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Saturday, December 1, 2012

365 days later...

1 year at the Public Defender's Office on 12/1. 
I have learned that police lie-HORRIBLY and often. 
I have learned that people are willing to risk their freedom on "the principle". 
I have learned that 99% of the time there is nothing just about the justice system but I have also learned that you can make someone's day just by listening to them and speaking to them like a human being. 
I have learned that very few people are all bad or all good. 
I have learned that you must be VERY tactful when bringing to the courts attention that they have f*cked up. 
I have learned that your bad day can be turned around when you get the biggest hug ever from someone's mama even if all you did was get their bond down from $60,000 to $20,000. 
And I have learned that after 10 years of doing this job-I'm sure that I will have plenty more left to learn.....
Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.

~LT

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Absence makes the heart...

I know, I know.  It's been a very long while and I have neglected you Dear Reader.  Well, a LOT has been going on.  I have sat second chair in a trial, I was asked to sit second chair in a trial that was dismissed at the last minute and I will be sitting second chair in a trial that is coming up.  In the mean time I have spent my days feeling a little more dumb every day.  Not to say that anyone in my office makes me feel that way.  To be honest, my office is kinda great--but each day I feel like there is more and more that I DON'T know.  I can't even get offended every now and then when someone says that they want a new lawyer.  I wouldn't want me either.  I guess my only saving grace is that, although this job wears me out and even though it may be hard for outsiders to tell, I really do care about what I am doing.  I may be a lifer :-)  I will try to be less neglectful to you Dear Reader, though I can make no promises.  I have decided to stop being lazy and to start (and finish) at least one of the books floating around in my head.

Until next time,

Friday, August 17, 2012

Giving it all

I am tired.  Being a public defender is a tired job.  You get tired of your clients not showing up for appointments, dropping by the office without an appointment, not informing you when there is a MAJOR change in their life, informing you of EVERY little change in their life, not taking their case as seriously as you do, picking up new charges before you have finished untangling the current mess, und so weiter.

You get tired of the f*cking police, tired of hearing stories about police officers leaving people in the back of a patrol car with the windows all the way up and the air conditioning turned off.  In the middle of August.  You get tired of hearing prosecutors talk to defendants like they're a piece of shit and then turn around and try to make small talk with you like we're "in this together."  Fuck you, we aren't on the same team.

Mostly I am tired of feeling like I am neglecting my children.  I have left home before 7am every day this week and I have not made it home before 8pm any day this week. 

I love my job.

I love my kids more.

I'm tired.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

There, but for the grace of God, go I....

This Friday at 5:00 p.m., I will shut down my computer, I will clear my desk, turn off my heater, shut off the lights in my office and head to the elevator that will shuttle me to the first floor of the County Courthouse.

When I leave the courthouse I will climb in my car and head to my home so that I can see my beautiful, healthy, happy, safe children.  I will enter with an exhausted smile on my face to my youngest laying on the couch playing Angry Birds or Temple Run on the iPod.  I will drop my things, slowly begin to strip in order to feel more comfortable within the confines of my own "four" walls as I give both of my children big hugs. 

Once I have greeted my children we will migrate to the kitchen where they will tell me about their day and their wishes for potential weekend adventures and I will begin cooking dinner.  Once dinner is finished we will eat and talk and then settle in front of the television to watch a movie or curl up on the couches to read books.  After a few hours we will each retire to our own bedrooms, climb into our comfortable beds and proceed to engage in whatever our respective pre-bedtime activities are until we each fall asleep. 

Throughout the night there may be the occasional half-asleep trip to the bathroom or trip for a glass of water from the fridge, but with the exception of the hum from the air conditioning unit and the fans our home will be silent.

**************************************

This Friday at 5:00 p.m., Ms. R will walk into the County jail.  She will be there to turn herself in after having a week to make arrangements for the care of her children as she serves time for a crime she committed under the direction of the man that has been beating her for the last five years of her life.

