Investigation Pays Off

I had a huge, amazing, delightful break through on an investigation today.

There is just absolutely no substitute for a fantastic investigation. I cannot understand attorneys who don't get out there in the field and do their own investigations. Now, maybe if I had a truly fantastic investigator, it'd be easy to just hand my cases off. But, instead, I perform many of my own investigations, either with other attorneys or with my amazing summer intern. (And if there's any chance a case is actually going to trial, I definitely have to get out there myself.)

I feel like I have such a greater understanding of my cases just by visiting the scene, visiting the scene, and visiting the scene again. There's just so much that can be acheived by seeing something in person and speaking to people in person.

Just as an example, I've had a very serious case pending for quite some time. It's scheduled for just after the holiday weekend and I still could not find the complainant. My investigator and I tried every technological means possible. We visited the scene, we visited his friends, we visited his enemies, we visited the scene again. It was like he was a ghost.

Finally, tonight, we went back and retraced the route again: visited the scene, spoke to his friends, spoke to his enemies. We saw one witness we had spoken to before and asked, "Hi! Remember us?" He kissed my hand, offered us coffee, and... finally... introduced us to the complainant.

I spoke to the complainant for all of two minutes when he said, "I'm not going to come to court. Tell your client I forgive him, I just want to get on with my life."

I could have had the best investigator in the world tell me "No, he's not coming to court," and, as much as I would have wanted to believe it, I wouldn't have known for sure.

But having seen it for myself, I know that I can relax this weekend.

Happy 4th of July.

It's All A Popularity Contest

The boys at Barely Legal point out that they are now the second listing when you google "Barely Legal."

Inspired, The Littlest Tortfeasor takes a moment to assess her google listing.

When I first started this blog, two long years ago, I was concerned with my place in the google world. (Now I'm much more concerned with my Technorati links.)

And, like the boys at Barely Legal, I too am up against porn, which is generally hard to overcome in google rankings.

Anyway, today, inspired by The Littlest Tortfeasor, I googled Blonde Justice.

And, check it out! I have surpassed the Blonde Justice porn!

Who knew this day would ever come? I would like to thank God, my readers, everyone who ever said I couldn't do it because that just made me work harder...

Shoe Wa Wa!

I own some really hot shoes. And I get more all the time. But not often enough. But I rarely shoe blog. Why? Because I am so paranoid that someone will see me in court and say, "Those are some amazing shoes... I think I've seen them before... wait a minute... are you Blonde Justice?"

So, I don't shoe blog. Sometimes I think about posting something like the ones I bought, but changing the color or the design slightly. But then they're not as cute as my shoes. And, besides, then we start down the slippery slope toward fictitious blog.

So, I don't shoe blog. But I do love to live vicariously and read other shoe blogs.

And I really wish I could be as organized with my shoes as ljc.

Anonymous Lawyer Reviewed

Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman, Is Hilarious
(A book review, by Blonde Justice)


There's an eerie quiet that normally pervades the halls of the firm, punctuated only by the screams of those who've discovered they can use the letter opener to end the pain once and for all.

Is Anonymous Lawyer an exaggeration of firm life? To be honest, I have no idea. In the interest of full disclosure, I have never worked for even a minute in a firm. And the few friends that I have that went to big firms are never around to talk about it. But they do have really huge flat panel TVs that I see when I stop in their house to feed their cats when they work really late.

But, since none of them have literally committed suicide yet, I expect that Anonymous Lawyer is an exercise in hyperbole.

Still, I loved it. Or, maybe I loved it because of that.

I think the best comparison I can make is that Anonymous Lawyer is a lot like The Devil Wears Prada.

Did I think reading The Devil Wears Prada gave me a realistic idea of what it means to work in the magazine or publishing industry? No, it was more of an interesting tale of creative torture that happened to be set at a fashion magazine. Anonymous Lawyer is similar, but it is set at a law firm.

Did The Devil Wears Prada have a plot? Sure, but as in Anonymous Lawyer, the plot is a bit player, and is mostly a vehicle for these creative torture stories.

And, that's fine with me. Anonymous Lawyer is a lite and amusing courtroom read, and made me appreciate the friendly, no-stress (ha!) environment we have at the public defender's office.

The book is formatted as a blog (and some e-mails). Which didn't bother me at all, since I regularly read blogs, so the format is familiar to me. I'm not sure whether it would be awkward for someone who has never read blogs, but it's not like it's a difficult thing to figure out.

(In deciding to describe this book as "lite and amusing" and compare it to Devil Wears Prada, I wondered if perhaps I had stumbled on the next Chick Lit... Lite Lawyer Reads... maybe we could call it Writ Lit. You heard it here first.)

So, pick up Anonymous Lawyer, stick it in your brief case, and have something to laugh about in the courtroom. Or, if you get a summer vacation, bring it to the beach and be glad you don't work at a Big Firm.

Class Action Alert

You too may be part of this class!

Nationwide Class of BAR/BRI Bar Review Customers Certified: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance
The class is comprised of all persons who purchased a bar review course from BAR/BRI Bar Review from August, 1997 to the present.

The suit, filed in May 2005 by former law students in California, Michigan and Louisiana, accuses defendant West Publishing Corp., d/b/a BAR/BRI of violating the federal antitrust laws and conspiring with defendant Kaplan, Inc. to prevent competition in the market for full-service bar review courses.

I hope that we get something good out of our lawsuit. Something useful, not a coupon for "$50 off your next bar review course."

The Ominous Omnibus

My client has the worst case.

Anything incriminating you can imagine, this case has it. Fingerprints, DNA, video, eyewitnesses, written confession, videotaped confession, incriminating evidence in his pockets, in his home, in his red hands... you name it, they've got it.

