Opening The Blonde Justice Mailbag

A commenter named Daniel asks,
this is my question for you:
when a criminal def is represented by the public defenders office can she bring in to the office another attorney WITHOOUT the consent of the defendant THE ATTORNEY WORKS for the client, (farretta -v- calif 1975) it is the assistant of counsel that is found in the 6th amend.
is this NOT a breach of ethics such as confidentiality attorney client privilege etc. i am seriously thinking about taking legal action against this PD for legal malpractice for violition of this privilege
salina kansas

Well, Daniel, first, I'm sorry to hear that you're unhappy with your relationship with your public defender.

But let me make sure I've got the facts of your question right. You were represented by one lawyer in the PD's office. Let's say her name is Jane Smith. Now she brought another lawyer to work on your case, and presumably discussed your case with that lawyer without your permission. And your concern is that this violates privilege.

I think the short answer is that it depends who this other lawyer is. Generally, if the second lawyer is also a public defender, the answer is no, your lawyer did the right thing.

I've never worked in Kansas, but in the public defenders offices where I have interned and worked, it is very common, and, in fact, considered good practice to discuss your case with other lawyers in the office. Our ethics classes teach us that when we're not sure the right way to proceed on something, it's often a good idea to get a second opinion from a colleague or a supervisor. So long as they're in the same office (meaning the public defender's office) it's not a breach of privilege.

Often, as a public defender, I would ask my colleagues about a case, or, even ask them to accompany me to meet a client or to court if I think they have something particular they could add.

The way to think about it is, that even if your lawyer in Jane Smith from the public defender's office, you're really represented by the public defender's office as a whole. For example, if Jane Smith quit tomorrow, you're not without a lawyer, someone from the P.D.'s office will take over her cases. And that's the same reason why it's often a conflict for the P.D.'s office to represent co-defendants in case, even though it may seem that they would have separate lawyers, they would both ultimately be represented by the same "firm," here, the public defender's office. (This does raise a whole separate issue of "Chinese Walls" within a firm, but we can save that discussion for another day.)

What if the second lawyer does not work with or for the P.D.'s office? Then you might have an issue. It's hard for me to imagine the scenario where this applies, but let's say that you have a criminal case and you're represented by Jane Smith of the P.D.'s office, and you're also an immigrant. Jane foresees an immigration issue and picks up the phone to call her friend Bob, an immigration lawyer who does NOT work with or for the P.D.'s office, and she discusses your case.

Jane is probably in the wrong, and she probably should have asked your permission before making this call. But the other issue about the lawsuit becomes, how were you hurt? What were your damages? I assume that if Jane had said to you, "You know, because you're not a citizen there are some potential immigration consequences for you. Before we go any further, I want to call an immigration attorney and get his opinion of what could happen. Do I have your permission to do that?" you probably would have agreed.

I'm always concerned that criminal defendants in particular fall victim to "a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing." What I mean is that while it's good you're smart enough to know you're protected by privilege, and you're smart enough to recognize when that right might have been violated, you also need to be smart enough to think through the next step, and ask yourself if it was really a bad thing or whether your lawyer was really doing something to help you.

So, in this case, if your lawyer did violate privilege, how did it hurt you? If it turns out that Bob the immigration lawyer she called is your boss's brother, and now that your boss heard about this, you've lost your job, I think you might have a suit.

If nothing bad happened, then I don't think you could really win anything in a lawsuit. Maybe you could bring an ethics complaint, but you don't win anything there other than being labeled an asshole client, and the judge will know about it too (because the judge will have to assign you another lawyer) and nothing would probably happen to the public defender other than she'll be told not to do it again.

I think that if that is the situation, your best remedy might be to calmly and politely call your public defender and say, "It really upset me that you talked about my case with that other lawyer. I thought everything I told you was confidential," and hear what she has to say. If you're satisfied with her answer, hopefully she learned the importance of explaining these details to her clients and asking for permission, and you move on with your case. If you're not satisfied with her response, and you don't feel like that trust can be repaired, then tell her that you don't feel comfortable with your attorney-client relationship, and you want to know how to go about getting a new attorney.

Be forewarned, that some judges just won't care that you and your lawyer aren't getting along. Unfortunately, some defendants have used "I need a new lawyer" as a delay tactic, when in reality they're not going to get along with any lawyer, and some judges have little patience for that. I would be careful not to burn my bridge with my old lawyer before I knew whether I could get a new one.

Further, be forewarned that the new lawyer you get could very well be worse, not better, than your public defender. I know of quite a few judges who would say, "Oh yeah, you want a new lawyer? I've got just the guy for you," and a defendant would give up a very good lawyer and get assigned one of the worst lawyers in the courthouse.

So, I hope this helps, and I hope that you're able to work out your case without this interfering. I'd be interested in hearing more details of your situation if you're willing in sharing them. And I'd be interested in hearing if any of the other lawyers that read this blog have a different opinion.

