Judge Phil Mancini recognized that there are three types of people who end up in criminal courts. There are the “citizens”, the occasional visitors, who by some act of foolishness—a loss of temper, a smart mouth, a lovers’ quarrel—find themselves adrift in the unfamiliar seas of arraignments, pre-trials, protective orders and the like. Judge Mancini knew that for these people the process was the punishment. Then there are the “mopes”, the sometimes frequent visitors whose sad lives and absent social skills draw them repeatedly back into the court system. Phil recognized that the process punished these folks as well. And if a prosecutor sought some additional punishment from this type of defendant, it should be minimal; for the purpose is to try to teach, not to inflict pain or set them up for failure. Phil also recognized, the “predators”, the real criminals against whom the full force of the law was designed to and should apply. It is the obligation of everyone “in the system” to recognize the types and to distinguish among them. This is a part of the Phil Mancini legacy.
Another part of that legacy is the recognition that the lawyers — prosecutors and defense attorneys — must co-operate if criminal courts are to function well. He believed that our profession requires that lawyers be up front and honest with each other. They should not rely on surprise or sneak attack. Nor should they embarrass their adversaries, especially in front of clients. He taught prosecutors to respect the lawyers on “the other side”. An adversary is not necessarily an enemy. Part of prosecuting well is recognizing that each defendant needs to feel their lawyer is working for them. Sometimes, to resolve a case this means that a prosecutor should concede something to the defendant. Form can be as important as substance. The flip side of that coin requires defense attorneys to recognize prosecutors have constituencies that must be honored. Never needlessly embarrass a prosecutor.
Judge Phil Mancini died this past July.
He was seventy-nine and had been a part of our court system since 1961 when he served for eight years as a prosecutor and thereafter as a Judge, Senior Judge and Trial Referee. He was a lawyer, a prosecutor and a judge. But most of all he was a gentle and understanding man who was kind to the people with whom he dealt. He was respected and admired for those qualities. Whether bringing a daily delivery of Portuguese rolls for the courthouse staff, scolding an obstreperous defendant or encouraging a kid with potential to stay in school, Judge Mancini always tried to make things better.
Judge Mancini, in the way he fulfilled his responsibilities, left a legacy in our criminal courts that hopefully won’t be forgotten by lawyers who knew him or ignored by those who didn’t.
Phil Mancini intuitively understood the criminal justice system. As a prosecutor and then as a judge he distinguished among those compelled to visit those venues. Not everyone is a “bad person”. Not everyone should be crushed by the weight of statutes sometimes insensitive to human frailties.
It was important to Phil Mancini that the courts work well. He believed they did so when the people called to court felt they were treated fairly. And he knew they felt that way when lawyers on both sides respected each others’ obligations and responsibilities. As a prosecutor and then as a judge he personified those beliefs.