Yet he's turned down offer after offer. He insists he wants to go to trial.

Yesterday, I went to see him. I don't want to force him into a plea, but he's going to regret passing up this final offer.

"No," he kept saying, "Let's go. I want my ominous hearing. Let's do my ominous hearing. When is my ominous hearing? Tell them I want my ominious hearing."

And all I can think is, "Damn right this hearing is going to be ominous."

You Had A Bad Day

Some days are better than others.

Some days the judges are charmed by me, some days my clients follow my advice, some days the prosecutors give me fantastic offers, some days are quick and easy.

Other days the judges are downright rude, other days my clients don't care what I have to say, other days the prosecutors make the most ridiculous offers, other days my clients get "lost" somewhere between the jail and the court and I spend all day waiting.

Today was a bit of a rough day.

The prosecutor's offer was crap, and while my client was happy to take it, I was disappointed with the disposition.

I left the courtroom after a long, tough day, feeling like a failure, my head hanging low.

"Excuse me? Excuse me, Miss?"

I turned around and saw a young man who had been sitting in the courtroom all day.

"Can I get your card? You're a real good lawyer."

I was about to explain that I'm a public defender, and that all of my clients are assigned to me, so there's no point in taking my card. But, first, I had a question...

"Oh yeah? You liked the way I entered that plea? You want a year in the county jail?"

"Well," he said, "It sounds pretty good compared to what my lawyer says I'm gonna get. And that guy looked real happy with it."

I guess it's all about perspective.

"So, can I get your card? Can I get a year?"

Are You My Intern?

I think I may have just found my intern's blog.

Okay, maybe not, but I sort of thought that this blogger's Paint drawing of his "boss" might sort of look like me.

(No, my eyes aren't purple. But wouldn't that be a funny way to find your intern's blog???)

Spider Woman

I saw the grossest, weirdest tattoo tonight.

This woman was wearing shorts.

On her lower calf, she had a tattoo of a large spider.

Coming up from the spider, there was a line, like the web the spider was dangling from.

And at the top of the line, was the web. Except, it wasn't a tattoo, it was her varicose or spider veins.

I tried, but my camera phone sucks too much for me to get a picture.

So, instead, you'll get my artist's rendition, which isn't half as gross:

My Personal Life (And Lack Thereof)

I don't have a lot of friends from childhood. I know people who do. I know people who have their elementary school friends, their middle school friends, their high school friends. Maybe I'm just not a good keep-in-touch-er.

But I do have one friend from elementary school. We met in 6th grade and immediately started spending all of our time together. She was my best friend from 6th grade to 10th grade.

In 10th grade she transferred to another high school, and while we didn't spend as much time together, we definitely kept in touch.

When I went away to college, she joined the military. We kept in touch through letters. She was lonely and miserable in the military. Her letters were full of stories about how every female in her unit was sleeping with all of their male supervisors, the infidelity and STDs that were rampant. Every letter included a countdown of when she could come home, when her time would be over, lists of things she missed.

Email was a pretty new thing, and mostly used for forwarding jokes (since not everyone checked it reliably enough to send anything important via email), so I would print out email pages full of jokes circulating around my college and send them with my letters. Eventually, she asked me to stop because my letters were arriving with postage due.

Her first break home, she married her high school boyfriend and got pregnant. I think she saw it as the cure to her homesickness. It wasn't. Instead, she was worried about how her husband and the baby were doing at home, and she beat herself up for being a bad mother and leaving her newborn.

We lost touch again for a few years again towards the end of college and my first year of law school. She must have gotten my law school address from my parents - because she reconnected with me by sending a new family portrait, including her second child.

Now... we keep in touch sporadically. We always see each other over Christmas. In between, we see each other a couple of times, we talk on the phone maybe once a month. I feel a commitment to staying in touch, and sometimes call even though I don't feel like it. Sometimes it feels more like a chore.

It's tough. We just have very different lives. If I met her today (without a decade of history behind us), I doubt we'd be friends.

But I feel like there is something worthwhile about maintaining an old friendship.

Not only do we have very different lives, but we also have a very hard time relating to each other's lives.

I come home from work, and, some nights, I can barely muster up enough energy to shove a slice of pizza in my mouth before I fall asleep. Some weekends I really do spend the entire weekend prepping a trial, or going to crime scenes. And I enjoy it, I love what I do.

I cannot imagine working full time and coming home to two children. I cannot imagine going to work in the morning to a job that is just "work" to me.

I wouldn't trade my life, and I don't think she would trade hers.

But I feel offended that if I want to make work my life, that isn't seen as valid, but if she wants to make her children her life, it is.

Yes, she's a mother, and she's helping shape their little lives and whatnot...

But my job is important too! It's not like I'm working in some crappy job. I'm helping people too!

Anyway, I raise all this because she left a message on my cell phone the other night that said, (in a tone that I took to be quite snide), "Hey, I haven't heard from you in a while. I guess you're busy. I don't know... It's not like you're working full-time and raising two children..."

Grrrr. No, you're just going to an office job where you sit on your ass all day and I'm getting people out of jail and getting yelled at by judges and running all around and working twice as many hours as you and I still get to pay back law school loans.

I know that I need to just cut her some slack and not let it be a big deal.

But it really annoyed me. And I'm really feeling like I just don't want to call her back.

Like, maybe, ever.

And, another part of me thinks that I have to because... get this stupid reason... it's somehow really wrong to not have any childhood friends. That's stupid, right?

So, I don't know. I thought writing it all out might help me figure something out. I guess, in the end, I'll probably just let it go for a few days and then forget all about it. Because that's the way I am.

But I'm willing to hear some advice or perspective, if you've got it.