When Mr. S is released from jail this weekend he will walk home and find that there is an eviction notice on the door.  Although he has not purposefully failed to make his rental payments on time, once his landlord found out Mr. S was in jail she was in no mood to "work with him" and figured the four walls that were currently housing him MUST be where he belonged.  The police wouldn't pick him up for no reason, right?

As Ms. T walks into her home she will do so with a forced smile, although she works as hard as she can her children are hungry, their utilities are overdue and her home is about to be taken away.  She will do her best to place dinner on the table, and in order for her children to have as much as possible, she will go to bed hungry tonight.

Throughout the night, Ms. R will jump each time she hears a yell, a cry the bang of door or the stomp of a foot.  She has lived the last five years in fear and she will spend the next 6 months in escalated anxiety.

Throughout the night, Mr. S will scratch scars into his legs as the mosquitoes eat him up because he is sleeping in the woods underneath a billboard off the side of the interstate.

Throughout the night, Ms. T will try to get rest, while failing to get sleep.  Her hungry body will keep her awake, her mind will race with ideas, both legal and illegal, on how to provide more for her children.

**************************************

I know that I am not where I am today because of anything I have done or failed to do.  I know that as John Bradford once stated, there, but for the grace of God, go I.  One wrong choice in boyfriends and an unknown number of years from my life could have been colored with beatings, sexual assault and forced engagement in criminal activities.  Being caught one time for any of the number of stupid things I chalked up to "just being a kid", "just being a teenager" or "just being a college student" could have landlords throwing me out at the first sign of trouble.  Or worse, refusing to rent to me at all.  ONE mistake, ONE person not caring, ONE missing children's program in my neighborhood, ONE less teacher that didn't care and I could be inmate #35687R24.  I don't pretend to be a big and glamorous lawyer, there really is nothing big or glamorous about anything that I do.  But I have always believed that the best singers make the ugliest faces when they are giving all they have to give in that moment.  The most creative artists rise from their creation covered in paint and chalk and dirt.  The most focused writers finally shake themselves out of their 3-day writing binge with their hair all over their head and stubble on their chin.  When you give all you have, to all that you do, it is not pretty.  I would like to believe that's what I do; I give all I have to what I am doing right now because...well...there but for the Grace of God go I....and you.


Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.

~LT


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It is not my job...(part 3)

As you descend the stairs you can't help but roll your eyes and throw your head back in frustration.  The client you are going to see in the holding cell has a very bad temper and it seems he does his best to draw out your bad temper.  He has been arrested for domestic violence assault and, though he is determined the young lady is lying and will not show up to court, she is here-again.

"THAT BITCH IS LYING, I AIN'T HIT HER!!!"

"OK, help me prove she is lying.  Tell me what YOU think is going on."

"We were messing around, we used to go out and spend a lot of time together.  Then I found out she was married, her husband is a cop and he found out she was messing around on him.  He beat her ass and he's the one making her go through with these bullshit charges to 'prove' to him that she is done with me."

Sigh....

You go over the barely-there file you have been provided by the municipality that has brought charges against your client, convinced there is nothing you can do to help him.  Although he does not want to look at the "lies" the police heard from her and wrote down, you convince him that everything is important--EVERYTHING.  And that's when it happens......he takes a look at the date.

"I was in the hospital that day! The day she is saying she called the police because I beat her up, I was in the hospital and had been in the hospital!"

Well now you're cooking with grease!  Because the victim states she called the police the same day your client beat her up.  If he was in the hospital the day she called the police, then it stands to reason that he was in the hospital the day he "beat her up."

You request a continuance to obtain the documents necessary for your clients trial, obtain his signature on a medical release form, send it over to the hospital and you wait...

...and wait...

                   ...and wait...

It takes so long that you're convinced you've just been had by your client.  You should have just tried harder to convince him to take the plea.  You didn't believe him anyway, he is a feisty little angry man that you don't doubt can, and will, hit anyone.  Including a woman.  Not only do you not believe him, you don't even like him, not a little bit.  But here you are, convinced to do your futile best to "fight the system" and now you're about to get embarrassed because you went against your gut, went out on a limb and tried to verify the story of a client that makes you want to stab yourself in the eye with a long, dull, rusty nail.

