Rocky Mountain News - Denver County Court changed its process in the middle of hearings Friday morning to accommodate protesters arrested during the Democratic National Convention.
Protesters had come to court intending to postpone their return court dates so they wouldn't have to stay in Denver until next week.
Judges at first remained adamant that they could not divert from a process set up to handle mass arrests during the convention. The process required people who were arrested to come to court Tuesday to get a trial date if they pleaded not guilty.
"This is the process, and I am going to follow it," Judge James Breese told the group of about 25 protesters who came to a special court session Friday hoping to plead not guilty and come back to court in October.
The protesters had been called by court staff, and some said they had recorded messages that indicated they could "reset" their cases. Instead, they were told they could only plead guilty to resolve their cases and not have to return next week. The hearings are called "disposition/reset" hearings.
Breese apologized to protesters who may have misunderstood.
But attorneys mounted objections to the process, which is unusual and peculiar to the protesters arrested during the DNC. Attorneys were told they could not appear next week on behalf of their clients.
Denver lawyer Robert Corry said one of his clients was a "bystander" arrested for making a call on his cell phone when a police officer told him to stop.
"This is a violation of his First Amendment rights," Corry said. "It's ridiculous. It's an outrage and a huge, huge inconvenience to these people to make them come back to court next week. They are here now. We all are here now."
Corry and other lawyers said they expected the city attorney to dismiss some of the cases once the facts were reviewed.
Several other county judges arrived in the courtroom to observe, and they conferred with Breese during a recess. Then the city attorneys and defense attorneys were called into chambers.
After about 10 minutes, court reconvened, and Breese announced the process had been adjusted so people who came to court Friday could reset their cases to return in October.
A cheer went up in the courtroom, which was quickly called back to order.
"This is an excellent change," attorney Brian Vicente of the People's Law Project said after the hearing. "The court system has shown it can be reasonable. I commend Judge Breese on this decision. They've done the right thing."
Rocky Mountain News