Blawg Review #61

This week's Blawg Review is a collaboration between myself, Woman of the Law, and Not Guilty. As lawyers, we often do our best work when we collaborate with others. Sometimes that means trying a case with co-counsel. Sometimes that means repeating the facts of a case to colleagues again and again, while each one adds a different idea of an area of investigation, a legal argument, or simply a different perspective. Sometimes that means saving a new lawyer from "reinventing the wheel." Most certainly, all of these interactions lead us to better lawyering, and, in this case, better Blawg Reviewing.

Woman of the Law is a new public defender. I love reading all public defender blawgs, because I think that as much as things change from one jurisdiction to another, some things really stay the same - our clients, the difficulties we go through, and the dilemmas zealous representation often raises. In particular, Woman of the Law's reflections remind me of things I've been through in the past few years, the ongoing frustrations and, at the same time, why I came to love the job in the first place.

Not Guilty has been around the block a bit longer and is doing what so many of us dream of doing. She has quit the firm and is started her own small practice. She has a fantastically seasoned perspective and a sense of humor in her writing that I really appreciate.

We've each chosen a few of our own links, which we're showcasing here along with Blawg Review reader submissions.




Woman of the Law
I am a Woman Of The Law. I am a public defender, new to the profession, and have already a) cursed out a few of my clients, and b) cried in court, but not in front of the judge. I love what I do, and hate the system, which is why I often find myself at the bar after work.

A corporate attorney thinks that technology + law = BlackBerry. Here in the nitty gritty world of criminal defense, we cannot afford to have an Egg McMuffin, much less a Blackberry. Instead, we use technology to figure out if we are hot or not. I mean, we use technology to help out our clients.

Tales of a Public Investigator teaches us how to use MySpace as an investigation tool.
I was still getting too many hits and not enough background info so I switched over to my new favorite tool: Icerocket.com. IceRocket is great in that you can do very specific searches without have to screw around with a lot of Boolean search terms, you can search directly on Myspace or Blogs (I did email them to ask what blogs were covered in their searches...all they would say is, "We try to cover everything." Yup, at least they responded to me email) and in all fairness their Blog and Myspace searches are friggin fantastic!

Apparently Audacity and Public Defender Dude found someone else who knows how to use MySpace!

Sentencing Law and Policy mentions how states are considering the use of GPS monitoring to track sex offenders:
The rock group The Police have a number of songs that might effectively describe the modern trend of requiring GPS tracking of sex offenders: not only is Every Breath You Take a fitting theme song for these developments, so too might be Can't Stand Losing You or even Don't Stand So Close to Me. And, of course, the band's very name is on-point.

This musical interlude is inspired by this recent USA Today article, which effectively explores the "rapidly rising number of states using GPS to monitor convicted sex offenders."
To be honest, I have never fully grasped how these have worked. Can a GPS tell when someone is looking at porn? Can a GPS tell when someone is having dirty thoughts? Can a GPS tell when someone is committing a crime? If so, then I cannot for the life of me imagine why GPS toys are so popular with men between the ages of 18-45.

It seems that Tbagged is having some BarBri technology issues:

Well, the movers ate my printer paper, so I was all geared up to turn it in via e-mail last night. I finished yanking made-up torts from betwixt my asscheeks and slapping them into a word document. Then, because the directions I hadn't yet read mandated that the essay be typed directly into my e-mail (no attachments allowed they screamed, italicized and bolded just like that!) I had to re-type the whole fucking thing into my gmail window. So once that delightful little torture was over and I'd been forced to actually read the excement I'd just created and stare in the mirror of my answer to see just how retarded I am and just how painfully this test is going to sodomize me, I finally typed the email address BarBri gave me next to the "to:" field and hit the send button. But look! Suddenly I have new mail from some guy called " MAILER-DAEMON" over at the Barbri office!

If I were you, buddy, I'd opt out of taking the bar exam on computer.

Magic Cookie eschews the use of technology in research .
Today I had to do some Very Important Research -- in books!

I almost wish I had been a pre-computer lawyer. It was fun being surrounded by stacks of books, frantically flipping through and writing down dates in my little notebook and sticking little bookmarks in, and getting even more stacks of books off the shelves. So much better than Westlaw.
Preach on, sister. I have to say, since I left law school, I've discovered that using books is far more helpful than using the computer. Hate to admit it though. I suppose that a stapler might count as technology.

Over at Suburban Ecstasies, some thoughts on how internet and television may create the appearance of a threat that doesn't actually exist.

The fact of the matter is, not only do such sting operations bring potential sexual predators into the communities in which these operations occur--predators who would not otherwise be present in the instant population--they also don't tell us very damn much. How many fourteen year-olds are on-line trying to meet fat, balding fifty-two year-olds for sex? Are there any? I mean, that aren't in fact fat, balding fifty-two year-old police officers with a hard-on for some hot geriatric-on-teen (um, I mean geriatric-on-geriatric) online chatroom action (and who use the "cover" of their job to get it)? Has anyone heard of any case in the last five years in which a fourteen year-old girl was raped and murdered by a man she invited into her home after meeting him anonymously in a chatroom? Can anyone name five such cases? Why isn't anyone demanding that some sense of the scope of this problem--the actual problem, not the one police gin up--be represented on television alongside the Hollywood version?

Next time you're kicking up your GPS while surfing the net for 52 year old bald men while checking your MySpace page and reading a treatise on civil judgments, just remember who first brought it all together for you.


Not Guilty
As the self-proclaimed CFO of our new law firm, I’m always looking for ways to get new clients (translation, make more money!). Carolyn Elefant over at My Shingle says that new lawyers should reduce fees and compete on price.
My Shingle: Competing On Price - Why Not?