Then you receive the medical records.  Before you catch yourself you find your clients words escaping your mouth: "That bitch IS lying!"  He WAS in the hospital.  That swarmy, angry, frustrating client of yours was telling you the truth.

I do not like all of my clients.  Truth be told, I don't care for the majority of them.  Most of them are inconsiderate of my time, demanding, entitled and just downright unpleasant.  But in the short 7 months I have been doing this job I have found that most of them react that way because they know the odds are stacked against them.  I don't doubt that they can tell their Public Defender (this second-class, "unpaid", "fake" lawyer that works for the state) was rolling their eyes and regretting the encounter they were about to have with their them. 

My experience with Mr. X just 3 short months ago has helped to alter the way I engage with my clients every since. 

I can like, love or despise my client.  It is not my job to do any of the aforementioned things.  But if I have resolved to remain a part of this machine for a little while longer, I must work to transform it.  Not be transformed by it.  It is not my job to like my clients.  It is not my job to believe them or judge them or bully them into taking a plea because they are too unpleasant to deal with.  It is my job to do everything I can to ensure that justice has been done.  Justice is not just for the "nice" and "considerate" people.  Justice is not reserved for those who are predisposed to having a sunny disposition and an optimistic take on life (and thank God for that because I would never be afforded justice if that was the criteria).  Justice is for the person.  Justice is for the nice person, the mean person, the person that smiles at everyone and the person that smiles at no one.  The Fifth Amendment states that No PERSON shall "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."  It is my job to ensure that No PERSON is deprived of their life, or their freedom without the state (or city) first providing proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the person committed the crime of which they have been accused.  Plain and simple as that. 

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.

~LT,

"Take thought in how other people perceive you, you never know when twelve of them may be deciding your fate." ~LT

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rest in Peace

I received a call from the mother of one of my clients, Mr. CWL.  She called to tell me that he passed away in his sleep and his body was found in his home this morning.  I have a mix of emotions running around inside of me right now:

--honored that she thought of me when she is still dealing with the fresh news that her child has passed before even reaching his 40's

--sad for the loss of another human being

--relieved that the system won't screw over someone that is an addict, not a criminal

and finally,

--inadequate....??...maybe...ineffective?

This man was 39 years old.  His father passed away when he was a child and from that point on, he was never the same.  He became addicted to drugs and alcohol before he reached 13 years of age and our justice system kept throwing him into jail instead of treatment.

When his case was assigned to me, our social worker did an assessment and I convinced her to send him to treatment.  He was successful in his in-patient treatment and both he and his mother expressed their gratitude for getting him the help he has needed for the last 26 years.  But then he was sent to a halfway house and 2 months after checking in, he checked himself out. 

My clients mother informed me that an autopsy is going to be done in order to determine the cause of death.  It breaks my heart every time I consider the possibility that it could be a drug overdose. 

I don't know how much change I am going to effect during my time at the public defenders office.  There are days when my heart aches so much for my clients that I don't know if it is in the best interest of my health for me to remain here.  Those are the same days that my heart aches when I think about no one being in their corner if I am gone.  But clients like Mr. CWL make me feel inadequate and ineffective because he was in our system for so long without anyone caring to address his underlying problem.  NEVER convicted of a crime that touched the life of another, his only crime was harming himself.

The last thing his mother said through her stifled sobs before she hung up was "Thank you for caring."  At the end of the day, whether you are a public defender or in private practice, whether you practice law, medicine, teach or touch people in some other way, the point is to TOUCH their lives.  I mean, that's really what we're trying to do here isn't it?  We're trying to touch someones life, because they will touch ours in return, and we all crave touch.

Mr. CWL sought illegal drugs and alcohol in an effort to create some type of peace in his chaotic world.  My prayer is that he finds some peace now that he has left this world.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.