"In dealing with extremists, one must empower the people."

Some people might laugh when I mention that I get my news from Glamour magazine. Not all of it, of course, but some of it.

But it was literally just yesterday that I was paging through Glamour while blow-drying my hair, and read an interview with Pakistan's former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto.

At least when I heard the news that she had been killed I knew who she was, and what she stood for.

You can read the interview here: A Talk With The World Power

More "National Enquirer," Less "People Magazine"

My mother is so gullible...

She's been away and hasn't really seen any news. So, when she called tonight, I gave her a few of the headlines she had missed. I told her who had won Survivor... I told her that Britney's little sister is pregnant...

"No!" She couldn't believe it.

"She's only 16." My mother said again, "I can't believe it."

"Yeah," I told her, "And the baby's father is one of Britney's sons."

And I could hear her just processing the whole thing. "The baby's father... is... Britney's son..."

And then she just couldn't stop saying "Oh my god." As in "Oh my god, I didn't realize her kids were that old." "Oh my god, well, that's just... oh my god."

Ha ha. I love tricking my mother. I just keep picturing her striking up conversation with people on her trip. "Did you hear about Britney's little sister?" And they'll be nonchalant about it... and she'll think they condone teen sex with infant nephews! Ha! It's just too funny.

Christmas Buying Guide

There are a lot of blogs that feature holiday gift guides. They scouring the internet for great finds, and categorize them as "great gifts for your boss," or "for your roommate that you secretly don't really like" and "for the guy you just started dating, and you're not sure if it's going anywhere, and you're not sure if it's even worth it to get him a gift, but maybe you should have something on hand, in case he gives you something and you want to avoid an awkward moment..."

But I think they're all overlooking what is going to be one of the hottest gifts on everybody's wish list this year. I know it's on mine...

The book is called The 2007-2012 World Outlook for Bathroom Soap Dishes by Philip M. Parker.

It's only $795 and you can learn about soap dishes from around the world. For the next five years.

And it's paperback. So, it's portable. And, it's only 187 pages. So, it's a quick read.

And, that comes to only about $4.25 per page to learn about soap dishes from around the world. And five years into the future.

It's practically like buying a time machine. That can only bring you into the next five years. And only to look at soap dishes.

What more could you ask for?

(I seriously wonder if this could maybe be code for something. You know, like "I have the perfect cover business for our cocaine sales. We'll sell it as a book about... I don't know... soap dishes. No one would buy that. So, next time you want another $800 of cocaine, you just order that book of")

Don't forget to check out some of Phil's other publications...

The 2007-2012 World Outlook for Sailboats More Than 9.0 M (29.53 Ft) and Less Than 12.0 M (39.03 Ft) in Length with Auxiliary Motor Excluding Military and Commercial Sailboats, only $795 at,


The 2007-2012 World Outlook for Glace, Candied, and Crystallized Fruits, Fruit Peels, Nuts, Marshmallow Cream, Cough Drops Excluding Pharmaceutical Type, and Other Confectionery-Type Products (Paperback)
, also $795.

Or, for a real bargain, check out The 2007 Import and Export Market for Wine Made from Fresh Grapes or Grape Must in Poland for only $96, and only $2 used. (Who are these people? I actually considered buying the $2 used copy just to see if I could glean from it who the previous owner was, or why it was purchased in the first place.)

In summary, Santa, I'd like one of Philip M. Parker's bestsellers, or Elmo TMX eXtra Special Edition. Even though I can never figure out what he's saying.

Brown Alert

The new job means going to new jails. One jail is literally so new that it doesn't even smell like jail yet. If you've ever been to a jail, you know exactly what smell I'm talking about.

Anyway, so I went to a new jail-processing unit today. I'll try to explain the layout. First, there's glass doors that you walk through to come in from the parking lot. There is a fairly large foyer area there. (With some family members standing around waiting for someone to be released, or recently released men waiting for a ride home.) Then there's a glass-windowed guard booth. And then there's a heavy steel door for when they let you in. But the guard booth kind of spans both areas, so they can see and speak to the people who have just come through the front doors, and the people who have already come through the steel door.

So, I got in through the steel door, but the guards held me there a while before I could progress into the jail, because they had to process my ID and take my picture.

While I stood there, I could hear all sorts of things coming and going. An officer came in with a K9 unit, a different officer came in and informed the guard at the desk that a class would be coming in for a tour, another officer came and told the guard that he was expecting some additional prisoners from another jurisdiction. All of this happened on the other side of the steel door, and I could only vaguely hear what was going on, mostly only by hearing the guard's side of the conversation (and not seeing any of it).

Finally, I saw the guard pick up the telephone/intercom microphone and shout "BROWN ALERT! BROWN ALERT! I REPEAT BROWN ALERT!"

