OC Detective Calls For County Supervisors to Dismantle Alternate Defense Services

Categories: Court, Main
Matthew Laznicka
Remember CJ Ford?

He was the private investigator who I profiled in my March 2010 story, "Bad Detective." Ford isn't the bad detective in question, though. That honor went to Joseph Szeles, who does detective work for low-income inmates being housed in the county jail who choose to represent themselves at trial and are entitled to taxpayer-funded private eye work. As my story revealed, the county agency that appoints detectives to such cases, Alternate Defense Services, somehow figured that Szeles should get all the work.

So much so that, during 2008 and 2009, Szeles handled 98 cases for ADS--roughly the rate of one new client per week, a tremendous case load for a single investigator. And although ADS is supposed to allow any qualified investigator to apply to join its panel, Ford and others found the agency unwilling to let them apply to win cases, and requests by inmates who weren't happy with the overburdened Szeles' efforts were told by judges they couldn't have him taken off their cases and replaced with Ford.

*See also:

Sadly, in the two years since that story ran, nothing has changed. Despite the fact that state law is clear that judges cannot interfere in the appointment of investigators to pro-per defendants, and that the process must be transparent and fair, Orange County's ADS continues to run things its own way. Now, Ford is asking members of the public to sign a petition demanding that the county Board of Supervisors step in and either dismantle ADS or force the agency to comply with the Indigent Defense Service Delivery Systems (IDSDS) guidelines, which prohibit judicial interference with pro-per defense matters, including the appointment of investigators.

Here are the three main demands laid out in Ford's Petition:

1. Comply with the policy set by the State Bar Of California Guidelines On Indigent Defense Services Delivery Systems. Create a defense base panel as outlined in the IDSDS; removing the judges from the middle of the indigent pro per defendants case.

 2. Comply with the Sunshine Laws. Make policies, organization structure, procedures, accounting and meeting schedules available for disclosure to the general public and the media. 

3. Comply with the Anti-Trust Laws. Create an open and fair procedure for procurement of government contracts for investigators and experts, and provide a list of  contractors for viewing by the public and pro per defendants.

Here's a link to Ford's petition on the Change.org website. If you think Orange County should bring its justice system into synch with the rest of the country, read it for yourself and sign it.

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This is blatant cronyism!  The taxpayers, voters, and decent folks of Orange County need to wake  up and demand justice from the "justice system" itself.  How ludicrous, and shame on the ADS for making a mockery out of what should be a system we should be proud of and aspire to hold up as an example for others.  This goes beyond "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" with the lack of detective services/parity for indigent and pro per defendants.  What's going on?  What are the members of the ADS and the one detective they gave all the cases to doing together?  Are you exchanging sexual favors, sharing bank accounts and househunting together?  Things that make you go "Hmmmm..."

Thank you C. J. Ford for taking a stand for justice and trying to help the rest of us wake up to the reality of the cover-up in the system.  Time for some folks to be voted out of office and out of the courtroom.

Helene Burns, RN, C and murder victim family member


C.J. Ford is a tireless advocate for Pro Per Defendants and he has helped many...he is a hidden jewel in the system and I wish him the best.  After spending time with C.J., I highly recommend his service based on his talent and integrity.


Gary Michael Pohlson - #67158 Current Status: Active This member is active and may practice law in California. See below for more details. Profile Information The following information is from the official records of The State Bar of California. Bar Number: 67158 Address: It is very odd that Judge Goethals appears to be crossing the line.... noting that Judge Goethals, before he was a judge, practiced law with the infamous criminal defense attorney Gary Pohlson, Esq. Oddly, one has to wonder why over 10 years AFTER Judge Goethals became an Orange County Superior Court judge, his former law partner's (Pohlson) CA State Bar information references POHLSON MOORHEAD & GOETHALS--see below. Something is very wrong with this picture... why would a Judge allow his name to remain in the name of his former law firm... if a conflict of interest does not exist as it relates to criminal cases defended by Pohlson and his apparent ties to Judge Goethals, there is definitely an appearance of potential bias. Pohlson represents MANY indigent defendants based on a review of public records. Gary Pohlson Pohlson Moorhead & Goethals 23151 Moulton Pky #102 Laguna Hills, CA 92653


Thanks for the great information! Nothing would surprise me in the affluent Orange County, California, especially if the taxpayers are being forced to pay for services, without accountability. It would be interesting to find out if Joseph Szeles was/is the investigator in the murder/poisoning case filed against Paul Marshall Curry, in late 2010. On August 29, 2012, the California Supreme Court issued an Order to the appellate court requesting the government show cause why a writ should not be issued, in Curry v. The Superior Court of Orange County et al., Appellate No. G047000. Obviously, something has gone wrong in prosecuting the murder by poisoning charges filed against Paul Curry.... the DA's brief should be filed yesterday/today. Neither the DA nor the OC Sheriff issued any type of public information press release concerning the Supreme Court's reversal on August 29, 2012, so blaming an investigator would be convenient if needed.

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