~LT

Friday, June 1, 2012

Jobs Jobs Jobs

It is really hard to do this job and not want to do more for your clients if you are the type of person that like to "fix" people.  I, unfortunately, am that type of person.  In almost all of my relationships-romantic or otherwise-I have served as the "cheerleader" of sorts, yeah you can do it, you can do it, put your mind to it!  So I find it hard to sit back and not help when my clients who really are trying to move on and be productive cannot find anyone that will give them a break.  Hence, here is "the list":

This information was provided by the Alabama Department of Public Health
*****************There is, of course, no guarantee of employment but this information was obtained by our office social worker for our clients (any anyone else) having a hard time getting a second chance because of mistakes made in the past.  If you find additional companies, please do not hesitate to comment and add.**************************

Alacare Home Health
Alabama Gas Corporation
Alabama Power Company
Baptist Health centers, Inc.
Blue Cross/Blue Shield
Bradford Health Services
Charter Communications
Health South
Noland Health Services
Norwood Clinic
Regions Bank
Bruno's/Food World
Winn-Dixie
Publix
Burlington Coat Factory
Dillard's
Family Dollar Store
Goody's
K-mart
Marshall's
Parisian
McRae's
Sam's Club
Steinmart
T J Maxx
Wal-Mart
Michael's Crafts
CVS Pharmacy
Rite-Aid Pharmacy
Pet Smart
Applebee's
Arby's
Atlanta Bread Company
Baskin Robbins
Blimpie
Burger King
Captain D's
Chick Fil A
Chili's
Church's Chicken/Popeye's
CiCi's Pizza
Copeland's
Cracker Barrell
Dairy Queen
Hardee's
IHOP


As with everything, I ask my clients to use their common sense.  I would not get excited about an open position as a cashier at K-Mart if the felony plastered on the criminal background check is going to show a conviction for Theft of Property I.  I would not bother to apply for a position at CVS or Rite-Aid if the convicted offense involves drugs.

Good luck.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Is principle worth your freedom

I joined a colleague that was going to speak to her client about his plea offer that was soon-to-expire.  This particular client had been in jail for 12 months, accused of stealing and selling copper.  He was adamant that he found the copper on the side of the road, he left it there for 24 hours to see if the rightful owner would come retrieve it.  When he went back the copper was still on the side of the road so he took it and sold it.  He was unemployed, his parents were sick and they needed the money. 

I sit there listening to my coworker and listening to the client for about 20 minutes and I realize they are having two separate conversations.  She is trying to get him to understand what the law says and he is trying to get her to understand what he is going through.  While he admits that something did not "feel right" when he found the copper on the side of the road, he does not believe he found and sold the $6,000 worth that was stolen from the power company.  He was willing to pay restitution in the amount of $1000 but not a penny more.

I explained to the client that as his attorney, I would fight on his behalf if he wanted a trial.  I would require that the District Attorney prove each and every element of the charge and I would closely examine every piece of evidence they intend to present.  But I also explained to my client that as a person, sitting on the jury, I would find it hard to believe that valuable copper sat on the side of the road for 24 hours with NO ONE else picking it up.  We then discussed his mother and the fact that he has already lost his father while serving time.  He explained that his mother was pretty much on her death bed and needed him home.  So I asked him to look at it like this....you can take the plea, get credit for time served, chalk the $6000 restitution up to a life lesson learned and be home taking care of your mother.  Or you can stick to your guns, take your case before a jury, sit in jail until your case is up for trial and risk being incarcerated when your mother passes. 

He decided to take the plea.

You may be reading this and thinking that was a dirty trick, to use his mother as a way to get him to take the plea.  But you must look at it like this: He DID take the copper, he DID try to sell it, he DID think it was possibly stolen.  Elements of a receiving stolen property charge met.  The DA agreed to drop the Theft of Property charges.  The DA was asking for 12 months, of which, our client had already served 12 months.  There was no dispute that the alleged victim was out $6000 worth of property.  The question was whether my client received all of it and only sold some of it, or if he sold all that he had and had no idea what happened to the rest.  The IMPORTANT question was whether he was willing to sit in jail until his case came up for trial while his mother's health was failing.