Ed Poll from LawBiz Blog says exactly the opposite and gives several compelling reasons why lower fees may not bring you more clients.
LawBiz Blog: Don't lower your fee -- Fee is not the issue!
It’s hard to find that perfect balance between charging too little and charging too much. On thing Poll points out is that people tend to believe they get what they pay for, but what I find true in actual practice is what he says about Money just not being the issue with clients:
Money is seldom the issue with clients, according to all the surveys and focus group studies I've seen. Thus, there is no reason to lower the fees. Focus on what is really important to the client ... Ask the client what that is in each case ... They want rapid response to their inquiries; they want lawyers with whom they have great rapport and who understand the client's business and personal needs. They want lawyers who understand what they want in the lawsuit ... !!!!!
I’ve been reading My Shingle since I moved to this new city and I’ve actually e-mailed with Carolyn Elefant a couple of times, she’s very active in the local solo/small practice arena and is just a font of information for new and veteran solo and small practice attorneys. Today she has "Three Friday Freebies for Solos”. While the freebies are great, the most compelling part of her post was at the end where she says:
Of course, there's no such thing as a free lunch. While these resources may all be free, can you free the time to take advantage of them? (By the way, if anyone has tips on what you do to make the time to follow up on these kinds of articles, e.g., reading them on the train to work or in bed at night, please share your ideas below).
Not having time is the reality of small business where you are required to do everything yourself. I’m anxious to read what kind of tips people have for making time.

My interests these days span from small practice setup to adoption, since we’ve just sent in our application for adoption. Along those lines, I’ve come across some websites by lawyers who answer a ton of questions about adoption. The first one of this genre of blawgs that I’ve come across is Adoption Hotline, written by Attorney Janine A. Barbera Esq. Ms. Barbera has a pretty interesting post about famous people who were adopted or who have adopted. It’s kind of like the Hannakah song by Adam Sandler, but with adoption instead.


Blonde Justice
I myself have been at the public defender thing for a few years. And while I am not too ashamed to admit that I may have been reduced to crying in court a few times in my career (also never in front of judge!), I am also proud to say that it's been so long that I have a hard time remembering when it happened last (a year ago? maybe?).

When my clients tell me "No deal, I'm taking this all the way to trial!" I always tell them the same thing. "I'm with you, but I hope you know what a long process this is. I don't want to hear a year from now that you're sick of coming back and forth to court, because this deal will be off the table by then, and you're going to have to stick with it." And, still, so many clients are shocked by how long the process is and how many adjournments it takes to get to trial. This week, Ken Lammers at CrimLaw shares the history of a trial, and what exactly that entails.
CrimLaw: History of a Trial
Judge: "You're sure that you don't want to send a cab to pick [the witness] up and bring her to court? Or maybe you can send the trooper to go get her?" For a second I thought he would ask the prosecutor to mobilize the National Guard.

In an ongoing look at prosecutors who offer leniency in exchange for donations to charity, Skelly at Arbitrary and Capricious takes a look at the practice in Bellingham, Washington.
Arbitrary and Capricious: Washington: It's Pay to Play in B'ham Court
In another place and time with a similar set-up, I was torn between my ethical obligation to get my client the best possible outcome, and my moral sense that the whole racket stank. I used to explain the deal to a client by saying, "it's sort of paying a legal bribe." Yikes, indeedy!

Milbarge at Begging the Question takes a look at the Atkins hearing - which determines whether or not a capital defendant is mentally retarded, and, therefore, ineligable for the death penalty under Atkins v. Virginia, and the juries that decide those hearings.
Begging The Question: Death-Qualified Juries and Atkins Hearings
But the neat trick with that is they get to death-qualify the jury that hears the retardation evidence. And, it would seem likely that a death-qualified jury might be less eager to agree to excuse the defendant on grounds of retardation. I can see that you might still have to death-qualify the jury if the hearing were pre-trial, but it wouldn't be logically compelled, and the jury wouldn't necessarily have heard all that guilt or victim impact evidence, even if it were death-qualified.
Also on the subject of mentally ill defendants, Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast examines the difficulties of properly housing mentally ill defendants in an non-treatment setting. Obviously, this is a problem across the nation, but this article looks at solutions for Texas.
Grits for Breakfast: Counties Explore Solutions for Mentally Ill in Texas Jails
Jailers aren't social workers. Their facilities aren't equipped to handle the mentally ill and their guards aren't properly trained. Inmates who've had psychotic breaks might improve after being given their medication, but can't stay on the treatments without help once they're out in the free world again. Nobody seems to have a great answer, but between them Texas counties are testing quite a few different solutions.

Albert Clifford at Defending Those People points out a video of a young woman (who happens to be a prosecutor's daughter), being abused in a jail lock-up, after being arrested for playing music too loud. You'll have to see the video to believe it.
Defending Those People: Police Brutality
Like the girl says on the video, if this beating is what happens to a sober, white woman who is a prosecutor's daughter and was simply taken in for having a radio too loud, what happens to poor, minority, guilty people? Far too often, I'd guess.

Another disturbing story comes to us from PD Dude who writes about the "monitoring" of confidential and privileged client conversations.
Public Defender Dude: Listening in on Attorney Client conversations isn't just for Terrorists Anymore
Just about all of our conversations with our clients are "monitorable," meaning, the Police have the ability to record nearly everything we say to our clients. However, having the ability to do it and actually doing are totally different. It now appears as if they are abusing that quite frequently.

