Law: Party-Line Plea

Telephoning the bench

It was Christmas Eve. Phoenix Attorney Don Wilson wanted to postpone a February trial, but he hoped to avoid spending 45 minutes driving back and forth to court just to take part in a two-minute hearing. So Wilson picked up the telephone and made his pitch, successfully, in a conference call involving two other lawyers and the judge.

Party-line pleading dates from 1970, when judges in California agencies began accepting such calls. It has caught on with municipal, state and federal judges elsewhere—notably in Arizona's sprawling Maricopa County, where heavy floods a year ago limited travel and thus created...

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