The important question was "is principle worth your freedom?"  My client decided it was not. 

As I write this he is at home, cooking or cleaning and caring for his mother in her last days.  He is an elderly man who does not have much time left himself.  He has the next 13 years to make payments of any denomination towards the $6000 and you can bet your arse that he will NEVER pick up any copper off the side of the road again.

As attorney's we have a tendency to want to bring the client up to the level of understanding what the law "says", often refusing to be brought 'down' to what the client is saying. What we should be focused on is ensuring there is a "meeting of the minds" if at all possible, with our client. When we can accomplish a meeting of the minds, then we can speak to our clients about what is in their best interest without sounding like we are selling them out, selling them short or sending them up the river to fend for themselves.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.

~LT


Monday, May 14, 2012

Law and Order

A little boy is born and all seems well.  He has ten fingers and ten toes, his screeching is so loud that it is clear his lungs are just fine.  He reacts well to being placed on his mothers warm chest and he squeezes his eyes in pain when he is placed under the light of the little bassinet that the nurses use to clean him up.

As he grows it is apparent that something is not quite....right about him.  He barely makes it past the eighth grade and then he just stops going to school, spending his days at his mothers side.

As a man he is on fifteen different medications, ADD, nerves, back pain, leg pain, headaches, stomach problems, und so weiter.  Although he does drink, even when he is stone cold sober he sounds like Boomhower from King of the Hill

One morning this man is startled awake by the loud ring of the telephone.  He can barely make out his mothers muffled voice in the other room.  Footsteps.  She is in his doorway and she needs him to take her to the hospital.  He hops up, throws on the jeans he peeled off the night before and takes her to the hospital seven miles away.  He decides that he wants to take a shower since he didn't the night before; he is starting to offend himself, surely he will offend his newborn baby niece.

As he approaches a yellow light he slows but then changes his mind and goes but it is too late, he runs the red light.  Two seconds after he realizes he has run the red light he sees the police car.  The officer hears the slurs of Boomhower and the disconnected thoughts of the thirty-three year old ADD man with an eighth grade education and immediately thinks "DRUNK DRIVER."  But the man blows 000's on the breath machine.  The officer figures he will just charge him with driving under the influence of something and takes him in.  His urine is never tested, his blood is never drawn, he is adamant that he was not drunk.  More important, he never had the opportunity to take his medication so he was not under the influence of anything.

The prosecutor doesn't care.  No evidence? So what? The cop arrested him so he must be guilty.  Time to go to trial.

Soon after I started practicing law I stopped watching Law & Order.  I stopped watching because they get it ALL wrong.  Every time I watched the show, any of the shows, I would sit there and shake my head "it's all wrong, they are all wrong!"

But there is one thing they did get right, the prosecutor is not supposed to go forward unless and until they believe that the police have the "right man."  I have watched episodes where the district attorney will tell the detectives "get me more."  I have sat and watched as the prosecutor yells at the police that if they don't get something that will stick they are going to have to let the perp go.  Never once does the D.A. say "hey, if you guys arrest them, I'll find a way to persecute them or corner them into taking a plea."

Alas, they did get one thing right.  They are supposed to be "seekers of justice."  The prosecutors are not supposed to say 'how high' each time an alleged victim yells jump.  The district attorney is not supposed to bow and bend at the beck and call of the police department, however that is exactly how the prosecutors in my state react.

Trial tomorrow.

I wish I was a school teacher.

Sigh.

UPDATE: Case dismissed.  The prosecutor saw that I was not going to back down or try to force my client into taking a plea.  He saw that I was ready and HUNGRY for a trial.  He asked for a continuance and the judge politely declined after hearing a brief synopsis of the facts. ;-)

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.

