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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Motion of discovery

I should be wearing this today:


I hate, I hate, I HATE when clients (or their family members) say boldly and with a tinge of indignation in their voice:

"I want my motion of discovery."

Today was just a bad day for me to hear it. I know, I am not supposed to take my bad days out on my clients, or anyone for that matter; but I am human. My client came in demanding his motion of discovery....so I gave it to him....


...not the discovery.



...



...



...the Motion for Discovery.



I know. I'm bad.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, never consent and never confess.

~LT

Saturday, August 17, 2013

¿no habla ingles? Great, welcome to America.

Two weeks ago I experienced the worst thing I have yet to experience in my journey of becoming a public offender (Read the explanation behind my title here).  I represented a client who had been fighting a DUI charge for over a year.  Everyone, I mean EVERYONE, assumed (strike 1) that Mr. Client spoke Spanish.  Hell, even our Spanish-speaking receptionist spoke to him in Spanish.  Mr. Client had his first trial and was found guilty.  Mr. Client decided (we think) to appeal, eventually the original attorney retires and yours truly ends up representing Mr. Client.

Mr. Client is a nice, quiet, married, father-of-one, hard-working construction man.  He doesn't make waves and he doesn't demand a whole lot.  Maybe that was problem number one for me.  It is so easy to get wrapped up in the people who, despite your advice, suggestions and then outright demand, still call you from the jail. 

Everyday. 

Twice a day. 

Even on the weekends. 

It is so easy to focus an entire day on the young man or woman whose mother, father, uncle, baby daddy, baby mama, grandma (granddad's never come, for some reason) decide to stop by the office and want to beg, plead, cry or demand that something be done on that person's case, yesterday.  It is, sadly, so easy to let the quiet ones coast by and I take full responsibility for that screw up.

Every time Mr. Client came to visit me he brought his son with him to 'translate' (strike 2).  Son is 17 years old and seems pretty bright, he claims to understand what I am saying and alleges he is communicating that to his father.  I spent the early part of my elementary school years in Germany, my father speaks English and German, my mother is Jamaican so I spent years trying to learn Patois, my children speak French.  With that being said, Spanish was never on my radar, so I do not know the difference between Mr. Client's son telling him what he thinks I said versus telling him what I actually said. 

For over a year I am having meetings with Mr. Client and "conversing" with Mr. Client in court, confirming that he wants a trial in his case.  Tuesday, August 6, 2013, I get the phone call, "I am calling Mr. Client's case for trial this Thursday at 9am."  Ok great! I inform the court that they are going to need a court interpreter, the interpreter is located and she gives me a call, "Hey Ms. PD, I just wanted to know if I could meet with you and your client tomorrow afternoon." We schedule our meeting and I shove everything else on my desk aside in order to tie up the loose ends in my trial preparation for Mr. Client.

Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Client arrives before the interpreter and without his son.  Well, that's ok because one of our part-timers speaks Spanish so we meet as we wait for the interpreter.  During the meeting I notice our part-timer keeps looking at his phone.  He is doing me a favor so I don't want to call him out but I am thinking "I KNOW this fool is not texting during my trial prep!"  After about half an hour he asks if he can speak with me outside.  We step out of my office and he informs me he is of the opinion that Mr. Client does not really understand what is going on, he believes it may have something to do with the fact that he only completed the first grade in Guatemala O_O but his comprehension does not seem to be that great.  He then informs me that he pulled his phone out during the meeting because I found that he had to look up some of the words the client was using and part-timer had to describe some of the words he was using to the client O_O That was likely problem number two for me.

Whew...interpreter has arrived. I love her, she is our go-to person and she has GOT to be making a killing because everyone wants her.  There are other interpreters in the area but there is just something about her, you trust her, the clients trust her, the judge's trust her, und so weiter.  Ms. Interpreter introduces herself to Mr. Client, I explain to her what the case is about and what our meeting will cover.  About 60 minutes into the conversation I am called out of the meeting.  When I return Ms. Interpreter has a concerned look on her face.  Apparently, Mr. Client got a LOT more chatty once the mean-looking American woman walked out of the room and Ms. Interpreter hits me with the bomb....HE DOESN'T SPEAK SPANISH! O_O Definitely clue number three for me that I have some problems here.

Mr. Client is from a little village in Guatemala where they speak...wait for it... Q’anjob’al  ...I know, I know...I said 'what the hell' too.  Of course, I immediately inform the court and we go on an all day adventure trying to locate a court certified interpreter who speaks Kanjobal (I discovered about 5 or 6 different ways to spell the name of the language).  Finally, we locate a local EMT who was born and raised in America (so he speaks English) but whose parents were born and raised in Guatemala (and it just so happens they taught him Canjoval)!  Whoo hoo, we're cooking with grease now, right? WRONG!

This guy arrives and starts conversing with the client and I can immediately tell his son has not translated one word I have ever said to him.  Then I can immediately feel my stomach drop into the bottom of my colon because this is about to be a big mess.  The judge gives us 15 minutes to converse with our client and the interpreter.  After 15 minutes he calls us all in and the interpreter tries to tell the judge that a 30 minute conversation in English can take upwards of 4 hours in Canjobal because all of the English words do not exist in Mr. Client's native tongue (strike 3).  So the judge decides he will give us a little more time, but he wants to relieve the jury pool for lunch.  He calls them in and apologizes for the long wait, tells them he wants to release them for lunch and then tells them the reason they waited so long was because of an interpreter problem O_O (<--I made that face a lot over the course of the week).  Well, the prosecutor is black, the Deputy is white, the two defense attorney's are black and white, but wait....that little brown guy over there...the defendant...yeah, he's probably the one that needed an interpreter, so he is the reason we have been waiting all day. SIGH....so now I have to call the judge out on tainting the jury pool.

Let me address for a moment some of the things I have learned judge's do not like (all of these are not from personal experience).  Judge's do not like attorney's being late, judge's do not like being placed on hold by the DA's office, Judge's do not like being transferred to voicemail when they call and ask to speak with the DA, judge's do not like when defense attorney's tell their clients to hide because there is a warrant out for their arrest and, finally, judge's do not like being called out on the record.

On the record, myself, my co-counsel and my supervisor had to inform the court:
*15 minutes is not long enough to speak with a client you just realized did not speak the language you have been using to communicate with him for the past year
*it is unfair to revoke a clients offer from the state when, apparently, the client didn't know what offer he was turning down
*it was clear to the jury pool who needed an interpreter and now they will be looking at Mr. Defendant crossways when this pending trial takes 2 weeks to complete

There was a lot of name-calling and finger-pointing by the judge and he eventually removed our office from the case.  He found it hard to believe that this man was allowed to go through this entire system without understanding anything that was going on.  His exact words were "the system is not that flawed" O_O

He found it hard to believe that our office was incompetent enough to not realize that someone was not speaking Spanish, but instead was speaking a Mayan dialect that it took our court-certified Spanish interpreter over an hour to pick up on,

He could not believe we would throw another attorney under the bus by suggesting he had the first trial without the client knowing what was going on.