And, if you enjoy legal blogs (or "blawgs"), which you must, if you're reading this, you should know that Ian Best at 3L Epiphany has put together a Taxonomy of Legal Blogs and is looking for any blawgs that he has neglected to mention. (Sorry, he doesn't do law student blawgs, he saves that for Clever WoT's Law Student Blogger Directory.) So, take a look and make sure that none of the blawgs you enjoy are missing:
3L Epiphany: Open Invitation for Additions to Taxonomy
I have created this post so that readers can suggest additions and improvements to my Taxonomy of Legal Blogs. Readers can use the Comments feature at the bottom of this post...



Contributors' Submissions and Readers' Recommendations

Perhaps the most important collaboration of the year was Brangelina - Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. And their work product? The Brangelina baby - Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt. Both The Trademark Blog and The J-Walk Blog have some of the published photos of the Brangelina Baby as well as links to some discussions of the legal issues surrounding the sale of the Brangelina baby photos.
The J-Walk Blog: Shiloh Nouvel Photos
and

The Trademark Blog: You're On Your Own As To What To Make Of All This

Also from Marty Schwimmer at The Trademark Blog, a comic book on Public Domain...
The Trademark Blog: Tales From The Public Domain
Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain has produced a comic book, in which a copyright is accidentally exposed to gamma rays and develops incredible elastic properties.

Wordlab examines another interesting collaboration: between Moosehead Beer and a man charged with selling a moose head illegally on eBay.
Drink Moosehead Beer - Help Free Bob
Moosehead Breweries Limited, Canada's oldest independent brewery, made big news recently when they came to the aid of a Canadian charged with the crime of selling a moose head to an American bar -- on eBay.

Health Care Law Blawg takes a census of blawgs on the 'net today, citing articles on the past, present and future of blawging, and considers a collaboration of his own.
More Blawgs on a Roll: 1,200 - 643=557
I've been toying with the idea of a collaborative health care blog idea and was excited to see that Tom predicts collaborative blogs will be on the rise in the future.

On the subject of collaborations of the same-sex type, Diana L. Skaggs at LouisvilleDivorce compares the analyses by Congress, the American Bar Association, and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, as well as her own views.
Same Sex Marriage Issue in Congress, Again
As a family lawyer who is a member of both organizations, I have been privileged to observe, participate in, and be enlightened by the critical analysis of the law and the principled positions articulated. When the hysteria is removed from the debate, the issues are economic, constitutional, privacy, and religious.

The Online Guide to Mediation offers support to attorneys in the ADR field. Now, that includes a World Directory of ADR Blogs.
Online Guide to Mediation: World Directory of ADR Blogs Launches
When I first began blogging in January 2005, only a few active ADR blogs existed. Today there are enough of us to warrant our own directory.

How about "rock, paper, scissors" as a form of alternative dispute resolution? The Dark Goddess of Replevin shares an apparently real court order granting just that.
The Dark Goddess of Replevin Speaks: Better Than a Fist Fight
Each lawyer shall be entitled to be accompanied by one paralegal who shall act as an attendant and witness. At that time and location, counsel shall engage in one (1) game of "rock, paper, scissors." The winner of this engagement shall be entitled to select the location for the 30(b)(6) deposition to be held somewhere in Hillsborough County...

On a much more serious note, Jeralyn Merritt's Talk Left has some interesting posts lately. This week, she inquires about the man who snitched on Zaqarwi and whether that information was as a result of torture.
Zarqawi Snitch in Custody of Jordanian Police for Months
Does anyone have any doubt that Ziad Khalaf Raja al-Karbouly, the Iraqi customs inspector who turned on Zaqarwi after being arrested and held for months by the Jordanian police, talked as a result of being subjected to torture? Connect the dots.

Everyone loves a good mystery. In this case, I.M. Kierkegaard, at Kierkegaard Lives explores one that involves the murder of a New York Appellate Clerk and has all the makings of an episode of Law & Order.
Legal Questions Raised by Slaying of NY Appellate Clerk
The case presents a myriad of complex legal and factual issues that Porco's co-workers say he would have found fascinating.

In a pre-cautionary tale, Kevin Heller at Tech Law Advisor describes "My First Cease & Desist," which he expects to receive in June, 2014, eight years from now. The lesson? Parents, avoid lawsuits, don't let your kids watch the Disney channel.
Tech Law Advisor: My First Cease & Desist
It has come to our attention that your son is gifted in the visual arts. It also appears, that according to your Time Warner and Comcast Cable records for the period 2002 to 2006, that he watched approximately 250 hours of Disney licensed content...

Wondering where Mr. Heller got his inspiration? Maybe it's not just Disney. Both Rob Hyndman and Kevin O'Keefe at Real Lawyers Have Blogs look at the real-life embarrassing move by megafirm Baker & McKenzie, which sent cease-and-desist letters to potential infringers of FIFA World Cup streaming-and-downloading rights before any of them had done anything and before the World Cup had even begun.
FIFA Pre-emptive Demand, Redux
[T]he rightsholder’s counsel is at it again, this time targeting Boing Boing (”Hideous company sends Boing Boing a pre-emptive nastygram”) with a “don’t even think about it” letter concerning streaming and downloading of World Cup material. The letter is online.

and

LexBlog Blog : Baker & McKenzie makes asses of themselves via blogosphere
I've had my head taken off by a Chief Marketing Officer at a large law firm telling me they have no need for blogs nor to find out what they were about (mind you I was invited to the firm). Large law firms need to wake up and fast.

Actions like Baker and McKenzie's and copies of letters like this one can get spread across the world like wild fire. And it ain't only to go show up on the Internet which is bad enough. I'll be surprised if this one does not end up in The Times, the UK's daily national newspaper.

