A Day in Court…UGH!
By E. Dennis Zahrbock, CFP
I wonder how many of our readers have had the opportunity to spend a day in court. Now I’m talking about the view from the “bench” not the view from the “accused.” I thought I better make that clear so none of our readers get the impression I’m in trouble or on my way to jail!
I am involved in the Barron County Drug Court and I was recently asked by the local Judge, Ed Brunner, to participate in a “ride along day” in District Court. The day was Wednesday, February 8 - it started at 7:45 a.m. with my meeting the Judge in his quarters and it ended at 4:30 p.m. when the court calendar for the day was over.
The first duty of the day was “in take.” This involved all the new cases that were being placed on the court’s calendar. The Judge and I walked into the court and the familiar “all rise” was stated. When the Judge said “you may be seated” we all sat. My chair was about three feet from the Judge, right up on the bench. Intake involved all of the new cases for various violations, mostly misdemeanors and a few felonies. I found the saddest part about intake to be the large number of cases involving people already in jail! For example, one poor individual was being charged with failure to pay child support in Barron County, he was late! He was being transported by the Sheriff’s department of Rusk County (where he was already in jail) to appear in Barron County Court. The judge asked him when he was getting out, and then delayed his intake until he was out of the neighboring county jail. What a thing to look forward to!
Another, all too common, sad deal was seeing a person
who was arrested for a misdemeanor and then “jumps
bail” which is a felony! You ask, how does this happen?
Much of court is drug or alcohol related (I’d guess around 80-90%) In the State of Wisconsin if you are arrested for possession of drugs you are automatically forced to relinquish your driver’s license. You are then given a second court date but you can’t get to court as no one will drive you, or you drive to court and then are arrested for driving without a license. Things seem to go from bad to worse!
Most of the court’s clients cannot afford legal counsel. The Judge spends a great deal of time letting people know that they should have an attorney and then sends them off to the Public Defenders office to find that the Public Defenders office uses “net worth’s” that are based on some time in the 1980’s. And you guessed it, most do not qualify. Next step is for the court to appoint an attorney on their behalf that will be paid for by the County (as opposed to the State for Public Defense) but now the poor defendant must arrange for a “payback” of the legal fees. Again, it goes from bad to worse. Virtually everyone in the intake court pleads “not guilty” as their next day in court will be the plea hearing.
In the afternoon we had plea hearings. In these cases (about 3-4 weeks after intake) we find that the defendant, his court appointed attorney and the district attorney have now come up with what all of us know as a “plea bargain.” In the afternoon I observed 80-90% plead guilty to some lesser charge than they originally plead “not guilty” to just 3-4 weeks earlier.
Being a person of integrity that believed people when I hear their stories it seemed to me that none were really guilty. I asked the Judge about this and found that the “defendant’s version of the truth” is not what is felt by most people to be true.
The Judge pointed out that many who plead guilty on the plea hearing afternoon were pleading guilty to much lesser offenses than on the intake day. The real benefit of the plea hearing day is that it moves cases out of the courts. If every case ended in Jury trial we’d have about a 10-year wait to get our day in court.
A day in court is one I will long remember as it showed me how our system actually runs. It is very obvious to me that the attitude of the Judge is all important. An old fashioned “hanging judge” could certainly hang some innocents! A good “compassionate judge” may miss a few guilties but also not further the problems of the innocent. I have gained immense respect for Judge Brunner and other judges like him. Judge Brunner truly cares about the people and does all he can to try to improve the futures of those that appear. It is still sad, however, to see the Judge know so many of the defendants on a first name basis!
Bottom line for our readers - stay out of court! If you do go, having an attorney is all important as they have the street smarts that are so important in managing the system. And, even if you are guilty, you may want to plead not guilty at intake so that you can arrange a plea deal for the plea hearing!
By E. Dennis Zahrbock, CFP
A day in New England to be long remembered . . . In December, my friend, Tom Brady Sr., invited our “study group” consisting of myself, Dan Rigby, Richard Sullenger and Jim Chapman to a weekend we won’t soon forget. It began Friday night with the Boston Pops and continued on Saturday where we first went to the Patriots pre-game party with Bob Kraft, owner of the Patriots. We then attended the game as guests of the retired chairman of Bank of America where we enjoyed a suite for 80 and six reserved signs in the front row on the 40-yard line - a great host and a great game! Following the game, we went to the Patriot locker room and each had our picture taken with quarterback Tommy in front of his locker. Finally, we had dinner with Tommy and about thirty of his friends at his favorite restaurant in Boston. All I can say is WOW, WOW, and WOW!
