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Prosecutors Banned From 'Jaw-Jacking' Outside Judge's Chambers

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. | Last updated on

No jaw-jacking in the courthouse!

Wait, let's rewind. What is jaw-jacking?

If you ask Indiana defense attorney Jerry Peteet, it's when a group of deputy prosecutors and court employees gather near a judge's chambers to drink coffee and gossip. It creates such an appearance of impropriety that it should be banned from the courthouse.

At least that was the reason given by Peteet when he recently asked Lake Superior Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. to ban such behavior during his client's rape trial.

Prosecutors and court staff have traditionally socialized in a back hallway near the judge's chambers, according to the Post-Tribune. Judge Stefaniak cites "the best coffee in the courthouse" -- not his presence -- for the choice in location.

The judge also pointed out that defense attorneys often join in on the conversations and that participants do not discuss specific cases or defendants. Nonetheless, Jerry Peteet persisted -- even when questioned about social conversations he carries on in the courtroom.

Those are different, he explained, because he's "not back there jaw-jacking."

Deputy prosecutor Michelle Jatkiewicz has since called Peteet's request "a mockery of the process," reports the Post-Tribune. This characterization is quite fitting seeing as how an amused court employee -- or attorney -- subsequently made a mockery of Peteet.

Soon after Judge Stefaniak granted Jerry Peteet's request, the courthouse hallway received some new decor, explains the Post-Tribune. Someone wrote "jaw-jacking" on a piece of paper, then circled and crossed it out.

The sign was posted just outside the judge's chambers.

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