Eh Nonymous at Unused and Probably Unuseable writes (in text only!) about why his blawg remains picture-less.
Unused and Probably Unusable Blogging Like a Lawyer: Text-only?
First of all, I'm pseudonymous, although only thinly undercover. Dozens of readers, commenters, and fellow bloggers know who I am. I openly disclose what I do, where I do it, and what general kind of cases I work on. I just never felt that my actual, personal identity was relevant to whether my writing was at all interesting, or any damn good. See this discussion in my post, Carnival of the Anonymous, and in the comments, where an innocent question from a loyal reader elicited a rambling, and at times near-hysterical, response from me.

Bob Ambrogi on ALM's Legal Blog Watch writes about the shortage of indigent defense in post-Katrina New Orleans, and in other parts of the country.
Katrina and the Right to Counsel
With more than 1,000 people sitting in New Orleans jails without access to lawyers, Judge Arthur L. Hunter Jr. decided he had no choice but to begin releasing defendants and suspending their prosecutions.

Denise Howell, at Bag and Baggage provides her take on Garcetti v. Ceballos, asking the question of what is official speech by a public employee, while technology such as blogs blurs the line between official and private (but very publicly available) speech:
Ceballos Whiffs On The Web

The Court hasn't accounted for someone who speaks publicly (as on a blog), but not entirely — or perhaps even primarily — as a non-work-related endeavor. Also strange is the Court's emphasis on the fact Ceballos physically "went to work" to perform these tasks, implying this circumstance speaks to whether the tasks were within his job duties. Presumably the parallel antiquated concept would also hold true: that activities performed outside the physical workplace somehow automatically aren't part of work.


Jeff Jervis at Buzz Machine picks up where Denise Howell leaves off, with the topic of whether blogging is professional endeavor for a professor.
BuzzMachine : Blog or Perish
If professors blog as professors, they bring their scholarship and perspective to a larger world. That is good for their scholarship — conversation yields learning as people question and challenge and add to what you say — and, presumably, it is good for the world if they contribute knowledge and perspective to the public discussion.

Finally, if you, like me, found the stolen sidekick story to be one of most interesting internet hullabaloo since Jesus on the Grilled Cheese, you may be interested in May It Please the Court, where there's an excellent piece on how to erase personal data from electronics which leaves me wondering whether these tips might have helped the man who "lost" his sidekick.
There's No Reason Theft Of Sensitive Data Should Be Exposed To Criminals
While Lojack for Laptops is more robust (there's more hard disk space on a laptop) and has more options, both programs generally accomplish the same thing: they lock the device down, preventing unauthorized access to the sensitive data, and if the owner sends an appropriate command, then the software wipes the hard drive, making the laptop/cell phone worthless.



Well, that's all for us. We hope everyone enjoyed Blawg Review #61.

Blawg Review has information about next week's host, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.

Weekend Update

Our episode of Blawg Review goes up Monday morning, and I've spent a lot of time this weekend putting it together.

After that goes up, I'm going to write a review of Anonymous Lawyer. And I'm going to start reading Indefensible.

In the meantime, I just wanted to say "Wow," I am so amazed at how many people didn't like The Five People You Meet In Heaven. I really felt like some kind of outcast when I saw how much praise that book got. See how therapeutic blogging can be?

Also, thanks to everyone who is sending links or tips for the Blawg Review. Once again, it will be up Sunday, I hope you'll like what you find...

Freedom of Speech, Explained

My client's girlfriend cornered me as I walked out of the courtroom the other day.

"I want to talk to you, I'm a witness that he didn't resist arrest," she told me.

"Sure, let's see if we can find a quiet spot where we can talk for a few minutes," I said, walking with her towards a quiet(er) hallway in the courthouse.

"No, you're not blowing me off in a few seconds," she said, "I want to come to your office."

"Um, sure. I can't go to my office right now, but we can set up a time."

As I usually do, I let her choose her appointment time. I do this because clients and witnesses so rarely show up for their appointments, I figure that maybe if they choose their own appointment they'll be more likely to make it.

She chose 5:30 p.m. yesterday.

"I don't mind staying to 5:30 to meet with you. But I have plans that night. You can't show up an hour late and expect me to still be there. If you're running late or you can't make it, you need to let me know," I said, handing her my card.

She assured me that, no, no, she would definitely be there, she really needed to speak to me.

5:35 yesterday, I hadn't heard anything, so I decided to call her cell phone. It was the most annoying conversation I've ever had. And I've had a lot of annoying conversations.

"Miss Witness, this is Blonde Justice. Are you on your way?"

"No. I'm not coming. But at the same time, I don't think I should have to come all the way there just to speak to you."

She kept saying "but at the same time" and saying the same thing again.

"I agree. We could have spoken in the courthouse. We could have spoken on the phone. You said you wanted to come to my office."

"I did want to come. But at the same time, I want you to listen to my whole story in person, and not just in the hallway."

"Well, that's fine. So, we made an appointment for you to come to my office. You chose today. Are you on your way?"

"No, I'm not on my way. But at the same time, I'm not going to come all the way to your office just to speak to you."

"Well, that's fine. You don't have to."

"I'm a grown woman. I'm 22 years old. But at the same time, you can't tell me that I have to be somewhere and then I just have to be there."

"No, I sure can't. But, as a grown up, you can handle making your own appointments and keeping them. I gave you my card and told you to call me if you couldn't make it."

"I didn't call you. But at the same time, that appointment is already cancelled."

"Already cancelled?"

"Yeah. If I'm supposed to be there and I'm not there, but, at the same time, I'm not coming, that appointment is already cancelled. You're the one calling me to cancel it now."

"Well, I'm not cancelling, I'm just calling to see if you're on your way."

This same exchange went on, around and around, for quite a while, and all the while I was thinking how I would never be able to use her as a witness anyway - can you imagine this on direct examination? I decided I had to try a different approach.