This went on for hours.  When we were finally dismissed my supervisor told me that I could take the day, he could tell I was emotionally and mentally drained.  Though I advocate for my clients everyday, that was the first time I had actually actively turned into a public offender.  I did not care if I offended the court, I did not care that the clerk was upset about having her jurors there when there was not going to be a trial, I did not care that the jury had been waiting in the hallway all day long.  My client did not understand what was going on, the court did not seem to care that he did not knowingly, intelligently or voluntarily do ANYTHING involved in his case up to this point so dammit I was going to cover him.

As horrible as the experience was for me, I cannot begin to imagine what my client was going through.  The whole process made me wonder what good am I really doing?  I was part of the problem.  I should have asked better questions, I shouldn't have trusted his son, I shouldn't have assumed, I shouldn't have...I shouldn't have...I shouldn't have...

My client spent a year thinking I was the prosecutor until the EMT explained to him, in his native tongue, who I was.  He and his wife smiled at me for the first time.  And then the judge took me away from him. 

The last day I was Mr. Client's attorney, I asked him what he thought having a trial meant.  I mean, every time I asked if he wanted a trial the answer was "Si", but if you do not know what is going on, how can you keep asking for a trial?  His response to my question? "It means to go free and try again."

I'm not ashamed to say I came home, opened a bottle of Moscato and cried.

Hard.


Until next time,

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

~LT

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Duh Judge...Crack is Whack!

This morning in District Court I am standing against the side rail waiting to let the judge know I have finished with all of my clients so I can be excused.  As I am standing there I hear the following conversation:

Judge:  Will you pass a drug test?

Defendant: Yes sir, I will.

Judge:  If you took a drug test today you would pass it?

Defendant:  Yes sir, I sure will.

Judge: (who has now turned around to his computer) Ok, well I am going to have you drug tested today so don't lie to me.  Are you still maintaining that you will test clean today?

Defendant:  Oh yes sir, I don't do any drugs!

...

...

...

Defendant:  I just smoke a little marijuana.

Judge: (who has whirled around in his chair and is facing front again at the mention of the word marijuana)  Marijuana?!

Defendant:  Yes sir.

Judge:  You smoke marijuana?

Defendant:  Yes sir, about two weeks ago.

Judge:  So how come when I asked if you would test clean today you told me 'yes'?

Defendant:  (leaning in, looking at the judge like he is stupid) BECAUSE I DON'T SMOKE CRACK ANYMORE! 

Crack is WHACK

Judge: CRACK?!

Defendant: Yes sir, I used to smoke crack, I don't smoke crack anymore, I only smoke marijuana.

Judge: So crack is a drug...

Defendant:  Yes sir

Judge:  ...but marijuana is not?

Defendant:  I don't consider it a drug.

Needless to say, I ended up excusing myself because I could not hold in my laughter any longer.

You just can't make this stuff up.

Until next time,

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

~LT

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Objection...ummm...ummm...

Despite my family's hope and desire, I do not ever anticipate being a judge.

Never. 

Ever. 

Ever.

Of course, I would appreciate the pomp and circumstance of "all rise" and "yes, your Honor", "no, your Honor", "may I approach", und so weiter.  Nobody stands to their feet when I walk in the room and they sure don't ask before they approach me.

Setting my own schedule? Great.

My word being the final say? A woman's dream.

Sitting high and looking low? Ok, I don't really care about that part, but you get the point.  I can imagine it is pretty great being the woman in charge in the courtroom.  However, judges do one thing I cannot imagine ever doing...sitting through an entire trial without participating.  One of my client's was the victim in a case so I sat through the trial with her as "moral support."  (Ok, so I was really there to make sure that she didn't say anything to incriminate herself in her felony case but po-tay-to, po-tah-to).  Sitting through an entire trial where I cannot ask any questions or make any objections was one of the WORST professional experiences in my life.  The most traumatic part of the trial was when the defense attorney went halfway around the world to make his FOUR WORD OBJECTION!

DA: Why do you think she would say you pushed Mrs. Defendant if you didn't?

Def. Atty.: Objection, your Honor.

Judge:  Ok, what's your objection?

Def. Atty.:  Well..ummm, she's ummm...asking him to ahhh...answer a question about what someone else ummm...thought or ahhh...was thinking...

This explanation went on for about 20 or so more words before the defense attorney decided he had sufficiently explained his objection. 

"Well, her question was improper" you're thinking.  "He did have a valid objection" you're saying.  Well grasshopper, you would be correct.  You want to know what my problem is with his bumbly objection?  Try this on for size...

OBJECTION, CALLS FOR SPECULATION.



Neat, clean and to the point.

Done and done.

Until next time,

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

~LT

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"Love letter"

Greetings Dear Reader!

Do you happen to remember when I received a 'love letter' from a random person at the jail? (See Jail Video ) Well guess who was given the letter today in order to file away, dispose of or do whatever she cared to do? Yours truly.  Sooo...as promised earlier, here it is:


I know, I know. You can't actually read that, so I have typed the letter.  A few warnings first: do not drink anything while reading, do not read it out loud, do not read it while you are in the middle of a meeting, and most important....DO NOT COUNT THE SPELLING OR GRAMMER AGAINST ME!  You kind of lose some of the affect if I "correct" the letter so you will be reading it in all of its wondrous glory.  Also, please remember I would not be posting a letter or a picture of a letter from one of my clients.  I do not know this person and he does not know me.  I have not heard from him again (thank God) and I have no intention of writing him back.  With that being said, here you go:

