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Lindsay Lohan judge issues warning to actress' attorney

March 2, 2013 |  8:59 am

A judge on Friday refused to delay the latest criminal case against Lindsay Lohan and had some choice words for the actress and her new attorney.

Lohan faces criminal charges that she lied about not being behind the wheel of a Porsche that crashed into a truck on Pacific Coast Highway. On Friday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Dabney took Lohan's attorney to task for problems in the way he worked with the court.

He said that if Lohan proceeded with her New York attorney, Mark Heller, as her sole legal counsel, Dabney would require her to sign a waiver acknowledging that Heller was not competent in California law.

Lohan was absent from the courtroom Friday; she was not required to appear.

Dabney disregarded Heller's pleas to delay the case until April and set a trial date for March 18, while repeatedly scolding the lawyer for gaffes.

In asking for a delay, Heller asked the judge to "give her leeway to show that she's worthy of compassion."

"There seems to be some doubt as to whether Ms. Lohan is entitled to some mercy because of her history with this department," Heller said.

Lohan has been on probation for various drunk-driving and shoplifting charges since 2007 and accumulated what the judge described as a voluminous court file.

But Dabney said he wasn't persuaded by Heller's words and questioned the attorney's ability to adequately defend the actress in California, given that he did not seem to be familiar with the state's criminal law system.

"I'm somewhat concerned whether you have sufficient guidance from local counsel," the judge told Lohan after Heller filed a "bill of particulars" -- a motion not used in California criminal proceedings. A local attorney who vouched for Heller has not practiced law for several years.

The judge bluntly lectured Heller for 10 minutes on how that, as well as some other motions, were incorrect procedures for a California criminal court. Until last month, Lohan was represented by Shawn Holley, among Southern California's top lawyers.

Heller took the legal helm recently after representing Lohan in New York. Dabney rejected Heller's motion to dismiss the charges against her and informed the attorney that he had not complied with California legal requirements. Under state law, attorneys must file motions to dismiss during the arraignment, Dabney said. That period has already passed.

Heller said he could not file a motion to dismiss at the arraignment because he was not Lohan's attorney at the time. Heller said he was seeking to protect Lohan's constitutional rights and was unable to determine from the charges whether his client made statements at the scene, at the hospital or to emergency responders.

But the judge said California lawyers know that such a motion regarding Miranda rights and statements is only appropriate once the case reaches trial.

Santa Monica prosecutors allege the 26-year-old actress told officers she was not driving a Porsche that rear-ended a truck on June 18 as she headed to the set of the film “Liz & Dick.” Lohan faces one misdemeanor count each of reckless driving, providing false information to an officer and willfully resisting, obstructing or delaying an officer.

Though prosecutors and Heller met this week, a settlement was not reached. To avoid trial on those charges, as well as violating her probation on a separate shoplifting conviction, Lohan will have to agree to serve at least 90 days in a lockdown rehabilitation facility, according to a source familiar with case. The Los Angeles city attorney's office has refused to allow Lohan to bargain for anything less, according to a source.

Santa Monica city prosecutor Terry White said Friday he was ready to proceed to trial.

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-- Richard Winton at Los Angeles County Superior Court

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