The Disarm Now Plowshares defendants appealed their case on the basis that they were denied their right to present their defense in their December 2010 trial in Federal court. Today, March 8th, attorneys representing the Disarm Now Plowshares defendants appeared in US Federal Appellate Court in Tacoma, Washington to present their arguments. Attorney Blake Kremer shared a brief reflection of his experience – what he called “an excting morning” – in court today, and I’ve included it here. Thanks to Blake and all the attorneys who assisted (and in some cases continue to assist) the Disarm Now Plowshares defendants. And thanks to all attorneys who give of their time assisting the many peacemakers who risk arrest for the sake of peace and justice.
Given 20 minutes to make my argument to the court, I prepared a 10-minute speech. I knew that I would be given some opportunity to make my pre-planned points, but was confident that the judicial panel would likely frequently interrupt me with questions.
I was less than 20 seconds in to my pre-planned speech when the questions erupted, and I was never able to return to my notes again. The judges wanted to know why I felt that the defendants were not given an opportunity to present their defense. They were also interested in hearing more about the questions that the jury sent out during trial deliberations, and what I felt the legal significance was. I pointed out an interesting case where this very appeals court had used jury questions as part of a basis to find that a judge had erroneously confused the jury and deprived a defendant of a fair trial.
The US Attorney went next. The judges had less questions for him. I finished with a short rebuttal, then asked the judges to take in to account that some of my clients will soon be completing prison sentences and others have serious health concerns, and that in both cases, these people would like to hear back from the court as soon as possible. The panel acknowledged this concern.
I have never had such an aggressive round of questions from judges in my entire career. They were sincerely interested, and were pushing me hard to answer questions that they had clearly been considering for some time. Afterwards, I walked past one of the judges outside the court house. She looked up at me, smiled, and said “Good job, counselor!” I have been a lawyer too long to read this or anything else as a sign of encouragement. But it was an exciting morning.