To: My Dearly Beloved Black African American sister Ms. PD
From: your most undeserving interested young Black African American Bro Mr. Inmate
well Ms. PD I Don't mean to seem creeped out nor am I trying to be disrespectful or rude so forgive me if I seem to come off to Agressively forward toward you in any way. But iv allway been the type of young man to speak my mind. well Ms. PD I normally wouldn't have any intrest in Any chick "or female in. The law inforcement field period regardless of how Attractive They may look or not. But more so than a great outer Apperance you have a bad girls little Ms. Sneaky orra about you and I like That its something about you that just says sex" and murder l.o.l. but for real your are a very nice looking women. look all Bullshit Aside I would love to start over a New leaf with women with you I would love for you to be my lady friend until the good Lord above sees fit for you to find -another cause I know that I wouldnt be your first Nor would I Be your last. But I steel want my chance. well im going to be doing a little prision time here sortly and I would love to continue to write you As a penpale for Now and Nothing more cause like I said im turning over a New leaf yes im a convict yes im an x criminal sowhat your a lawyer l.o.l. yet people change o.k. love look if your married I respect that But still even the president cheat once in a while. look I had a lot of women in my time so you can say that I get round so Dont go there with me just get in the car and ride shut up and just let the radio play o.k. love. so Dont act like you never Ben downtown l.o.l. cause me myself you can find me any were from Holly wood to Holy Hood cause I know wHo and what I am I remember were I came from and what I had so Dont trip let me put a little Thuge in your life I want to share with you some of my Thuge passion so write me back as soon as possible yes" I have a little time on my hand but not enough for you to be acting ALL scared like Ill ruin your career or Damage your Image As A Lady of the law cause if you feel like that then you are the underserveing one in these matter's so go get yourself watered down come back to planet earth and fuck with beings we around here call humans cause right now you seem to be stuck on a planet called "to much Dam" law and order:" l.o.l. so with All that said I say this in Closeing look even if you turn me down At least be woman enough to let me know you can send me an fuck " you Letter or come see me and tell me face to face. Dont play cat got your tounge or ms. Scarry cherry like some inmature over rateD females would do.

ps. Im sending you a
coppy of A letter that I wrote
to one of my girl friend on valenti
ne's Day Tell me what Do you
Thing of it
Sincerely Mr. Inmate
The Priesident of real Nigga T.V.
Dot.Com "turn up" love"
"Dont Be Scared"
Yea, so THAT happened.
Until next time,

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

~LT


Saturday, June 22, 2013

14-Year-Old Boy Choked, Arrested, and Prosecuted for Staring at Police | Equal Justice Initiative

I am ashamed to say that this young mans mother displayed way more restraint than I would have.  The public would have been recording the police whooping on me as I tried to peel them off of my child. 

Yes, I know, I should know better.  I am a professional, I am a lawyer, I am an officer of the court.  But chew on this thought for a moment: The police are supposed to be professional, they are supposed to protect and serve (don't laugh, I'm serious) they are literally officers.  I understand that everyone has their eyes on Miami Heat these days, but there is something going on in Miami-and across the nation-that should make you a little more hot under the collar than the Heat.

Be blessed. (and be careful, don't look at the police too long, you might get choked)

14-Year-Old Boy Choked, Arrested, and Prosecuted for Staring at Police | Equal Justice Initiative

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gideon's Army

July 1st, 2013
9:00 p.m.
HBO

"Gideon's Army"

Watch it before our nation's court system has a United States Constitution burning party on television.  I know you think I'm being impudent, but they have little mini-parties throughout the South almost everyday.

Gideon's Army (Dawn Porter on The Daily Show)

Until next time,

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

~LT

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I'm sorry

Wow. Just....wow.  That is all I can say about the article I read this morning.  There are certain situations that "I'm sorry" just cannot fix.  This is just one of them.


http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/brian-banks-accuser-ordered-pay-2-6-million-163746471.html

For the rest of the year, anyone who asks "how can you represent those people" will get slapped.

Brian Banks at Atlanta Falcons minicamp in April, 2013. (Getty Images)

And it will be premeditated ;-)

Blessings.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"387"


I want you to take a wild guess what the number 387 represents:

Not (of course) the number of days in a year, not the amount of my raise, and (as one of my fellow Gideon’s classmates guessed) the number of lovers I have had.  That number, dear reader, represents the number of people I currently represent.  If you are not appalled don’t worry, I am appalled for you. 

I told one of my co-workers the other day, personally I would not want to be represented by an attorney that has 386 other active cases going.  Even if that attorney spent an entire day, every single day of the year, on just one case, the research, reviewing the discovery, deciphering the law, visiting the alleged crime scene, speaking with victims, witnesses, law enforcement and the district attorney, never taking a day or not off, she would still be 22 days short of getting to all of her cases.

I hate to be the bearer of reality news here but public defense attorneys do not have the ability to spend one ENTIRE day, EVERY day to just one case.  My phone rings constantly, people drop by as if I have a revolving door and a welcome mat outside my office, six different judges can call and tell me they need me 5 minutes ago and I have to go.  There are clients at the jail you need to see, witnesses you need to speak with, evidence that needs to be reviewed, motions that need to be filed, procedures that need to be explained, and don’t forget, the phone is STILL ringing.

387 is a sickeningly high number. Part of me places the blame on the office; I sometimes feel we are the Augustus Goop of law.  We will continue to consume despite the fact that our gut is telling us we are full.  More cases? Pile it on. More clients? Pile it on. More charges? Pile it on. More, more, more…sure we will get sick until we throw up.  That just means there’s more room to consume.

Part of me places the blame on the judges.  I have had clients who CLEARLY should not have qualified for a public defender.  When you have to call my office from your home in Southwest Florida because staying in town was just too stressful for you and you needed to get away, you should not have a court appointed attorney.  When you walk into court with new acrylic nails and the latest coach bag, decked out and holding keys to a 2013 anything-other-than-a-Kia…umm…you probably should not have a court appointed attorney.  I know, I know, I have thought this through and I understand people’s current financial situation does not speak for their previous financial situation.  People could be in a tax bracket one day and a completely new tax bracket the next.  The people I am speaking of do not fall into those categories.  ‘Well, how is that the judges’ fault?’ you ask? Well, I’m glad you asked.  The courts have the ability, I would even dare to say the duty, to ensure that the defendant’s they send to us actually qualify for a court appointed attorney.  I believe that people who are given court appointed attorneys, be they public defenders or private counsel; do not deserve less zealous representation just because they cannot afford to hire an attorney.  But that is exactly what they are getting when the judge’s haphazardly throw everyone our way that asks for a public defender.

I realize that the real blame goes to the system. A system that believes a public defense attorney with 11-15 years of experience deserve no more than the starting salary of a new law grad going to a mid-size firm.  A system that fights tooth and nail when asked for the resources to defend the United States Constitution. 

Ponder this for a moment: The new lawyer at the firm will spend the first year of their career locked in a library, doing research and sending memos to senior level attorneys.  They will likely never meet a client and, if they are lucky, they will probably step foot into a courtroom once as an observer.  The first year public defender will spend approximately 1,744 hours in a courtroom. 