I was so curious about what could be happening on the other side of the steel door. Had someone escaped? Was someone injured? What could be going on? I wanted to ask the guard, but it seemed like everything was in such a panic mode that I might somehow be interfering.

Also, I had once gotten stuck in a lockdown in a scary stinky county jail for about two hours when I was a public defender, so I was a little worried about that. It's a lot like being stuck in a really stinky elevator.

Then the guard picked up the phone again, and again over the intercom he shouted "BROWN ALERT, BROWN ALERT! REPEAT, BROWN ALERT!"

Lots of other officers and guards ran though the secure area, everyone was excited and shouting. (Mostly shouting "Brown Alert! Brown Alert!" as they ran out or ran past.) So, finally, I asked one of the guards, "What is a brown alert?"

And the guard replied, as he ran out the door, "It means the coffee truck is out in the parking lot! C'mon, let's go!"

Seriously, at least they exhibited a good response time. And they're well-caffeinated so they'll have their energy in case of an escape or a fight.

Cotton Balls

Old School was on TBS this weekend. They had to clean up the language a little bit for basic cable.

The funniest part was when the one guy tried to demonstrate "earmuffs." (You say "earmuffs," the kid in the room covers his ears, and then it's safe to say "bad words" in front of the kid.)

But there weren't any bad words. So they said "earmuffs" and then said "witch," "darn," and "cotton balls."

Cotton balls.

ABA Journal Blawg 100

It's hard to campaign in an election that you don't even know you're in. Good thing I just found out about this: The ABA Journal Blawg 100.

So, vote for Blonde Justice in the "Crime Time" category! I know there's little chance of me catching up with the big guys, but, as always, it's all about the underdog.

Thankful for Doing Nothing

So, what did I do with all my newfound freedom?

Let's see. I did the whole turkey and stuffing thing. I saw family. Watched football.

I had lunch with friends. Until this huge group with a bunch of loud pre-school kids (This was seriously a grown-up restaurant/tavern. Can't you take them to Chuck E. Cheese?) came in, and we literally ran out of there. They were so loud, all their fathers went and sat at the bar, leaving the mothers with the screaming kids. I drank a coffee drink with liquor, yum.

I went to see Enchanted with a friend and her well-behaved children. At a shopping center. On Black Friday. It wasn't that bad. I made up my own parking space right in front of the door, so that worked. (There wasn't a sign, or a hydrant, or lines on the pavement. I was just the only one smart enough to realize that you could park there. And by the time I came out, a few other cars had followed suit.) It was a cute movie and I didn't get a parking ticket. In fact, I even won a free small popcorn somehow.

I worked on making space on my laptop hard drive (it was full, so I haven't uploaded any new songs or photos in months) and updating my ipod. This involved moving my music to an external hard drive, and then stupid itunes couldn't find it, and then the songs disappeared from my ipod, then I had to copy all of the songs back over. Now I want to fix some of the track titles so that everything works perfectly. That could take all night.

I slept, a lot. I took a walk. I watched some Tivo, and too many hours of old America's Next Top Model episodes on MTV. I called to report a fire. Twice. So, eventually, two fire trucks came. I cooked cinnamon rolls, but only the kind that come in a tube. (And, no, that's not where the fire or the fire trucks came into play. At all.)

I thought about Christmas cards. I rearranged a thing or two in my apartment. Nothing big, I put a lamp in a different corner, I hooked up a radio. I got groceries. I gave free rice to the hungry. I watched Elf, one of my favorite holiday movies. I ate Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches (my favorite.) I put the warm winter quilt on the bed.

Overall, it was a pretty low-key long weekend. Just the way I like it.

Thankful for...

I took tomorrow, the day after Thanksgiving, aka "Black Friday," off. Meaning, I am not working. Not going to court. Not meeting with clients. Not writing a brief. Not going into the office. It's amazing. It's really my first day off since starting my new job. And I do need it.

It's a day filled with possibility. Of doing a million fun things. Or nothing at all.

The only restriction, really, is avoiding all shopping areas. Because I'm not in the mood for crowds.

I have a lot that I want to do. The list includes things like: Read, catch up on my Tivo, see some friends, and sleep all day. So, I know that it will be impossible to do all of it. But I'll try.

So, that's what I'm really thankful for today. A day off. And crazy commenters, like the one who left this last comment here, today, over three years after my original post. "THERE ARE STARVING CHILDREN OUT THERE AND YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO COMPLAIN." Wacko... I love it.

All's Well That Ends

Ok, last funny thing about this guy, I swear. The Idiom Idiot mentioned that he used to work at this one law firm. I know someone who works there now, so I mentioned, "Hey, did you know this guy...?" And guess what his response was? "Oh God, is that the guy who only talks in one liners?" Can you imagine: He walked around a law firm doing that? Crazy.

