This decision has already led to some interesting legal maneuvers and awkward exchanges at court.
New York man accused in Jan. 6 insurrection is attempting to invoice the government for his work on his case. A Pennsylvania restaurant owner wants to avoid jail. A judge in New York said that he might have been indicted during courtroom arguments.
Constitutional principle number one is the right to self-represent. A long-serving judge advised a former California police chief to use an old saying when he said that he would be "a fool for his client" if he represented himself.
Michael Magner, a New Orleans criminal defense attorney and ex-federal prosecutor, said, "Just because you have the constitutional right to do it doesn't necessarily make it smart."
At least five defendants will decide to defend themselves. This is bound to present a lot of problems, especially for those behind bars. If they do the wrong thing in court, they could be in even more legal trouble. They will have to sort through the slew of evidence that investigators have gathered during the attack. The strategy already tests judges' abilities to control their courtrooms.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth stated to Alan Hostetter that he would not allow him to represent himself if he were charged with a crime. He then allowed Hostetter to defend himself against riot charges. The ex-police chief was warned by the judge that he had never seen anyone successfully represent themselves since his 1987 appointment to the bench.
Hostetter and five other men were arrested in June on charges they conspired against Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential elections. Four of Hostetter’s co-defendants are linked to the Three Percenters militia movement wing.
Lamberth was told by Hostetter that he wanted to be a lawyer after he had spent more than 20 years in the military. He also had to consider his finances.
Hostetter stated, "I believe it's an governmental strategy and tactic to ensure that they don't convict or bankrupt you."
Brandon Fellows, an upstate New York defendant, unsuccessfully asked U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden for his release.
Fellows is shown in video wearing a fake orange mustache during the riot and his feet propped up on a table in Senator Jeff Merkley's office. Fellows was arrested this summer for harassing a probation officer and missing a mental evaluation appointment.
Fellows took to the stand to support his release. He ignored warnings by the judge that he could be subject to perjury charges if it was testified.
Fellows could have added to his legal problems by doing this.
McFadden was told by Fellows that he used a "loophole" that he'd read online to disqualify another judge in New York for a case unrelated to his own. Fellows claimed that he used the phone number of that judge's wife to appear to know the woman and listed it in court records.
Fellows stated that he asked McFadden's public defender, who had represented him in the riot case, if he could contact McFadden's family to replace McFadden. But the lawyer advised him that this would lead to McFadden being arrested.
McFadden was also nominated last month by President Donald Trump. Pauline Bauer, a self-represented defendant, was also imprisoned for not complying with orders from the courts to cooperate with probation officers during her pretrial freedom.
Bauer and a friend were arrested at the Capitol in May. According to the FBI, Bauer was captured by a body camera of a police officer saying that Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), should be brought out to be hanged.
Bauer, who runs a restaurant in Kane, Pennsylvania has repeatedly interrupted the hearings. She has also repeatedly argued that the court does not have jurisdiction over her, and expressed an ideology that seems to be compatible with the "sovereign citizens” extremist movement.
McFadden was informed by Bauer that she didn't want any "lawyering from the bench" during a July 19 hearing. She then asked the judge, "On which terms?"
McFadden replied, "You don’t get to demand terms of me." McFadden appointed attorneys to stand by Fellows and Bauer's counsel and help at the request of the defendants.
U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss last month ruled Eric Bochene could represent himself. The upstate New York man submitted an "fee Schedule" in which he seemed to be trying to set up a system for him to collect fees to work on his case.
According to the filing, he intends to file a $250,000 charge for two hours spent in court if it feels that he is appearing "under provocation and duress", and $50,000 if present voluntarily. Bochene's billing schedule charges $5 million for "forced bodily fluids giving".
The judge denied the request, noting Bochene had not been required to pay any payment. The judge issued a terse order, saying that the defendant was not entitled to payment in exchange for appearing before the Court.
According to court records, Brian Christopher Mock was the fifth defendant in riots. He began representing himself after he had an assistant federal public defense attorney as his attorney. The FBI was contacted by a tipter who claimed that Mock had bragged about attacking police officers and destroying property at Capitol when he returned to Minnesota.
In the riot, more than 640 people were charged. Many cases have already been resolved, with sentencing that ranges from probation to less than one year in jail. If convicted, some defendants could spend years in prison for the most serious offenses, including conspiracy charges against members of extremist groups.
Judges may find it difficult to keep their cool and maintain control in courtrooms where a defendant isn’t represented by a lawyer.
Magner stated that "the court will often end up bending over backwards in order to ensure that people don’t make their circumstances worse by wanting to become their Perry Mason."
Ron Kuby, a New York civil rights lawyer, served as standby counsel to about a dozen defendants. He has been practicing law for almost 40 years and has never seen a defendant get acquitted. He said that a favorable verdict doesn't always represent the primary goal of a defendant.
He stated that laypeople should not represent themselves in the same way as lawyers.
Kuby stated that you don't possess objectivity. "You must be able look at the case objectively, which can be difficult when you feel that you are being punished for trying to stop an illegitimate president, no matter how crazy it may sound.