YEAR ONE OF LEGAL PRACTICE

Public defender = 1,744 hours in court = $38,000 = 387 clients

Private attorney = 1 hour in court = $70,000 = no clients


Just meditate on that for a moment.


387 is ridiculous.
Until next time,

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

~LT

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Top X reasons why I love my clients

I received a bar complaint today.  I am PISSED to say the very least, but it has inspired me to write this list.  At times it may seem comical, and if it places a smile on your face that's cool...but I am so serious.  I will write about the complaint later...after I clear my name.

The reason for the 'X' in the title is because there are oh so many reasons why I love my clients that I am not sure how long my list will get.  I am confident that my list will grow, please feel free to make suggestions.

9. You believe ours is a relationship that will last forever. I must admit that I really love that about you. I love how you think that although I am not a 'real' lawyer, that I am, nevertheless, your life coach. You have a question about why the Department of Public Safety won't give you your driver's license back? Don't call them-call me. You want to know if your mama can just kick you out of her basement since you aren't paying rent, or does she have to legally evict you since you have your toothbrush in the bathroom? Reach out to yours truly. Somebody hit you and then just kept driving but you don't have insurance and now you don't know what to do because you need your car fixed? By all means, ring my phone. It's not like I'm busy. You need to know whose hiring? Don't bother the temporary services, employment agencies or the classifieds. Why would you do that when I so VERY clearly have the inside scoop on who is hiring, when and what it will take for them to hire you without you bothering to go there, fill out an application or speak with a manager. Can't find your social security card so you can get another driver's license? Social Security Administration tell you that you need documentation of who you are? They tell you to get some medical records? What KIND of medical records you ask....well hell, stop by my office, sign in, wait 30 minutes for me to come back from court so you can ask me. Because of course, I am Yoda and I know all. Think for yourself, do not.

8.  Because you think I am your homegirl.  You have been brought to court by a detention officer, notice that I have my cell phone and want to know if I will let you text your mom? SURE! O_o  Sigh...I am not your "ace boon coon."  Period.

7.  I love you Dear Client because you make referrals.  I truly appreciate you telling your uncle to give me a call and offer to hire me and pay me under the table.  It is nice to know that you want to reward the hard work I have put in on your case by potentially having me arrested or disbarred. (SN: I realize this is supposed to be a compliment, 'hey, my lawyer is great, here is her name and number' but all it does is remind me how much money I am NOT making when your uncle offers to pay me more than a month's salary to handle a case that, on its face, seems very simple.)

6.  You write the clerk for legal advice.  I know, this is my fault.  When I told you that I would let you know when I get an offer or discovery in your case, I was not clear.  When I introduced myself and gave you my card, I accidentally slipped you her card by mistake.  It's my bad.  Go ahead, make your admission/plea/foul language/CONFESSION an official part of the court record by writing the Circuit Court Clerk.  The only way you can help me out even more is by writing the Judge.

5.  I love you so much Dear Client because, despite our many talks about appropriate court attire, you are your own person.  You wear what you want to wear and damn the consequences.  Seriously, why should you have to change out of your bedroom slippers, replace your pajama pants with slacks or wear a shirt that covers your belly.  Everyone in society is a follower but NOT YOU! You? Oh you take the road less travelled, you dare to wear the skirt that shows every single one of your cookies when you sneeze. And good for you.  If the judge is going to chastise you for coming to court high, you may as well be repping the Mary Jane on your shirt. 

4.  Because you call me 5 times a day.  I love the sound of your voice.  I mean it.  That special way that you whine when I relay the horrible offer from the District Attorney, or the beautiful sound of the "ck" combination rolling off of your bottom lip when you yell "FUCK" into the telephone receiver.  Man there is NOTHING like it.  Really, your Tuesday is not complete until a client calls and calls and calls and calls and call and CALLS, just to ask you if anything new has happened in their case since their last court date.  Yesterday.

3.  You ask inappropriate questions.  Would you ask an attorney that you pay $200 an hour if they 'have a man'?  I'm sure you wouldn't, but you know what? You and I are close like that, we are kismet, practically soul mates, at the very least we are in the same tax bracket so why not get a little closer?  I know your life history, it only serves to reason that you would know mine.  Want my home number? Why not, all I do is sit up at night thinking about you so why not make it a party and let you know how to find my home.  What am I doing this weekend?  Have I ever smoked marijuana?  Is my man making me happy? Ask away, I love being grilled by you.

2.  I love you, Dear Client, because you stop by my office whenever your little heart desires.  Appointments be damned, I mean, who in the hell needs notice when you want to sit and chat for an hour?  All I'm doing is sitting in my office, twiddling my thumbs and wondering why in the hell you didn't show up unannounced sooner!
(http://www.etsy.com/listing/85973337/dictionary-art-love-quote-vintage-oh-how)


1.  Because you file bar complaints against me after you have spoken with your jailhouse lawyer.  I know that I am the scum of the earth because you did not have to pay for me, of COURSE it makes sense that someone you paid in cartons of cigarettes and bags of Doritos would have a better professional education that yours truly.  I mean, I am only 'good enough' for gov'ment work, THEY are down in the trenches getting close to their clients.  I realize that when I have truly, TRULY made it, I will stop working for a paycheck and start working for what actually matters.  Extra fish sticks.

Until next time,

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

~LT

Saturday, May 25, 2013

...and....

I attended a law school that is HUGE on advocacy.  There are more than a few students that wind up participating in trial competitions, moot court competitions or negotiation and mediation competitions.  Scholarships galore and support from the community make participating in advocacy-based programs more attractive.  If nothing else can be said, no one can dispute that Cumberland School of Law prepares you to be an effective advocate.

In addition to the general atmosphere of the law school being pro-advocacy, the coaches that the school brings in are phenomenal!  My coach taught me more than I could have ever possibly hoped to learn on my own. 
Rule #1 in trial advocacy? "Listen, listen, DAMMIT listen." 
Rule #2? "Why doesn't matter"
Rule #3? "Do NOT ask a question you don't know the answer to...unless the answer doesn't matter."

There are many more "rules" of trial advocacy and really I subscribe to the camp that you are either someone that has 'IT' or you don't.

SSSSoooooo, I said all of that to say, there is an Assistant District Attorney in our jurisdiction that does not have 'it' anywhere in her little body.  One of the things you learn early on (if you have good coaches or helpful upperclassmen that are willing to guide you in the right direction) in the process is you do not start all of your questions with "and."  As a matter-of-fact, you shouldn't start ANY of your questions with 'and.'  So as I sit in trials with her month after month, it burns that special spot on the upper-right corner of my stomach to hear her ask questions:

"...and was that during the day or at night?"

"...and did you see the defendant?"