January brought a quick trip to Palm Springs for Sue and me. Our travel brought us through San Francisco on the way home so we were able to enjoy Sunday morning breakfast with Tom and Galynn Brady. It sure is great to have such good friends all around this great country.
We also made it to Lutsen in January for a weekend getaway with our Italian travel partners - we even planned out our next group adventure. This fall we plan to take a road trip around Lake Superior! We were back to Lutsen in February for skiing with the kids. And lastly, in March we enjoyed a final ski weekend at Lutsen with our old ski group of twenty five years ago (our last video dates from 1985).
Sarah's sister “the nurse" gathered most of the sisters, unfortunately not all, for a 40th Birthday celebration in sunny Las Vegas in January. Golf, shows, and shopping filled most of our time. A great time was had by all.
I was invited to become a director of the local Red Lake Symphony. . . fortunately for audiences that does not mean director of the orchestra, but a director on their board. I am getting involved and enjoy working with the fine arts side of our society.
Sue continues as Board Chair of the Lakeview Hospital in Rice Lake as well as running for her second term as County Supervisor in April. I’m guessing she’ll be re-elected as she is running un-opposed!
March Madness hits close to home for the Kaelberers. Coach Darvin led daughter Miranda's 4th Grade Basketball team through an undefeated regular season. In March they captured the championship trophy!
Daughter Rachael and husband Todd both graduate with their Masters in early May. Although both attended different Universities, the graduation works out perfectly (for visitors). Rachael graduates on Friday and Todd on Saturday so we’ll have an action filled weekend in Denver.
BULLETIN BOARD OF
March brings the semi-annual Deadwood R & R for Sarah and Darvin.
E. Dennis is a guest of ValMark for the final round of the Masters.
E. Dennis will be a featured speaker at Minneapolis NAIFA’s Annual Day with MDRT conference.
E. Dennis and Sue travel to Champaign, Illinois where Dennis and Larry Rybka are the guest lectures for the Southern Illinois CLU Society.
E. Dennis and Sue travel to Denver to celebrate the graduation of both Rachael and Todd from graduate school. Both attended different schools (Rachael at Colorado State University and Todd at University of Colorado, Denver) but they graduate a day apart from one another.
E. Dennis and Sue as well as Steve and Lori, travel to Southern Italy for a ValMark convention. Sarah, unfortunately could not go as a sister-in-law’s wedding takes precedence.
Sarah, Steve and Dennis travel to San Diego for the annual meeting of the Million Dollar Round Table. They are the only firm in either Minnesota or Wisconsin with three members of the Top of the Table.
Skip-a-Day XXII to be held on Monday, June 5 at Turtleback in Rice Lake.
Top Of Page
E. Dennis and Sarah, the current majority share-holders of Business & Estate Advisers, Inc. are pleased to announce that Steve Bowman has become a shareholder. We are especially proud of Steve's accomplishments since he joined B&EA in June 2001. He is not only a CFP but also has just been named a member of MDRT's Top of the Table (TOT). To attain membership in TOT you start with roughly 500,000 financial service professionals in the United States. This is reduced to about 20,000 that meet production qualification for MDRT and only about 1,000 of this 20,000 become members of TOT. Steve has done all of this with his fifth year anniversary in this business being June of 2006.
Steve was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. He received his MBA from the University of Denver. He married Lori Zahrbock Bowman and is the proud father of Addison, Parker and Kallahan plus a yellow lab named Bailey. Steve and his family live in Rice Lake, Wisconsin where he is heading up our Rice Lake office location.
We congratulate our new partner, shareholder and TOT member, we’re glad to have you on our team!
long have you worked at Business & Estate
It will be 10 years this July.
Q. How do you feel you best contribute to B&E’s goals of giving “world class customer service” and being a “world class place to work”?
That would have to be my “Minnesota Nice” label. I know every client is important to our success and I always try and remember how I would like to be treated. I try to live by that both in my professional and personal life.
Q. What is your favorite thing about B&E?
The comfortable atmosphere and close relationships I have formed with all the employees and owners over the years. They are like a second family to me.
Q. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I enjoy playing tennis, being a mom to my two children Giovanna and Alex Jr. and loving wife to my husband of 20 years. Family and faith are most important in my life.
We at B&E could not be more proud of Lisa. After 10 years of good, hard work, not only does Lisa complete the Minnesota Insurance examination, but scores better than most of us did! It is always important to surround yourself with the best people, and with Lisa we have done this indeed! Congratulations Lisa, and thanks for being a part of our family.