stand without a fuss; and he set a pretrial conference date of Jan. 6 so that the Romeros could mercifully get through the holidays before having to deal with their son’s mess again.

When Joe Romero’s first call came in Dan thought this file would have all the excitement and glamor of a run-of-the-mill auto wreck case. Now he finds himself wading knee-deep into a complex web of criminal and civil actions.   His file opened,  fee agreements in place, and his most trusted associate, Mr. Green, now on the case,  Dan needs to quickly get his bearings and start plotting a course for straightening out this skein of legal trouble  for his clients.

With its powerful organizing, searching, sorting and mind-mapping capabilities, Summary Judgment is the right navigational tool for the dead reckoning Dan must do. He puts it right to work in taking down the background facts and occurrence facts using the comprehensive intake forms provided in the Case Intake section of the SJ outline.

In the next post we’ll see how Dan uses all of the investigation information he has gathered and organized in SJ to get a fix on where he is, and proper course headings to the next waypoints.

[N.B. I  recommend to my readers that they follow the parallel Romero case blog of Mark Bernstein (Eastgate Systems, Inc.), the developer of Tinderbox. The focus of Mark’s blog is on the mapping features and uses of Tinderbox (which are  incorporated in Summary Judgment™) for analyzing complex fact patterns that are unfolding over time.]

Stephen M. Winnick, Esq.
Winnick & Sullivan LLP
134 Main Street
Watertown, MA 02472
FAX: (617)923-4575

Copyright © 2009 Stephen M. Winnick, Esq. All rights reserved.


The Romero Case – Squall Line

November 20, 2009

Dan got back from court after 5 p.m. tired, hungry and with a splitting headache. The note from his office manager, Tom Barron, was no aspirin.  Carson Romero was arrested by Officer Woodson in the afternoon while Dan was in court.  He was charged with A&B by means of a dangerous weapon, to wit: the automobile that he was accused of crashing into Julie’s car in the first incident; and worse still, with possession with intent to distribute a Class A substance within a school zone.  He was booked at the Bellvale Police Station and released on $2500 cash bail which his father, Joe Romero posted.  He left for home with his father and his mother, Rosemarie Romero, who was in tears.  He is scheduled to be arraigned in Bellvale District Court in the a.m.  According to Tom’s note, this squall line is moving to meet Dan at 5:30, about 15 minutes from now.

Dan goes into the bathroom down the hall.  He throws cold water on his face, combs his hair, and otherwise steels himself for what is certain to be a tough client conference, once the reality of what Carson is facing sets in.

The office doorbell rings.  Joe Romero and Rosemarie swoop in, not pausing for pleasantries.  Carson, looking baleful, follows behind.  Dan leads them to his conference room.

Joe and Rosemarie Carson are clearly worried, distraught.  Carson, with a redwood-size chip on his shoulder, is glowering across the table, and starts right in:

“Listen to me, this is a crock.  I didn’t hit that girl’s car.  She smashed into me, she was so bombed.  And the drugs, that’s a laugh.  She brought those to the party in a film container and was trying to talk me into taking them, but I refused. I don’t do drugs.  Now she’s the one who’s caught and she’s trying to pin it on me.”

“No, you listen to me.  I don’t want to hear anything from you now about what happened, what didn’t happen, and why what they said you did couldn’t have happened.  First we’re going to discuss what the criminal charges are and what they mean.  Then we are going to discuss my services and financial arrangements to pay for them. Tomorrow, after you’re arraigned  and I can speak to you alone without losing your attorney-client privilege, you’ll tell me what happened.  Is that understood?”


“First of all, you are charged with two felonies: 1) A&B dw and 2) possession with intent to distribute drugs — a Class A substance.  Both of these charges carry serious criminal penalties including the possibility of significant jail time.  The A&B charge has a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, or 2  1/2 years in jail, which is the more likely maximum for you, assuming you have no serious priors.  The drug offense is potentially much more serious.  Because the house where the sales were said to take place is down the street from a school, it falls within a special statute protecting school zones from drug trafficking, which increases the penalties substantially.”