~LT

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I am the glasses

In the little municipality just north of my office, they have court twice a week.  Once a week, I am the public defender assigned to the defendants coming through.  But only if they ask.  So often people will come in, go to the city prosecutor or the judge, admit things they shouldn't admit, say things they shouldn't say and agree to things they should not agree to. The prosecutor or judge will allow these defendants to enter into these pleas because they are not getting jail time...yet.

Fast forward three, six or nine months and Ms. Thomas has failed to do something and she has been ordered to come back before the court.  Since she is NOW facing jail time for contempt, the public defender is appointed.  Five minutes after I am appointed I speak with Ms. Thomas, review her file and find out what happened.  Often the conversation is like the last ten I have had with clients in her same predicament:

Me: Ms. Thomas did you realize you were ordered to do X?

Ms. Thomas: No ma'am, I didn't know that.

Me:  Right here you signed that you read this and understood the judge ordered you to do X?

Ms. Thomas: I can't do that?

Me: Why didn't you do X Ms. Thomas and why can't you do it if I can get the judge to give you a little more time to comply?

Ms. Thomas: I am disabled/I don't have transportation/I have a new baby at home/My job won't let me off/I lost my job right before that court date/I just got a job yesterday/My husband just died/I am ineligible to get my license back/und so weiter.

The significance of Ms. Thomas' last statement?  She cannot comply with what the judge ordered her to do.  She could not comply when it was ordered and no amount of yelling, demanding or ordering from the judge is going to make her comply.  Had I been appointed at the beginning of her case, I could have had the above conversation with her earlier, and we could have avoided the ten, fifteen or thirty days in jail the judge is now demanding.  Had I been appointed earlier, I could have requested the court allow Ms. Thomas do something in place of what she could not do so that she is not held in contempt later.

I need my glasses to see. I don't mean that without my glasses the world becomes a black void, but you do not want to ride in a vehicle with me at night if I do not have my glasses on and I do not know where I am going. Since I need my glasses in order to see, if I do not have them on, no amount of yelling, demanding or ordering me to read something posted on the wall ten feet cross the room will help make it happen. If you want me to do what you order me to do then I need my glasses.

For my clients, I am the glasses.  If one of the things Ms. Thomas was ordered to do was enroll in a court referral program that would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $700, but she is a single mother with 2 kids, and a full-time job that only pays minimum wage, she can't do it.  Even if she could, she cannot do it in the time period that the judge has ordered her to do it.  No amount of yelling, demanding or ordering is going to make her pay it and if she had been afforded the opportunity to place her glasses on earlier, she wouldn't be in the mess she is in.  A mess that the court placed her in.

I have grown to love my job, I have grown to empathize with my clients but I have grown to detest certain officers of the court.  I had a prosecutor tell me once that he didn't even want the defendants money any more, he wanted "her ass" [to serve time in jail].  Her charge?  Making an improper turn and not having her insurance card on her at the time she was pulled over.  He was pissed off because she never paid the ticket.  When she was finally located, he didn't want the ticket paid.  When I asked him what he would 'get' out of having "her ass" he just looked at me and walked away.

I know that I will not do this for the duration of my career, I have things that I want to do for myself and my family that requires more than a public servants salary will allow.  But before I whisk my daughters off to Italy or take my brother back to the beautiful German city where he was born, there are so many others that need to see.  There are so many others that are being allowed to enter into pleas that they cannot comply with.  There are SO many more people that need glasses.

I am the glasses.

(Thank you to EEG for helping me see my role as the glasses.)
Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.

~LT

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It is not my job...(part 2)

It is a rainy evening and the game is on.  A young man is at his father's home, enjoying the game and some guy time.  It's half-time and the boy has a craving for some snacks that aren't in the kitchen.

"That's fine, I have a few bucks from my allowance, I will run to the corner store and be back in time for the second half of the game."

"Grab your coat, it's raining" he can hear his mother say on his way out the door.  So he grabs his hooded sweater to protect him from the rain and off he goes.

The young man successfully makes it in the store, greets the clerk who is enjoying highlights from the same game he was just watching, pays for his snack and heads back out the door.

He hears footsteps.  Initially he thinks nothing of it, people walk outside in the rain-he's doing it.

