The questions that come to mind from a courtroom squabble

I was out of state on vacation the week of July 4th. Upon my return, it was interesting to note an unprecedented media controversy involving the Ward County State’s Attorney’s office and Judge Stacey Louser. As a former Ward County Assistant State’s Attorney and a former criminal defense lawyer (including murder, attempted murder, and manslaughter), the media controversy piqued my attention. I have inadequate information to have drawn a firm conclusion but have several questions which I hope become a matter of public record with more specificity. Based upon news accounts, the assistant state’s attorney in question was displeased with Judge Louser’s ruling in a certain case. Here are the questions that occurred to me:

  1. What exactly was the court’s ruling?
  2. Has the media reviewed a transcript of the exchange between the prosecutor, the defense attorney and the court regarding the ruling in question?
  3. Has the media reviewed the written motions filed with the Clerk of Court by both sides regarding the ruling in question?
  4. If the Ward County State’s Attorney’s office was convinced that Judge Louser’s ruling was not correct, why did they not appeal that ruling to the North Dakota Supreme Court?
  5. Is it relevant that the Assistant State’s Attorney making the fuss about Judge Louser’s ruling was an unsuccessful applicant for the position that Judge Louser now occupies?

While on vacation I was asked by a retired California school administrator if I had ever lost any cases when I was a trial lawyer. My response was yes, and that I had lost cases I should have won and had won cases I should have lost. Trial lawyers are like football quarterbacks. They need to have short memories. Success is as good as their last attempt and failures are part of the game. Is there a smoking gun in the record regarding Judge Louser’s ruling or is this merely a matter of a lawyer unwilling to accept responsibility for a losing a case she may have won if she had done a better job? The public knows there is a media controversy, but what are the yet undisclosed underlying facts? There is often more to a story than meets the eye.

Jim Maxson

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