“I didn’t have any drugs with me and I definitely wasn’t selling any.  But doesn’t it matter that it was just a coincidence that the house is down the street from a school?”

“No, it doesn’t matter.  The Legislature, in its wisdom, has decided to make it irrelevant whether the sales were somehow connected to the school or selling to kids or whatever.  If you sell drugs within 1000 yards of a school you have committed this crime, regardless of why you were in the school zone, and the sentencing guidelines for this start with serious time even if you have a clean record.  And apart from what you are facing in the criminal justice system I presume you have been suspended from Bellvale Academy for just the drinking that took place at the party.”

Rosemarie Romero broke in. “That’s right,”, struggling to hold back tears, “And they say he won’t graduate high school with his class if he is found guilty of the criminal charges.  He will be expelled.”

Next Joe Romero, the dad. “Look Dan, we know it’s serious. We’re beside ourselves.  Can you help him?”

“Yes. But I’ll need his cooperation and not the wise guy attitude he’s sporting tonight.”

“You’ll get that I can assure you.  Or he’s going to be dealing with me.  I’ve had enough of the trouble he has caused us.  Look at his mother crying.  This is going to end.”

“Now because there are civil aspects to some of what has gone on — the auto property damage to the car for example , and the possibility of personal injury claims from Julie Chandler– in addition to the criminal charges, we will need to enter into two different types of fee agreements.  I’ll handle the civil matters on a straight hourly fee basis at my customary hourly rate which is $300 per hour.  You and Rosemarie will be my clients for that.  I’ll need a $1500 retainer for that which will be deposited to my Clients Funds account to be applied against billings.  With respect to the criminal matters, my understanding is that Carson turned 18 in September, so he is an adult now. And in any event, for the criminal matters he is technically my client.  For the criminal matters I will need a nonrefundable retainer of $5,000 which will cover all pretrial work up to and including any plea or other resolution short of trial.   If there is a trial required we will have to speak again about another nonrefundable retainer before I prepare the case for trial.”

“That’s fine so  long as you get him out of this mess. I’ll write the retainer checks right now”, taking out his check book and writing the checks.

“I can’t begin to know how best  to represent him until I hear what he has to say, and I learn what else may be in store for us when I get the prosecution’s discovery materials. In this business there are no guarantees.  But you’ve known me a long time Joe, and you know that no lawyer has ever represented your interests more honestly or capably.”

“That’s true.  The ones before you were money grubbers and didn’t care about anything else.  You’ve always done right by me and treated me fairly.”

“Carson and you and Rosemarie will get the same here. You can count on that.”

“I’ll prepare two fee agreements as I said, one hourly and the other for the criminal work on a flat fee basis plus expenses with nonrefundable retainers.  I will also need you and Rosemarie and Carson to sign a joint representation letter acknowledging that there may be conflicts of interest between you and Rosemarie on the one hand, and Carson on the other.  And if those conflicts make it unfair or unethical to represent you both I may have to withdraw from representing one or the other or possibly both.”

After the client conference Dan opened the Romero case file using SJ’s thorough, easy- to- complete file opening form:

Dan is really beat and wants only to get home for some dinner and a nightcap or two to take the edge off.  After he gets back to the office from the arraignment tomorrow he will prepare fee agreements and transmittal letters to the clients using SJ’s forms (which include clear and concise flat fee, hourly, contingent and mixed fee agreements and transmittal letter forms). He will also prepare a joint representation disclosure and consent letter, which he will tailor to the specific facts of this case involving potential conflicts of interest between Joe Romero and his wife, Rosemarie, on the one hand, and Carson the son on the other.

[N.B. I  recommend to my readers that they follow the parallel Romero case blog of Mark Bernstein (Eastgate Systems, Inc.), the developer of Tinderbox. The focus of Mark’s blog is on the mapping features and uses of Tinderbox (which are  incorporated in Summary Judgment™) for analyzing complex fact patterns that are unfolding over time.]