"...and what was the defendant wearing?"

"...and can you tell us what happened when you first came into contact?"

"...and what did he say?"

"...and what did he do?"

...and...

         ...and...

                  ...and...

...aaaaannnnndddd....you get the point.  Now, imagine sitting      through hours of that.  You want to gouge your eyes out with a dirty, bent, rusty nail, don't you?



I am very, very thankful for the education, both formal and informal, that I received at Cumberland.  I wish I could send her there.  It might make sitting through trials with her a little more bearable.

Until next time,

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

~LT

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Jail Video

Thanks to the ever evolving, growing, changing, upgrading world of technology, I now have the ability to "visit" my clients via video from our office.  (Ok, so I have had that ability for a few months now).  Though we are still encouraged, required actually, to visit our clients in person, the video helps in situations like when you get a change in an offer that you have relayed to your client and you don't want to drive to the jail to tell them about the addition or deletion of one provision.  It is helpful in situations where you find out there is a treatment bed available for them and you just need a phone number of a family member that would be willing to bring a bag of toiletries by the office before we send you to the facility.  It is a very helpful tool that makes it possible to see the 5 clients who just sent you a letter asking you to come see them "real quick" because they have A question to ask you.  I'm sorry, but the jail staff is slow and I LOVE the video.

However...

I have had two problems with the video and they both stem from the same issue.  Not only can I see my client, but they can see me.  And so can the people in their pod.  See, we speak on the phone and it's supposed to be confidential (you have to call the jail to be connected and call for the line to be disconnected) and we look at each other through what is essentially a computer monitor.  If someone is playing cards at the table behind my client they can look up and see..."Hey, that's Ms. PD!"

          Problem #1: I received a...a-hem...'love' letter from someone that saw
          me when I was chatting with a client.  This person apparently asked
          my client for my name and decided to request that I become their
         pen pal.  Not for all of the chocolate milk in the world honey.  I would
         have posted a translated copy of the letter here for you, Dear Reader,
         to review; but after everyone in my office cracked their sides laughing
         at the letter I handed it over to my supervisor without thinking.  Don't
         worry, I will think of you next time ;-)

          Problem #2: As I am speaking with a client today, I notice a line
          forming.  Initially I thought all of the ladies in the pod were just
          playing cards but then when two more ladies sat down, with their
          backs to the first two ladies, facing me, looking right at the screen, I
          realized-they're ALL waiting to talk to me.

Under normal circumstances, I would welcome the opportunity to help someone that needs me.  But today I could feel my chest tighten as I looked at the ladies in that pod waiting to bombard me with their questions, requests and concerns.  It seems the number of people that need help keeps multiplying, while the number of people available to help is being subtracted. 

So I made a resolution today, I will no longer be using the jail video.  It will be a huge pain in the you-know-what to drive over to the jail just to get a phone number from a client, but at least then I won't have to worry about getting random love letters from the jail.

Sigh...off to the jail tomorrow.

Until next time,

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

~LT

Monday, May 6, 2013

Newspaper Caper

So today I woke up with knots in my stomach. I spent all weekend preparing for a trial, woke up and put my pretty girl face on....then the case settles for an apology.
I know, I know. I said wtf too.
I haven't even told you the best part yet.  Ready for it? The trial, the JURY trial set for today was about a newspaper.
Close your mouth, a fly is coming. I'm serious, a newspaper. I spent 10 hours working on Sunday, I recorded and listened to my opening over and over again last night, I made our client cry...and the case settled for a freaking apology.
Sigh. I's tired. Lol

Until next time,

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

~LT

Monday, April 29, 2013

Thank you letter

April 29, 2013
Dear Mrs. PD,
I just wanted to write you and properly thank you for last August.  I have never really told you thank you for being so kind to me when I was upset.  When my only son was taken from the courtroom to jail I thought my heart was being ripped out of my chest.  I was confused, upset, and I felt deserted.  But you showed me a kindness that day I will never forget.  You didn't have to talk to me but you did.  You didn't have to comfort me, but you did.  You didn't have to be kind to me but you were.  You didn't have to be understanding and not judgmental but you were.  And I will always be thankful to God for putting you there that day.  I know He put you there that day for me.  He knew how upset I would be and He knew your heart.  Thank you for helping me that day and thank you for helping Client.  I believe he has come a long way since then.  I know God is working in his life and he will become the man God wants him to be.  It is through our mistakes and wrong turns that draw us to God.
God has put you where you are for a reason and I hope you continue to show people God brings to you the kind and loving spirit that you showed me that day.  You might be their only ray of sunshine.  I put off writing this for  long time, because of the craziness of life.  But every time God would lay that memory of you on my heart so I know that this letter is not only from me but it is from God also.  He wants you to know that you ARE making a difference and He is with you and loves you.  I pray you have a good week and God blesses you every day.
Always grateful,
Client's mom
...
...
...
...
...
...
This morning I lay in my bed for 15 minutes after turning the alarm clock off, thinking about how I just can't do this anymore.  I lay there and said over and over again "tell me what to do, tell me what to do, tell me what to do."
...
...
...
...
...
After a long, exhausting day in court, I head back to my office with the intention of closing my door and trying not to snap on anyone.  When I first noticed the bouquet of flowers lying across my desk I rolled my eyes and assumed it was from one of my clients who was trying to get fresh.  I opened the accompanying letter, retyped above, and I sat in my office and cried.
...
...
.
..
...
...
It is the most beautiful thank you I have ever received.

Until next time,

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

~LT

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Being Jonah

A few years ago I had a dream.  I was sitting in a little brown rowboat in the middle of a clear blue ocean.  All alone and going nowhere, just sitting.  I was looking down at myself and I could see a huge mouth, beyond the size of the rowboat, wide open and rapidly approaching the surface.  I was about to be swallowed by a REALLY big fish.  I woke up confused about what my dream could mean; partially because I am scared of the ocean and Lord knows there is no way in the world I would be in the middle of the ocean.

  Not in a boat, not on a goat, not eating oats, because I can't float....no thank you Sam-I-Am. 

The second reason my dream was confusing is because I did not see the link between myself and the prophet Jonah; I wasn't running from anything and God was not sending me on any great missions


Jonah was a...unique prophet.  His uniqueness stems not just from his reluctance to follow God's intended direction, but from his outright defiance, his stubborn nature and his unveiled anger.  Being the stubborn person he was, Jonah decided (I'm paraphrasing) "screw the Lord's command, I'm not up for that assignment" and he hightailed it out of town.  Doing the complete opposite of what he was instructed to do.  Jonah soon learns, you will walk the path you were destined to travel, it is up to you whether you get there by discipline or obedience.  Storms were sent, Jonah was thrown overboard, he prayed and was delivered.  The rest of Jonah's tale does not get any better, surprisingly his preaching works, but he is angry that bad people are shown mercy and upset that his comfortable resting spot is destroyed.  Jonah is not the prophet that most people think of when recalling 'great' prophets but Jesus Himself references Jonah when describing his future destiny.

Soooo....why the dream revelation and the little bible lesson on Jonah?  I realized this week that I am Jonah.  There are more days and nights that I do not want to be a public defender than there are where I am glad to hold the title.  As Jonah looked upon the people of Nineveh with disgust and a sense of loss, I often look at law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and, sadly, some of my clients with the same sentiment.  I am ashamed to admit, Dear Reader, that there are some nights that I am angry with God for placing me in this line of work.  And for making me incapable of turning away from it.  My "big fish" that keeps spitting me back on the path I was intended to travel is the 19 year old kid that I visit in jail because when his 14-year-old ex-girlfriend told him she was 18, he believed her.  I pack my bags and climb aboard the ship to Tarshish and then I see a guy brought into the courtroom, wearing an orange jumpsuit and shackles on his feet, simply because he drove with a suspended license, and my "big fish" has me sitting in the chair next to him trying to figure out how I can help.

I find that I am becoming Jonah because while I may be moderately good at what I do, while every now and then the judge, prosecutor or my client may even listen to me as the people of Ninevah did, a small part of me gets angry.  I'm angry that the officer who got caught lying on the stand, gets chewed out by the judge but then released to arrest more people and build a case on his lies.  I am angry with the prosecutor who refuses to make a reasonable offer simply because she has taken something my client allegedly did or said at the time of the offense as a personal affront to her as a human being.  I am angry with the judge that punishes the person who decided to exercise their right to remain silent, with a guilty verdict.  I'm angry with a country that could give a damn about indigent defense or the fact that I carry over 300 ACTIVE cases at one time. I am angry with the client that picks up new charges before I have even finished closing the last open file I had for them.

But mostly I am angry with myself.  I am angry with myself because I was warned not to take the work home with me, not to dream about it, shower with it, eat with it.  I was cautioned against skipping lunch, missing sleep and not taking care of myself as a result of getting engulfed in the lives of everyone riding on my back.  I was warned, but I didn't listen, and now I want to run. 

I find myself pacing in the middle of the night, defiant, reluctant and angry like Jonah; and like Jonah deciding "screw the Lord's command, I'm not up for this assignment."  Then the next morning, I wake up, put on my big girl clothes and head back into Nineveh.

Until next time,

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

~LT

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Comic relief

Today I call out into the hallway for my client with the 1:30 p.m. appointment.  He stands up and walks towards me with this gloss over his eyes like he is lost.
We exchange pleasantries as we walk back to my office and once there, I offer him a seat.  He sits down and tells me that I am not what he expected.

Me:    What do you mean, what did you expect?

CL:    I was expecting you to be ...   ...   ... ugly.

Me:    O_o Huh?

CL:    Yeah man, I was expecting you to be ...   ...   ... not ... cute.

Me:    [awkward laugh] ookk, well, I guess that's a good thing that I didn't
           live up to your expectation??

We spend the next 30 minutes having 2 COMPLETELY different conversations.

Me:    Do I have your name spelled correctly here?

CL:    Are you married?

Me:    I have your social as xxx-xx-xxxx...

CL:    You have some very pretty eyes

Me:    Your date of birth is x, correct?

CL:    I should have taken a shower before I came.

Me:    Have you ever been granted YO before?

CL:    Don't I need your personal number in case I need to talk about my
          case after hours?

Yes, you read that correctly. YO.  As in "Youthful offender", as in UNDER 21.  This kid is in some serious big boy trouble and all he can think about is how he wishes he had taken a shower and put on some clothes rather than coming to see me right after the gym.  I try to explain to him that it would not make a difference how he came dressed because I do not date my clients, present or former.  His response?  "Can't they give me another lawyer?" lol

I really needed that laugh today.

Until next time,

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

~LT

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Punching bag...

Today in court the judge was calling out the names of people on the docket who were currently in jail.  They call out these names for the attorney's before court gets started so the attorney can let the judge know whether their client needs to be brought over from the jail.  If you have reached a settlement agreement, spoken with your client about it and the agreement is ready to be placed on the record, they need to be brought over.  If you have received an offer, your client declined it, you made a counter-offer and the prosecution declined it and you are just telling the court your client's case is for trial, they need not be brought over.

I did not fall into either of these camps, my kid had already been granted youthful offender status.  He had already entered his plea and had been released.  Three months ago he tested positive for marijuana and then came to court in February and tested positive again.  The judge had him taken into custody and set a $500 cash bond.

Forty-one days later no one in my kids family had bothered to pay the cash bond that would have gotten him released in time for him not to lose his job.  Forty-one days later, no one in my kids family has called to find out if there is any other way to get him out of jail.  Forty-one days later no one in my kids family had even bothered to show up for his court date.

The judge calls my kids name and I announce that he does not need to be brought over from the jail but I would like to address the court about his release.  I advise the court that while my kid did test positive for marijuana he has been reporting to his probation officer regularly, he is not behind on his supervision fees, he is paying the court, not much but on a regular basis, he is working a full-time job and has not picked up any new charges.  The judge chooses this time to crack jokes about how expensive keeping up a marijuana habit is and he has a $500 cash bond that would get him released.  There is more banter back and forth between the judge and the assistant district attorney but I just stand there...

          Unimpressed...

                    Not laughing...

                              Not smiling...

                                        Waiting...........

Finally my judge says "is there anyone in his family out there?"

Me: No sir, no one from his family has ever been outside waiting to speak on his behalf.

Judge: You're just going to stand up there and take all his blows for him, huh?  I'm proud of you.

Me: Judge, since this case started he hasn't had anyone to stand by him but me. No one has ever been outside waiting to speak on his behalf. I am all he's got.

There was some more back and forth but eventually the judge decided to release my kid without posting a bond. 

There is a quote that is attributed to Clarence Darrow:
"To be an effective criminal defense counsel, an attorney must be prepared to be demanding, outrageous, irreverent, blasphemous, a rouge, a renegade, and a hated, isolated, and lonely person...few love a spokesman for the despised and the damned." 
If I can be so bold as to add to his words, I would venture to say that to be an effective criminal defense counsel, an attorney must be prepared to be a punching bag.  Our clients have been broken down so much, so often and by so many different people that allowing the system to do it is like standing by watching a man that is already beat down get kicked in the face.  I will not let you treat me like a punching bag too often, and I am not going to let you punch too hard, but for my clients I will stand in and let you get your few digs in.  The beauty of me standing in and getting beat in lieu of my clients....
....I possess the tools necessary to punch you back :-)

Until next time,

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

~LT

Monday, March 18, 2013

I hate mama's & 'colored'

Nine o'clock docket, I come into the courtroom and look around.

Mr. S is there, great. 

Mr. C is there, great. 

Mr. F...
                                            Mr. F...
                                                                                Mr. F...

Well pluck a duck, Mr.F is not here.  The judge has not taken the bench yet so let's go give Mr. F a call.

Ring...ring...ri-"hello?"

Me: Hello Mrs. F, this is Ms. PD, I am calling because your son, Mr. F has court this morning and he is not present.

Mrs. F: Ooooo, he's not going to be able to make it, he is down here in Florida, I do not think he knew about it.

Me: Ok, well, Mrs. F, the last time the three of us had a discussion about the fact that the only thing he has left to do in his case is pay his court costs and then he does not have to worry about coming to court anymore I confirmed his/your address and that is where I sent his letter.

Mrs. F: Ooooo, yeah.  I was going to call you later this week to let you know we are going to start making payments on that next week.

...
   ...
      ...
         ...
            ...

Mrs. F: Hello? Ms. PD.

Me: Mrs. F please have Mr. F call me as soon as he gets in, have a great day.

I do not really hate mama's.  I LOVE my mama.  Both of my grandmothers were mama's.  I myself, am a 'mama'.  But mama's make my oh so easy job a lot less easy.  Mr. F's case is eight years old.  You read that correctly.  8, eight, EIGHT.  His case was disposed of eight years ago and all he has left is court costs to pay and he will not have to come back to court.  He has been picked up on outstanding warrants three times.  For money.  He has been held in a local Florida jail until he was brought back to our county two times. For money.  He has spent weeks at a time separated from his kids. For money.  Money which amounts to approximately $500.

That is $62.50 a year.

That is $5.21 a month.

That is $0.17 a day.

I understand that my client's (most of them anyway) are indigent.  I get that a good majority of them would not choose me simply because I am in the public defender's office, yet they are stuck with me because their finances prevent them from hiring private counsel.  I also know that Mr. F has a full-time job and two kids that he is raising.  Those two kids have a mother who shares a household with Mr. F and she is also working.  Even if they were NOT working the entire 8 years it is taking him to pay on this case, a pretty observant person can find SEVENTEEN CENTS A DAY!

So why am I on here sounding like a bad 'Feed the Children' commercial?  What, pray tell, does this have to do with mama'?  Mr. F has not paid his court costs because his mama has been holding his had the whole time trying to come up with a plan for him.  His mama planned on using her income tax refund check to pay it off.  His mama promised that when he received HIS income tax refund check she would ensure it was paid.  His mama called me 3 times a day, EVERY day the last time he was a guest in the local county jail ensuring me that if the judge just let him out, this case would be paid and taken off of every one's list of active cases, four months ago.  His mama has to be privy to every conversation Mr. F and I have.

I get mothers being there for their children.  Sadly, quite a few of my clients show up over and over again for meetings with me or court dockets and their mothers could give two ships about where they are or what they are going through.  But when mama's "help" is making matters worse...well, as I said, just making my oh so easy job a lot less easy.

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

I met with a client today.  I asked him to come in for one of our very brief initial meetings so I could explain to him what an arraignment is, where he can expect his case to go from here and to remind him that should any of his contact information change, I need to be notified. 

Of course, as I am pulling up his electronic file our case management system decides to go on break and takes its sweet time loading.  In an attempt to kill some of the silence between us, I confirm with my client that he has done his initial interview ('yes', but I already knew that).  I ask him who did his initial interview (it doesn't matter and I already know that too) and his response causes me to pause:

Client: I didn't catch his name but he was a really nice, young looking colored fella...

                        O_o

                                 ...huh?...

Me: Oh, you mean he was black?

Client: yes ma'am.

Did I mention my client is 42?  Not that him being older would excuse his improper description of one of our investigation interns, but at least I could chalk it up to him being raised during a time when that was how black people were described.  We finished the paperwork, he shook my hand, we exchanged pleasantries about it being nice to meet one another and he went on his way.

There really was not a point to that last one.  Well, maybe except that I hate the term 'colored'. 

If I had not given up drinking, these last two weeks would make Seagram's stock go up drastically...sigh....until next time my precious people.


Until next time,

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

~LT


Friday, March 15, 2013

....And on the seventh day...he rested

Ok, I will give it to you, it has not been seven days.  But seriously, after the week I had-I need a break.  Until next time,

Be blessed.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The hardest part...part 3/4

Asleep in her bed with her little ones, she hears their dog begin to bark.  Though his barking is not unusual, the time of day is very unlike him.  It is 2 in the morning.  Before she can register why he is barking, the lights from her bedroom ceiling burn her eyes and she shields them while simultaneously pulling her little ones into her embrace.  She hears yelling, she feels scared and she sees the large barrel of a narcotics task force deputy's gun as it is shoved in her face.  She is asked repeatedly "where is he, where is he, where the fuck is he" as she tries to explain to the agents that her boyfriend does not and has not ever lived with her.  As she tries to calm the trembles she feels coming from the small frame of her 4-year-old daughter, she can hear other agents throughout her home, tearing it apart.  Although the agents don't seem to be hearing her, she continues to try to get them to listen:

"He doesn't live here, there aren't any drugs here, I don't know what you are talking about!"

The agent who appears to be in charge of this operation turns to two other agents and declares "if she keeps getting smart with me I'm going to have to take her in the other room."  They all laugh, and though she does not get the 'joke' she understands that he is not joking, so she stops trying to plea.

Finally, the agent in charge reaches into his pocket, walks over to a wall-mounted book shelf and "finds" a small bag of marijuana "IN PLAIN SIGHT" (magic words are important).  He tells her that she has 3 days to turn her boyfriend in, or they will come looking for her.

Hours after the house has fallen silent, she cannot get her 2-year old twin boys to go back to sleep.  Months after they have left to visit her mother, she cannot get her 4-year old daughter to go back to the house, or to stop wetting herself.  Her little girl now has to see a child psychologist so that she can try to "work out" why the big man with the shiny badge held the black gun in her face while the other big man with the shiny badge yelled at her mommy.

The hardest part is hearing stories like this one, BELIEVING stories like this one and knowing there is no way I can prove it.  Unless the 4-year old and the twins are coming to court to testify, it is the word of 5-6 agents against my lady.  Unless she has a surveillance camera set up in her bedroom, the judge has the option of believing her, or believing a "man of the badge" with 10+ years under his belt.  But she is sitting across from me, crying, shaking, hurting and asking for me to just believe her.  Just believe in her.  Just fight for her. 

Picture Rocky IV, Apollo is dead, Drago is psychotic and you just know this isn't going to end well.  Rocky gives up the home field advantage, everyone in the audience is rooting for Drago, Adrian is there but she is scared for Rocky's life and he has had to pretty much train on his own.  But he is resolved to fight.  Though the odds are against him, he is resolved to see this through to the end.  The hardest part is suiting up when I feel like I am going into a battle already lost, but I know that I have to fight anyway.  So I assure my lady that I believe her, I believe in her and I will fight for her.


Those punches are going to hurt, and I can't help but feel like my inevitable loss will add fuel to the consuming fire these agents are intent on spreading throughout the poor community; but I have to do it.  Days like this, I hate to admit it but, I do not want to be a public defender.  I don't even want to be a criminal defense attorney.  The anger I felt after hearing my lady's story was matched only by my overwhelming sense of helplessness.  How do you fight a system that is set up to essentially always believe the police?  Even when the judge and jury KNOW it could not have happened the way the officer, agent or deputy have testified, something inside of them refuses to believe that it could have happened any other way.  I believe the reality is they do not want to believe the horror these law enforcement officers force people to experience.  To accept that your life can be turned upside down just because someone with power decided that is how is going to be, with no other explanation...it's enough to make you beyond scared of what our world has come to.  Trust me, I know.  I now carry a toxic mixture of fear and hate in my heart for law enforcement.  I have been seriously considering getting cameras installed in my home as well as my vehicle. 

I never want to be in a situation where it is their word against mine.  That is a gamble not worth the ante.  I do not believe in our system well enough to make that bet.  That is the hardest part.

Until next time,

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

~LT


UPDATE:
Not guilty! Now put THAT in your pipe and smoke it!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The hardest part...part 2/4

Today I had a bench trial, and I would have bet you my first born that I was going to be successful for my client. (OK, maybe not my FIRST born but definitely any future children).

I was prepared to rip the officer a new one on the stand, I was prepared for my oral motion for judgment of acquittal, I was prepared to every objection the state could send my way. I was prepared.  The trial begins and I realize that I do not have to try as hard as I initially thought.  The officer is being pretty cooperative on the stand, giving me everything that I need for my upcoming JOA and giving me a little bit more to work with.  His direct was helpful; his cross, my cross was beautiful.  So I get to the JOA, encompass a motion to supress in there (it's a misdemeanor bench trial and that's how they do them in my jurisdiction.  Yup, right in the middle of the trial), deliver it flawlessly and the judge denies them both.

On the outside I stay cool. But on the inside.......



The officer in this case admitted that they had an arrest warrant for my client.  They went to the place they believed to be his home in order to execute the warrant.  When they get there, no one answers the door.

They listen.

No movement inside. No television on.  No stereo system playing.  No furniture being moved.  No sound of whispering or tip-toing.  The apartment is on the 2nd level but they still have officers stationed in the back; no one reports any windows being opened, any blinds being 'peered through' and no one trying to escape. 

So what do the officers do? Why they let themselves in of course!

According to the judge I was in front of today, as long as the officers had a felony arrest warrant, they could have kicked this kids door in as far as he was concerned. 

The hardest part of my job is when you have to swallow the very large pill that brings you back to reality.  The reality is that lady justice does have on a blindfold but it is see-through.  The material has worn so thin and not only can she see you, you could make out her eyes as well if you wanted to do so.  The hardest part of my job is when you realize there are some members of the 'courthouse workgroup' that need a refreasher course on what the 4th amendment means.  Fortunately, we appealed the case and I will get another crack at it.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure the outcome will be that much better.  We seem to be losing the fight ladies and gents.  But we keep on fighting the good fight.  That has to be the hardest part...

Until next time,

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

~LT

Monday, March 11, 2013

The hardest part...part 1/4

I did something today that I know was wrong.  I do not know how long it is going to bother me or how long it is going to be hard to live with myself but right now I cannot stand to look in the mirror.

Today I stood next to my client as she pled to an offense that I so desperately wished she would take to trial.

As I prepared for this trial I could feel the blood rushing to the surface of my skin, I'm tingling all over and just outright excited.  The police officers did not do everything anything they were supposed to do when investigating the alleged crime, the prosecutor was stuck and he knew it.  So he offered to dismiss the case upon completion of a court diversion program.

In our office we sit two attorney's to a jury trial. Always. Even if you plan on doing everything from voir dire to closing, you have to have a second set of eyes and ears there with you, just in case.  Since I may be leaving soon (and my supervisor knows this despite the fact that we have not discussed it) it was suggested that I ask him to be my 2nd chair.  He has seen me do a cross-examination in one of his cases when I first started and has not been in court to 'supervise' me doing a thing since then.  So I ask him.  Mistake #1.

Let me digress for a moment.  I love trying cases, I love winning; I love trying cases and winning.  The only way to win is if you try cases.  There is no better place to try, try and try again when it comes to the legal field, than in the public defenders office (or a prosecutor).  So when I say I was ready to try this case, I WAS READY!  My supervisor had a different opinion.  I listened to his opinion. Mistake #2.

          "The only way you can guarantee her a win is with this plea."

          "Your enthusiasm, misplaced as it may be, is refreshing."

          "I am not questioning your ability to win based on your ability,
            I am questioning your ability to win based on the facts."

          "I don't think you have a winner that has the potential to be lost,
            I think you have a loser that can maybe be won."

Sigh, so I sat down and talked to my client about her fears, her concerns and her position on things.  Truth of the matter is, her only concern was money.  A conviction could not only mean jail time but also upwards of $3,000 in fines, costs and program fees.  The diversion program is approximately $755 and $500 of that can be knocked out by the judge waiving some of the costs.

Although I cannot guarantee my client a win, I can guarantee her that I will do my damnedest to get her acquitted.  I can guarantee her that I will do EVERYTHING in my power to show the jury that there is more than enough reasonable doubt to come back with a not guilty verdict.  I can guarantee her that if she is found not guilty that she won't have to pay a dime.  But I cannot guarantee her a not guilty...

...so...

I did something today that I know was wrong.  I do not know how long it is going to bother me or how long it is going to be hard to live with myself but right now I cannot stand to look in the mirror.

The hardest part of my job is standing next to a client entering a plea, while knowing in my heart they should be fighting.

Sigh....

Until next time,

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

~LT