But these footsteps seem to be getting closer to him.  He turns his head slightly to peek around his hoody and sees a man uncomfortably close to him so he speeds up.

So does the man.

He runs.

So does the man.

The young man turns around to confront the man "Why are you following me?"

The man replies "What are you doing here?"

The young man tries to, literally, call for help when he is attacked, beaten down and killed....

.......

.......

As a criminal defense attorney, these are the types of cases that make your friends look at you sideways and think (or say) "How could you defend someone like THAT?!"

Well, first of all, I'm not his lawyer.  Second, if you REALLY want justice then you want someone like that to have an attorney.  You want him to have a competent and GOOD attorney.  You want someone in his corner that is going to make sure that the police did their job, the prosecutors do their job, the jury understands their role and the judge does his job.  You want someone like me that is going to make sure all of this happens because when that jury comes back and convicts that man, YOU WANT THE CONVICTION TO STICK!

If he is Pro Se (represents himself) and is convicted, he has a good case for appeal.

If he has a half-assed lawyer that barely does their job, he has a good case for appeal.

If he has a lawyer that allows their personal desire to see this man lite on fire, affect their representation, he has a good case for appeal.

It is not my job to convict a man that I truly believe is guilty.  It is not my job to set my client up for a guilty verdict and it is not my job to further corrupt an already corrupt system.  It is my job to do EVERYTHING in my power to make sure that I am oil in the very rusty machine we call the justice system.  Because being a criminal defense attorney does not mean I am blind to the fact that sometimes "GUILTY" is justice.  Sometimes "GUILTY" is a win.

Trust me, I am a human being that chose law as my profession, not a lawyer that chose to be a human being.  I have emotions, I have opinions and I hope the justice system executes justice AND George Zimmerman.  But I want him to be tried well, so that he may rot in hell.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.

~LT

Friday, February 24, 2012

Time is money....even if I am a free lawyer

One of the things on the long list of bad things about being a "free" lawyer is that no one respects your time.  If the judge sets a hearing for 9am - he may stroll into the courtroom at 9:30.  If opposing counsel says they'll "get right back to you later today", what they really mean is 'ask me again in a month'.  When you set a clients appointment for 2pm, they will show up at 12 noon and be completely disgusted with the fact that you have the nerve to be eating lunch.

OR

They will show up at 3:30 pm, THE NEXT DAY and swear YOU'RE the one with the wrong appointment date and time.

In my personal life, I like to be on time.  Sometimes, I realize, I even reach the point of being anal about it.  I HATE being late: to appointments, meetings, church, work, the movies-it really doesn't matter, if there is a particular time I am supposed to be there, that is what time I want to be there.  Period.  This is not to say I have never been and will never be late, I am human.  But when I'm late I get this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and I am calling/texting/emailing/sending out pigeon messengers to the person or people waiting for me.

I digress.

It's not even about me.  What makes people not respect my time as a 'free' lawyer so horrible is that they don't seem to care that it takes time away from other cases and clients.  While I am waiting for you to grace me with your presence, I have clients that wanted to come see me but could not, because I blocked off time for you.  While I may have felt a little under the weather this morning, I drank some OJ, took 2 Alka-Seltzer and trucked it on in to work because YOU said this was the only day your supervisor would let you off.  While I am waiting for you to finish the 'shoot-the-shit' conference you are having in chambers, I have a 16 year old client in jail whose file I would really like to be working on.

"Time is money."  That adage apparently does not ring true for attorneys with non-paying clients. 

Oh the life of a public offender...

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.