Stephen M. Winnick, Esq.
Winnick & Sullivan LLP
134 Main Street
Watertown, MA 02472
FAX: (617)923-4575

Copyright © 2009 Stephen M. Winnick, Esq. All rights reserved.

The Romero Case – To Protect and To Serve

November 13, 2009

“Dan, pick up on 02”.

“Dammit, Tom, I told you to hold all of my calls. I have to be in court at 2 and I’ve got to grind out a motion to suppress on Carrington.”

“It’s Officer Grant Woodson, Bellvale PD. You told me to let him through the firewall.”

“Sorry. Put him through.”

“Hello, Officer Woodson, I represent Carson Romero, thanks for returning my call.”

“Like our motto says,  ‘To Protect and To Serve’, Counselor.”

“I haven’t had a chance to meet with my kid yet and get all of the facts.  I’m hoping you can tell me what happened Friday night.”

“Yeah, sure.  So you can make me eat my words if this goes to court.   I know how the game is played.”

“I’m glad, because you’ll find me to be a straight-shooter, at least within the bounds of my profession.

“What bounds would those be, Counselor?”

“All right. Let’s stick to business then. What was your involvement that night?”

“I was working a night detail on routine patrol in a black and white when I got a call over the radio around midnight. There was a car accident on Maplewood Street near the intersection with School. When I got there I saw that a blue, late model Honda Accord drove over the curb and crashed into a mailbox up on the sidewalk. The mailbox was knocked over and the car’s front end was damaged. There was a teenage girl behind the wheel.  I went over to the driver’s side window and took a look at her.

“What was her condition?”

“There was a strong odor of alcohol coming from her breath, her speech was slurred and her eyes were glassy.  I asked her to step out of the car but she was too unsteady to get out and just fell back into her seat.  She was too drunk to perform any field sobriety tests.

“Was she injured?’

“She had a bruise on her forehead.  But she didn’t seem to be too banged up.”

“Did she tell you what happened?”

“Not at first. She was just staring at me looking dazed and out of it.”

“Did you ask for her license and registration?”

“I did.”

“Was she able to find them and produce them?”

“Not exactly.  She had her handbag on the passenger side seat next to her.  She started to fumble around in it and instead of coming up with the papers a 35mm film container fell out and some white pills spilled onto the passenger seat.  I asked her what the pills were for and she said they were ‘antianxiety meds’ that her psychiatrist prescribed for her.”

“Did you ask if she has a prescription for them?”

“Yeah.  At first she said she didn’t have it with her– it was at her house.”

“But then she said something different?”

“That’s right.  When I pressed her about the film container not looking like what they normally package pills in at CVS she said they were given to her by her boyfriend ‘to help her relax’ at a house party earlier that evening.”

“Did she say how this accident happened?”

“Yeah. She said she had been at this party with her boyfriend and they had a fight.  They went to the party in separate cars.  And when they were going home the boyfriend, your client Carson Romero, deliberately drove into her car with his. She showed me the damage to the left front fender where she said he deliberately hit her.”

“Did she say anything else about what happened in that first accident?”

“Indeed she did, Counselor. First off, it wasn’t an accident according to her.  She said he deliberately drove into her car.  Secondly, she said that your client, the Romero boy, had been plying her with drinks all evening — Margaritas and Tequilla Sunrises to be exact– before he suggested she pop a few of those ‘antianxiety med’s’ she had in the film container which, by the way, she says your client gave her “to relax.”

“Is there more?”

“Yeah.  On top of that she says your client brought a large quantity of the pills with him to the party and was selling them to the other kids.  She said that by the time they left the party she and the Carson boy were both three sheets to the wind.”

“Did she say what happened after they left the party?”

“That’s when they got into a big argument.  He wanted her to follow him over to the lover’s lane off of the Causeway.  She told him she was too wasted and just wanted to go home to sleep. Then the next thing she knows he storms off, gets into his car, revs it up, and plows right into the driver’s side fender of her car. Then he backs up and peels out in a tear.”

