Spotlight On: Issa G. Haddad

Please tell us something about your background, where you practice, your areas of practice, and how long you have practiced criminal defense.

I grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. My father owned and operated a gas station/party store, and my first job was working at the store every day, every weekend, every holiday. I went to law school so that I could have a 9-5 job and have holidays and weekends off. I get holidays and weekends off, but I work 8 to 8. I am a general practitioner, and I have been practicing law for 10 years. My first case was representing criminal defendants.

Please tell us about one of your interesting cases.

My first felony case that was set for trial:

My client was on parole. It was around Christmas time, and he missed his last meeting a few days earlier with his parole officer, so he was considered an absconder. He was outside smoking a cigarette at his family’s home when he heard police sirens; he ran and hid in the garage of his family’s home. It was snowing, and the cops had seen someone running; they followed the snow prints and found my client hiding in the garage. He was arrested.

A neighbor called 911 and said he thought he had seen someone in the home next door to him that was not the owner. When the police arrived and saw my client running to hide, he was a suspect and was then charged with home invasion. The neighbor’s house’s back door was broken, and a big screen TV was missing. My client, innocent of the home invasion, demanded his day in court. I did not sleep the night before. I believed I was super prepared, had my cross-examination ready to go, and had visited the scene. I had taken pictures of the home, the garage, and the distance from the neighbor’s home to the garage. I was ready. On the day of trial, the two DPD officers never showed and the judge dismissed the case. I won by default.

Were expert witnesses involved?

Not for this case.

What trends have you noticed in Michigan law?

The Fourth Amendment is not as strong as it used to be, and the government has an excuse for everything. The excuse I despise the most is the “community caretaker.” I had a case where one officer testified that the reason he went into the house without a warrant was because a 911-caller stated that he heard girls screaming; then, three hours later, the person called again to report shots fired. The officers parked on the street, walked up to the home under the cover of darkness, and saw that a house party still going on. The officer testified that once he announced his presence everybody hid in the home. He testified that he said, “If I found you in the home, I am going to tase you.” The prosecutor argued he was searching for a possible person who had been shot or was injured. The judge did not buy it and suppressed everything else: all evidence was suppressed, charges dropped. I had a good judge. The problem is that when the government uses the community caretaker excuse, it usually gets away with it.

How can our criminal justice system be improved?

#1) Provide the same resources the Prosecutor has to the defense, including staff and investigators.

#2) Pay the appointed counsel a reasonable wage for services;

#3) Remove prosecutor immunity. I believe this would stop or slow down the number of unjust cases brought against the poor, who are already too afraid and too financially unable to fight.  These individuals just plead guilty to minimize the circumstances when they are innocent but too afraid to go to trial.

#4) If a client is found not guilty, or has his or her case dismissed, they should be reimbursed their attorney fees by the party who brought the case.

What specific advice do you have for lawyers new to the practice of criminal law?

As attorneys we deal with other people’s problems, if you want to make money go into personal injury instead of criminal law, if you want to be a trial attorney go into Criminal Defense.   Criminal defense requires a special set of skills; not all attorneys can handle criminal defense. Next, never be afraid to ask for what you want; worst case scenario is they say “no” and you are in no better position than you were if you did not ask. Last, do not be afraid to try your cases. The client makes the decision to plead or fight; respect that decision – it is their liberty, not yours.

Mr. Haddad’s website:

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor