Run, Here Comes Blonde Justice!

I hear too many clients telling me stupid things like, "Oh, you didn't tell me I shouldn't keep getting rearrested." Or "Nobody told me I really had to come back to court when the judge said I had to come back to court." Or "Oh, you didn't tell me I shouldn't be caught selling drugs while I'm on trial for selling drugs!"

So, when I worked arraignments last week, I took the judge's slow pace as an opportunity to actually tell all of my clients the rules. It should be interesting to see whether actually being told what to do will (1) stop my clients from making the same stupid mistakes and (2) stop my clients from saying "You didn't tell me...!"

For this little experiment to work, I had to give each client the same exact instructions. (I'll consider all of my previous clients, who weren't given such explicit warnings, the control group.) So, this is what I told them:

"You're going to be released from here today. In order to be released, there are 3 rules you're going to have to follow.

1. Keep in touch with me. This is the phone number and address I have for you. [Read it to client, ask if they have any other numbers... a work phone, a cell phone, etc.] If you move or your phone gets disconnected, it's your responsibility to let me know how to reach you. If I leave a message, you need to call me back right away. It's possible that the prosecutor will call to make a limited-time offer. If I can't get a hold of you, you might miss out. If you don't hear from me within a few weeks, feel free to check in with me.

2. Come to court. Coming to court is your priority over everything else. You need to be here, and you need to be here on time. If you have a real emergency - someone died or you're in the hospital - give me a call and let me know ahead of time, so I can tell the judge where you are. And you're going to need proof of where you were, so you might as well get it while you're there.

3. Don't get rearrested. That means you have to be on your absolute best behavior. No arrest is too small or insignificant to make the prosecutor say 'He had his chance.' This means no loitering, no drinking in public, no smoking weed, no hanging out with the wrong kids, nothing."

Every client, maybe because they were mostly young, seemed to listen pretty intently to the rules and seem pretty pleased that I was laying the rules out for them so clearly.

All of the clients who heard "the 3 rules speech" were released, which gives them all a fair opportunity to follow the rules. I'm not setting my hopes too high though - I know that my clients are my clients because they're not rule followers. And if they could all follow rules, I'd probably be out of business.

Later, at the end of the day, I walked out of the courthouse and saw one of my clients standing in front of the courthouse with some other kids, smoking a cigarette.

Completely joking, I shouted, "HEY! WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT LOITERING?!?"

And my client -oh god, this cracks me up- said, "Oh shit! That's my lawyer!" and took off running!

Took off running! Ha!


  1. Man, criminal clents are the smartest people on the planet. At least he has enough of an opinion of you to actually run away from you instead of sticking up his middle finger and staying where he was.

  2. It's great to tell them all the rules but I almost got a client in trouble by doing this b/c I wrote pretty much those same rules plus his stay-away instructions on the back of his summons to return to court. When he was rearrested for violating his stay-away the cops found this paper in his pocket and the prosector tried to use it as evidence that my client had ample notice that he was supposed to stay away from the specified area. The judge saved me by asking the prosecutor, "Do we have any evidence that he [my client] can read?" The prosecutor was completely flustered by that and muttered something like "we can assume..." but the judge wasn't buying it. Of course, the judge's skepticism came from the cop's testimony about my client's utter bewilderment as to his location, otherwise I'm sure my client would have been headed to jail. As it was, he walked out of there that day, which was pretty cool.

  3. Good lesson for lawyering: where you can avoid putting writing, do.

  4. I had a really hard day in court today, and your post reminds me that there are things I love about my job. Thanks.

  5. Where I used to practice, the Judge would give the 'instructions' also called Parker admonishments to everyone. It added about 20 minutes on to any court proceeding, but probably worth it. Then, when people still weren't coming, it was a pain to pull the transcript to show that he/she was given a Parker, so then the court started having people sign written instructions and kept them in the court file.

    I think its great that you wrote them down fo him, but I'm wondering how the prosecutor got around attorney-client privilege. Surely, if it had been a letter from you to him regarding this it would have been privileged, right?

    Maybe I've had too much caffeine already this morning.

  6. I thought about privilege too, but if he leaves it to be found, I wonder if he'd be waiving priv. at some point.

    Like, as if he had repeated a privileged conversation to another person?

    Not sure, just a thought.

  7. "But you didn't tell me I had to come back to court.."

    I hate that more than anything. At Calendar Call, the judge says, "Be here on the 13th!" The notice from the prosecutor's office says, "Be here on the 1st and the 13th!" My notice says, "Be here on the 1st and 13th!"

    No doubt though, I'll get a client who says.. "But you didn't CALL me and tell me that." To which I usually say, "Uhm.. you never returned my phone call."

  8. About waiving privilege by leaving the summons with the instructions on the back somewhere to be found... That would depend on exactly where he left it. If it was on his person when he was arrested, he certainly didn't waive privilege. Same goes for if it was on top of a pile of mail in his apartment, since he had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

    Also, Blonde, you rock.

  9. That's effing brilliant -- thanks for the laugh! It's almost enough to make me want to quit editing and litigate.


  10. I had to read this whole post out loud to my wife in order to explain why I was laughing so hard. Awesome.