“What time was that?”

“She said she couldn’t remember.”

“Did she say what happened between the time of that first incident and when you found her around midnight”

“She said she couldn’t remember anything after the argument and his hitting her car.”

“What did you do after that conversation with her?”

” I called for the EMT’s to take her to Bellvale Hospital.  I bagged up the pills in an evidence bag and had them shipped out to the police lab.  Before the EMT’s arrived I got the girl to sign a consent form to have blood alcohol and drug testing done at the hospital.  When I got there I told the hospital E.R. guys to take blood samples and have them tested.

“Didn’t you just tell me she was dazed and confused and too out of it to even get out of the car? How could she voluntarily consent to the blood testing?”

“The fresh night air did her a whole world of good in seeing more clearly.”

“You mean after you told her if she didn’t sign the consent form you’d be arresting her right then and there for OUI; and that she would lose her license to drive just for refusing the test?”

“Now, Counselor, don’t be putting words in my mouth.  Some of the upright citizens of Bellvale are only too glad to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation of serious accidents and crime — before they get ‘lawyered up’, that is.”

“Have you had any conversations with my client, Carson Romero?”

“As a matter of fact I did.  The next morning before I could call him to see what he had to say, he called me.

“What did he tell you?”

“Your young Mr. Romero is Mr. Cool.  Acted like what happened to the girl was nothing.  They had a few drinks, he couldn’t remember how many –just a couple of beers, no hard stuff — and then she pulled out a film container from her pocketbook and asked if he wanted to get really high.  She opened it up and showed him some white pills. He said he was shocked and dismayed, and refused to take any of the pills, but she popped quite a few into her mouth.  This was right before they were leaving to go home in separate cars.  So he gets into his car, and just wants to get away from her.  But before he can drive away she’s so blotto that she swerves right into his car. Fortunately the damage wasn’t so bad that he couldn’t get home and deal with the car damage and his enraged father in the morning, which is what he says he did.”

“Is that all he said to you?”

“That’s the gist of it.  Anything else you can find in my investigation report.”

“Can you give me an idea where your investigation is heading?”

“Sure.  Nowhere good for your client.”

“Thanks for all of your cooperation, Officer.”

“Don’t mention it, Counselor.  Like I said, we’re here “To Protect and To Serve.”

Dan hangs up and does two things immediately in SJ.  He makes a telephone note in the Communications – Opposing Party section of his call from  Officer Woodson:

11_02_09 Tele. Call from Offr Woodson re_ police investigation

And fills out a time slip for the call:

11_02_09 Tele. Call from Offr Woodson re_ police investigation-1

He has no time now to digest everything he just learned from Woodson before he has to finish grinding out the motion to suppress on the Carrington case and get to court by 2 p.m.  But he jots down a few thoughts and issues in a separate note filed under the “Notes to File” section of SJ.

11_02_09 Note to File

That way he can quickly get back to what needs to be thought-through and dealt with on Romero when he returns to the office.  When he figures things out, he can move this note where the information properly belongs in the SJ outline .  He can accomplish that easily in a number of different ways (e.g., by clicking and dragging the note to another section of the SJ outline; or by copying and pasting the text of the note into a new or different note in another section of the outline; by creating a duplicate copy of the note and moving it to the other/new location; or by creating an “alias” of the note (i.e., a special kind of copy which will automatically reflect any changes made to the original note and vice-versa), and inserting the alias in the other/new location of the outline.

[N.B. I  recommend to my readers that they follow the parallel Romero case blog of Mark Bernstein (Eastgate Systems, Inc.), the developer of Tinderbox. The focus of Mark’s blog is on the mapping features and uses of Tinderbox (which are  incorporated in Summary Judgment™) for analyzing complex fact patterns that are unfolding over time.]

Stephen M. Winnick, Esq.
Winnick & Sullivan LLP
134 Main Street
Watertown, MA 02472
FAX: (617)923-4575

Copyright © 2009 Stephen M. Winnick, Esq. All rights reserved.