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Teen-age Lawyer Says He Was Fired

December 31, 1986

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) _ Ricky Powell used flamboyant summations and wisecracks to get his teen-age clients off with light sentences, but the 16-year-old defender is out of a job.

The Lamar High School junior says he was fired as a volunteer lawyer in the city’s teen court program after he protested a rule change that bars juries from lowering prescribed penalties, but court officials say he quit in a huff.

The teen court system is a pilot project that allows offenders age 13 to 19 charged with minor offenses to choose a court trial with teen-age lawyers and jurors before a regular municipal judge.

Punishment for such violations as overparking, speeding or possession of alcohol involves community service instead of fines.

″I was getting them off real good,″ said Powell, who also participates in school debate and forensics. ″I had people stopping me in the hall at school asking me to take their cases.″

But the stricter guidelines mandate minimum sentences for all offenses, regardless of the case made by the defense.

″They told me I was not going to go on getting minimum decisions the way I had been doing,″ Powell said.

He said that after his continued success, teen court Judge Bonnie Cade and court coordinator Michele Rothschild changed the rules, mandating stiffer penalties.

Ms. Rothschild said change was made because city prosecutors threatened to invalidate court decisions if offenders continued getting off with little or no punishment.

Powell said he walked out of a November meeting with Ms. Rothschild and Ms. Cade, but insists he didn’t resign. He said he received a letter from the two saying they interpreted the walkout as a resignation.

Ms. Cade said Powell may have been asked to leave the program even if he had not walked out of the meeting.

″He was too disruptive,″ she said. ″He’s an adequate attorney, but he is not as good as he thinks he is. He tended to pontificate.″

Powell once addressed jurors as ″Friends, Romans, countrymen.″

Ms. Rothschild said Powell poured more energy into his courtroom pyrotechnics than into outlining his case.

″He kind of got carried away, like he was on TV,″ she said.

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