"Alright," I said, "why don't you just tell me what you saw when Mr. Client was arrested?"

"YOU CALL YOURSELF A LAWYER? YOU CALL YOURSELF A LAWYER? YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW THE CONSTITUTION! YOU CALL YOURSELF A LAWYER? YOU'RE VIOLATING MY FREEDOM OF SPEECH! I GOT FREEDOM OF SPEECH! THAT MEANS I CAN TALK TO YOU AT YOUR OFFICE IF I WANT, I DON'T HAVE TO TALK TO YOU ON THE PHONE! I WANT TO COME TO YOUR OFFICE! AND YOU HAVE TO BE THERE! YOU'RE VIOLATING MY FREEDOM OF SPEECH! YOU DON'T KNOW THE CONSTITUTUION! YOU'RE GOING TO LOSE YOUR LAW LICENSE!"

And with that, she hung up.

Call me crazy, but I have a feeling that's not what the First Amendment says.

Maximum Crap

Today, I stood next to my client as he received the longest sentence any of my clients has ever received.

Moving up the career ladder has its downside.

My client took it like a pro. Maybe more of a pro than me, although, it was not the longest sentence he had ever received. And, truthfully, I wasn't completely sure that he "got it." He was still smiling like someone who maybe didn't "get it." He had a long history of mental illness, but nothing the court cared about.

The judge gave a lecture about why my client deserved the maximum sentence. The judge directed it towards me, like I had done something wrong. Her tone was so condescending, like, "How dare you ask for anything less than the maximum? Your client is so terrible..." and then gave the long version of my client's rap sheet, all in the worst possible detail. It felt strange, like I was being reprimanded, and the weirdest part of it was that I kept thinking that "I don't know where to look." I didn't want to look the judge in the eye, and I didn't want to look at my client, because I was worried about making my client feel bad, or directing the judge's attention toward him.

Afterwards, my client walked happily into the pens behind the courtroom. I'm sure that if he could have, he would have waved goodbye.

I felt like crap.

His mother hugged me in the hallway. My few years of experience have taught me a few tricks of how to avoid client hugs. But I let her.

She kept thanking me.

And I just spent the afternoon thinking, "How does a woman, who shows up for every court date and thanks a lawyer for getting her son the maximum, end up with a son who gets the maximum?"

And feeling like crap.

Indefensible Is Headed Towards Me!

I got an email that my copy of Indefensible : One Lawyer's Journey into the Inferno of American Justice by David Feige has shipped, and is probably packed securely on some truck headed towards me right this very minute.

If you don't have your own copy on a truck somewhere, you'd better hurry up and order one. They might be the next big thing since Thai yellow shirts.

Coming Soon: Blawg Review

I will be hosting Blawg Review right here next week. I think Woman of the Law and Not Guilty may also be helping me out, but I haven't checked in with them in a few months.

I have no idea how to do anything like this. Although Ladies of the Blawgosphere was maybe a little something like it, on a much smaller scale.

Anyway, I rarely read many non-criminal blawgs, and I'll need some help. If you see anything noteworthy in the next week, or have any good tips on how to do something like this, send me an email: blondejustice at gmail.

And check back here on June 12 for Blawg Review. Maybe you'll be surprised what we criminal defense lawyers can pull together out of almost nothing.

Those 5 People Can Go To Hell

I'm still really enjoying Anonymous Lawyer. I just haven't had as much time to read this week as I did last week.

But, in the meantime, I'll give you a book review of a book I really severely disliked, The Five People You Meet In Heaven.

I cannot tell you how much I hated this book. Before I read it, I saw it cited everywhere as an excellent book. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. I got it, and took it on vacation.

And, I need to state publicly how much I thought this book sucked. Because, first, I want to know if there are anyone else hated this book as much as (and in the same way as) I did; and, second, because if you choose to read this book, I want you to be forewarned so you can have realistic expectations and not be as disappointed as I was.

Now, maybe that was the first problem. I had very high expectations for this book. It's tiny, everyone raves about it, so, maybe you could say that I was going to be disappointed no matter how good the book was. But, it wasn't good at all. And I've read other highly recommended books, and done just fine at forming my own impressions.

Here comes the part where I talk about the content of the book. So, if you're like me, and you like to read a book knowing nothing about it, you should stop right here. Unless you've already decided that you're not going to read it, which is the right move, and in which case it's safe for you to keep reading this post...

There are a lot of comments out there that this book isn't "literary" enough or that's it's not well written. And, while that may all be true, my real problem is with the bigger theme of the book.

Here's how Amazon describes the book:

Part melodrama and part parable, Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven weaves together three stories, all told about the same man: 83-year-old Eddie, the head maintenance person at Ruby Point Amusement Park. As the novel opens, readers are told that Eddie, unsuspecting, is only minutes away from death as he goes about his typical business at the park. Albom then traces Eddie's world through his tragic final moments, his funeral, and the ensuing days as friends clean out his apartment and adjust to life without him. In alternating sections, Albom flashes back to Eddie's birthdays, telling his life story as a kind of progress report over candles and cake each year. And in the third and last thread of the novel, Albom follows Eddie into heaven where the maintenance man sequentially encounters five pivotal figures from his life (a la A Christmas Carol). Each person has been waiting for him in heaven, and, as Albom reveals, each life (and death) was woven into Eddie's own in ways he never suspected. Each soul has a story to tell, a secret to reveal, and a lesson to share. Through them Eddie understands the meaning of his own life even as his arrival brings closure to theirs.