~LT

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It is not my job...(part 1)

Water is slowly dripping from the ceiling, not enough to actually warrant a new roof or even a bucket, but enough for mold to be growing like grass on the floor.  The sound it creates when the moisture hits the floor is akin to wet golashes pressing against an equally wet carpet.  There is a mixed sound of sobbing coming from the left and someone having sex down the hall to the right.  With the constant and aggressive slap of skin on skin contact you can't tell if it's consensual or forced.  Actually, you can't tell if the sobbing and the sex are in fact coming from two different directions.  There is a toxic smell of gasoline and body oder mixed with mold everywhere you turn.  It's 45 degrees outside so the air conditioning is blowing full blast and although you curl up in the fetal position so that you can fit under your 3X4 faux wool blanket, the cold slab pressed against your back makes that effort pointless.  Suddenly and without warning, the brightest lights you have ever seen illuminate your surroundings.  It's 4am & it's breakfast time...welcome to the County Jail.

2 days earlier a friend called you up, he needs a ride to his grandmothers house to pick up something.  You're a good kid, senior in high school, active in sports, going to Fill-in-the-blank University next fall on a basketball scholarship.  Your parents aren't rich or highly educated but they work hard and although they never married they were both very active in your life.  You have a girlfriend and a little brother that looks up to you and wants to be JUST LIKE YOU.  You're on the straight and narrow...so you think nothing of it when your friend tells you that his grandmother goes to bed early so he has to get the spare key from the back door.  10 minutes later he comes from the back, hops in the car and tells you to go.

1 day after that you are arrested as an accessory to burglary.  The police interrogate you and based on what you share with them...you're guilty. 

yes, you know where your friend lives.


no, that was not where he lived.


no, you have never taken him to this house before.

yes, you drove him there.

no, the lights weren't on.

yes, you drove him away when he came out.

I had a conversation with an ex-coworker yesterday and he asked how I could work so hard to get 'these people' off.  Before you judge, understand that that is what most people (even if they will not admit it) are thinking when they hear that you are a criminal defense attorney.  Truth be told it is not my job to get people off.  It is my job to make sure that the police, the investigators, the state AND the judge do their job and do it right.  It is my job to make sure that your full scholarship to Penn State doesn't turn into 15 years at State Penn, simply because you were not well versed in the law or the legal system. 

People seem to take less of an issue with judges that do their 'own thing' from the bench-even when it's not the right thing.  They do not hold the same harsh light on the prosecutor that commits misconduct during the course of the trial.  But public defenders, public "pretenders", public "offenders" AKA criminal defense attorneys?  People would readily string them up by their reproductive parts and let the birds eat away at their flesh.

It's not my job to "get people off" so don't judge me. But wake up in the county jail at 4am....and that's damn sure what you'll want me to do.


Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.

~LT

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Second guessing....

I didn't want to say it.  I didn't want to admit it.  I didn't want it to be true...but I don't think I want to practice law anymore.

Let me explain myself.  I went to law school because I LOVE learning and I LOVE knowing things.  I enjoy being able to intelligently form an opinion and then clearly advocate for the position I have taken.  Unfortunately, I think the quickest way to HATE the law is to practice it.  I am still searching for that area where you can do what you truly believe is right 100% of the time.  I'm not saying that I will do what is right 100% of the time, but I want to know-without a shadow of a doubt that when I make a decision--I am confident in the decision I am making...and that it is MY decision.

Working at the public defenders office means no say-so over the cases and clients I accept.  The judges appoint our office and the office case manager assigns them.  Your only way out is if the family of the defendant decide they want to hire a 'real' lawyer or if there is a conflict and our office cannot represent the client.  I have a problem with that.  I know that everyone accused has the right to an attorney.  I don't necessarily want to BE that attorney. 

As a prosecutor, you have no say so over who you prosecute so you could end up tacking a record onto a person you don't believe is guilty.  As a public defender, you have no say so over who you represent so you could end up zealously advocating for someone that your gut is telling you is guilty as sin.  Plaintiff attorney's can't tell their bank clients that they should cut a break to the little old man that ran into hard times and couldn't afford his mortgage for a few months.  Legal Services attorneys can't refuse to represent clients that have been living in a house for 2 years, without paying a mortgage.  It's enough to drive you crazy.

I know it's cheesy and cliche, but I also went to law school so I could make some type of difference in the world.  Thus far, goal NOT accomplished.

Sigh....

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.

~LT