Can a judge get rid of a lawyer

Was just watching a Law and order episode, and this guy was representing himself. Almost every single question he asked was followed by a sustained objection, until the prosecutor moved to have the guy be removed from his own defense, and the judge agreed and forced him to get his own attorney.

Pretty sure the classic TV/movie cliche of a defendant acting as his/her own attorney is very rare, it is only at the judge’s discretion, and they will always seriously advise against it. I think, from the prosecution’s pov, they don’t want it to happen because it just adds fuel to an appeal claim that they didn’t get a fair trial (i.e. that as their own attorney they were in fact incompetent).

While you generally have the right to represent yourself in the US, it is possible for a judge to rule that you’re not competent to represent yourself and force you to accept/hire a lawyer. It’s not something that is done casually, it’s more like declaring someone incompetent to stand trial, so it’s rare but not unheard of. Most pro se (self represented) defendants and litigants manage to get to the end of their trial without getting ruled incompetent, though they may not be happy with the results.

Hail Ants, you might want to have a look at the article below:
Pro se legal representation in the United States - Wikipedia

May I also recommend this rather brilliant, incisive piece by a writer whose talent is only exceeded by his modesty?

Won’t click the link, but Bricker and I have found common ground:

“A person who defends them self has a Fool for a Client.”

Meh. I chose to defend myself in a civil suit (that was totally without grounds, which helped).

The idiot who sued me was also pro se. As he began testifying, I raised my hand and asked the judge if I could object to the plaintiff’s hearsay testimony. He sustained my objection and explained to the plaintiff why. The plaintiff went right back to inappropriate testimony and I objected again, rinse, repeat.

After three or four more objections (including one for assuming facts not in evidence which the judge actually had to think about before sustaining) the plaintiff dropped an F-bomb out of frustration. My testimony was concise and well planned. I won.

Meh, indeed-yours was the very rare case where the judge was forced to choose between the lesser of two “fools for a client”. I think you know how you would have done had your opponent had hired an attorney.

It has been done. A more famous example would be the Mumia trial, where his outbursts and tantrums resulted in his removal from the courtroom.

The line used about this situation is that you do not have an unlimited right to represent yourself.

Correct. You have a right, but you can waive that right by obstructing the course of the trial, either deliberately or by genuine inability to understand the process.

One thing to keep in mind when defending yourself in court is that threatening to kill the jury is rarely an effective strategy:

Also, if, against all odds, the US Supreme Court agrees to hear your pro se case, it’s helpful if you show up:


No, it was such a slam dunk that I can’t imagine an attorney even agreeing to represent the guy. He was suing for $1,700, a number that he just pulled out of his ass. His documented losses were $78. He could have sued his friend for $78 and won, but his friend was his friend and had no money. I was just a witness to what happened between them, plus I was freed from liability via a signed release prior to what took place. I was basically the only party present with any money, so he sued me.

Additionally, my attorney is a close friend. He looked over the case and coached me before trial. He wouldn’t have charged me a cent, but we were both pretty damn sure I had nothing to worry about.

I have seen several Youtube videos of court scenes where a lawyer & the judge were obviously angry with each other, enough that if I was the Judge, I would have thrown the lawyer out of court. But they never seem to do that. The most reaction is that the Judge says that those comments might result in contempt of court charges, and that matter will be taken up after this case is completed.

So I think that this is the most a Judge can do to a lawyer – that they can’t remove a lawyer during the middle of a case. I can see where that put either the defense or the prosecution at quite a disadvantage, and could be considered a violation of their rights.

No, they can remove a lawyer in the middle of a case. But precisely for the reason you point out, this really is a last resort. He’ll be removed if, basically, his behaviour or attitude is disrupting the trial and he is refusing to stop. And in most cases - certainly in criminal cases - the removal of the defence lawyer will lead to a mistrial, and the whole process goes back to square 1 with a different defence counsel.

There are very few people who would ever be allowed to become lawyers for other people that would sustain outrageous behavior not suitable to the courtroom long enough to be physically removed. They would basically have to intend on it happening, or have a brain aneurysm that caused all loss of control.

In the first trial I ever sat on as a juror, the defendant did in fact represent himself, though he did have standby counsel. Everyone knew he was doomed when he made his opening statement. The prosecution’s opening had been a dry recitation of the facts and the law’s definition of attempted murder, which in TN required that the accused attack another person with a deadly weapon. The defendant began his opening by saying, “In the first place, all th happened is that I hit the bitch with my car, and a car is not a weapon!”

Deliberations were brief.

Keep in mind, the judge can always find the lawyer in contempt of court.

As an Ohio prosecutor and now as a magistrate, I see people represent themselves all the time. Most do OK, some do very well, and a few crash and burn. I have never yet forced a lawyer on someone who didn’t want one, nor have I ever removed a lawyer from a case for misconduct of any kind (although I have warned some that they were in danger of being held in contempt). A judge or magistrate has the inherent power to regulate the proceedings before him and could, in extreme cases, require someone to get a lawyer who was otherwise incompetent to represent himself, or remove a terrible or disruptive lawyer from a case. If it ever came to that I would make a very clear and specific record, for the nearly-inevitable appeal, as to why I had done so.