Albom takes a big risk with the novel; such a story can easily veer into the saccharine and preachy, and this one does in moments. But, for the most part, Albom's telling remains poignant and is occasionally profound. Even with its flaws, The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a small, pure, and simple book that will find good company on a shelf next to It's A Wonderful Life. --Patrick O'Kelley


Ok, I'm about to give some things away here, so, quit reading now if that's going to bother you. (Spoiler alert!)

Everyone that Eddie meets in heaven has something bad to say to him. Somehow, he messed up their lives. Ever since I read it, I've tried to put as much of the book as I could out of my mind, but here's one example: One day, a long long time ago, Eddie was driving carelessly, and in a very long and roundabout way, it caused the death of some guy who happened to be on or near the road at the time. Eddie never even knows that his actions caused this death. So, he's one of the people Eddie meets in heaven, and here's there to tell Eddie... what exactly? You messed up my life? Drive more carefully? What does it matter? He's dead already!

I just don't think heaven is like that. I'd like to think that when you die, anything that was really bothering you just melts away. You forgive and are forgiven. And, so, when you get to heaven, even if you run into your worst enemy from your time on earth, you'd be able to see them without any anger and without any feeling of, "Hey, let me rub your nose in what I think you did wrong."

I'll give you an example. It was an incredibly hot and humid summer day. I was driving home from a friend's house because I had finally decided to quit ignoring how sick I had been for days and go to the doctor. I was feeling really crappy, and the heat was only making things worse. All of the sudden, my car broke down, and I was forced to pull over to the side of the road. My car was overheating, I was overheating, and my cell phone battery was almost completely dead. I managed to get a call out for my car to be towed, but they told me it would be at least an hour. The road that I was parked on had a few homes on it, but I figured they were all empty since it was the middle of the day. I sat in my car, on the verge of tears, when I saw a car pull up to one of the houses, a woman got out, and went into the house. I sat there for a minute and decided I would go ring the doorbell. I figured I would ask if I could use the phone, maybe I could get a friend to come wait with me. I figured if she seemed really friendly, I'd ask if I could use the bathroom or have a glass of cold water. I noticed she had a Virgin Mary statue in her little garden, so I decided she wasn't the axe murderer type (not many women are).

I rang the doorbell, and she didn't answer. I thought maybe she was in the bathroom or something (I always have to pee as soon as I get home from work), so I waited a minute or two, and rang the doorbell again. She still didn't answer.

I gave up and went back to sitting in my car. I was upset, and sick, and frustrated, and hot.

For a few weeks after that, whenever I would drive by this woman's house, I would think about it. Sometimes I would think, "It was a hot day, maybe she jumped in the shower as soon as she got home, so she didn't hear the doorbell." Sometimes I would think about leaving a note in her mailbox, telling her that I thought she was a bad Christian.

But, after a few weeks, I just let it go. It just didn't matter. There's no sense holding a grudge, the only person you hurt is yourself. (I think the saying my grandmother used was "Holding a grudge is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person dies.") It didn't do me any good to give her house the evil eye every time I drove by, and it certainly do the woman any good.

But even if I wasn't able to let it go on my own (and what kind of miserable person would I be?), I would certainly hope that by the time I die and she dies, I'd be over it. I think that if I met her in heaven, many years from now, I'd say, "Hey, I know exactly where you're from - that's such a cute town! Did you ever go to that brick oven pizza place? It was great!"

In Mitch Albom's world though, I'd really rub it in her face. I'd tell her how sick I was, and how hot it was, and how upset I was, and how long I waited. How I thought that she should've noticed a stranger sitting in a car on a hot day and asked if everything was alright. That if she was such a good Christian, she would have recalled the many parables of the Bible that encourage hospitality to strangers in need. And, in Mitch Albom's world, she would have learned a lesson, or felt some regret. I just don't see the point of it, though.

I discussed this with a friend and she told me that I missed the entire point. "The point," she told me, "is that, while on earth, you should realize how your actions effect other people, even when you don't think they do."

But, really, I got that point, I just don't understand why they have to be negative things you did. For example, wouldn't you get the same point across by having someone meet you in heaven who says, "Hey, you never knew this, but remember that time I called you, and you took the time to listen to all my problems and gave me really good advice? I was feeling really depressed and alone. You really turned my life around. And I never really thanked you for that." Wouldn't that still get the same point across, that even little actions can have significant meaning to other people, even if you never recognize it? And yet, it would show heaven as more of a "Hey, just wanted you to know you did a good job down there" kind of place, rather than a "Hey, just wanted to point out a few places where you messed up, not that you can do anything about it now" kind of place.

So, I want to know, am I the absolute only person who read The Five People You Meet In Heaven this way? Did anyone else read it? Does anyone else agree?

As my torts professor always said, "Dispute!"

I'm the UN???

So, I took the Country Quiz, which I saw at Jodifabulous, and, instead of being somwhere cool, I'm the UN! What?!?

United Nations:




You're the United Nations!

Most people think you're ineffective, but you are trying to
completely save the world from itself, so there's always going to be a long
way to go.  You're always the one trying to get friends to talk to each
other, enemies to talk to each other, anyone who can to just talk instead of
beating each other about the head and torso.  Sometimes it works and sometimes
it doesn't, and you get very schizophrenic as a result.  But your heart
is in the right place, and sometimes also in New York.



Take the Country Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid



I shall keep retaking it until I arrive at something better. So far I've come up with Germany, Afghanistan, China and Japan... Now I'm not sure who I'd want to be!

Fantasy World Cup?

Anyone up for a Fantasy World Cup league?

I know NOTHING about soccer at all, but I'm kind of excited about the World Cup. And I like fantasy sports.

So, anyone? Any interest?

UPDATE: I think we have enough interest to make a go of it - I've added the league info in the comments below.