Even more crazy was when I mentioned he has a girlfriend. "HE has a girlfriend?!?" Um, yeah, and she's a friend of a friend of mine. Eeeww.

Alright, moving on...

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Sherry's friends were so annoying.

I know, I know, "How annoying were they?"

Ok, one friend was kind enough to bring her boyfriend. First of all, they were all lovey-dovey, kissy-kissy. ("No, I love you more," "No, I love you more...")

Second of all, every single thing that he said, the entire four hours we were together, was an idiom. And then he guffawed as if he had said the funniest thing ever, every time.

I'll give you an example. Let's say one of the girls said, "Hey Sherry, where do you keep your trash can?"

The friend's boyfriend said, "One man's trash is another man's treasure! HAR! HAR! HAR!"

"Oh Sherry, this is a cute picture of your baby..."

"A picture is worth a thousand words! HARTY-HAR-HAR!"

"Oh God! Sherry! Your baby just put in a penny in her mouth!"

"A penny saved is a penny earned. HO HO HO!"

"Seriously! The baby is choking! Should we do the Heimlich or something?"

"Laughter is the best medicine! HI-YO!"

This was all before (third of all) he almost touched my breast under some completely stupid, completely false pretense. Good thing I have reflexes like a ninja, or I would've had second base with that fool.

So, um, yeah... I keep telling myself that I'm not the annoying friend that Sherry didn't want to hang with by herself.

On Being The Other Friend

I have this good friend, we'll name her Sherry. I'm calling her a "good friend," but the truth is that we don't talk to each other that often or see each other that often now. We both work full time, and she had a baby recently, so we're both busy, and we live about an hour from one another. Regardless, she's one of my favorite people, so I think "good friend" is a fair term.

Sherry and I now see each other probably 2-3 times a year. We usually get together at her place, because she has the baby, so it's easier for me to travel than for her to travel. And I don't mind.

But when we get together, she always invites a few other friends. I haven't seen Sherry one-on-one in a long time... over a year, maybe two.

I guess there are different ways to look at this. Sherry's a busy woman, and if she's going to take the time and energy to entertain at her home, she might as well get to see a few friends at the same time.

But I also wonder if it means I am a less-important friend. I like Sherry enough that I'd block out time in my schedule to see her one-on-one. But I have other friends who I prefer to see in groups. For example, I have a childhood friend that still lives near my old hometown. We'll call her Nickie. Nickie's not one of my favorite people, but it's also not really worth it to "break up" with her. So, if she wants to get together, I arrange to see her when I visit my family or other hometown friends. And it works out fine, we see each other, but I probably wouldn't take the time to see Nickie one-on-one.

So, I don't know. Maybe Sherry, my "good friend," sees me the same way. Or, maybe she sees the other people as her Nickie, and she invites me along the same way I invite other people when I hang out with Nickie.

But I suspect that Sherry makes all of her plans with all of her friends this way. I think she sees it as a way to see all of her friends without too much effort. So, I don't think I should take it personally. But I would hope that she would realize that she doesn't need to put any effort into seeing me - I would be perfectly happy hanging out in her apartment, messy or not, and just doing nothing or playing with her baby, no further entertainment needed.

I guess another part of the problem is that I don't really like her other friends. (Which is part of the reason why I suspect that one of them is her "Nickie," not me. Because they're annoying, and I'm not. In my opinion.) But I think that if we were hanging out with a nice, fun group of people, it would be a little better, although I'd still want some one-on-one time with Sherry.

And I also understand that sometimes you think "Hey, this friend would get along great with my other friend, I should introduce them." I can appreciate that. In fact, I've met some of my better friends when they started out as friends-of-friends. But I don't get the impression that Sherry thinks I have anything in common with these friends. She's certainly hasn't said to me, "Jane is coming too. You'll like her. Just like you, she also collects pre-war confederate bottle caps." In fact, the other friends haven't even been new people. Sherry's other guests have all been people I've met before at her get-togethers, and it's not as if we really clicked the last time together.

The same way that I feel like it's not really "worth it" for me to hang out with Nickie one-on-one, I'm starting to feel like it's not worth it for me to hang out with Sherry and her other friends.

So, what do you think? Next time she invites me over, should I say, "Who's going to be there?" And, what, come up with an excuse if she names the other friends I don't like?

I could make a point of calling her and saying, "Let's get together, just the two of us." And that would satisfy my desire to spend time with her, but I still don't want to hang out with her less-likeable friends the next time that opportunity arises.

So, what do you think?

A Little Whine With Dinner

There have been some previous comments about me going out on my own, or being my own boss, or asking whether I have to bring in business...

I guess my announcement that I was going into private practice was a little vague, so I'll elaborate a tiny bit.

I'm working for a small law firm. They had a partner that did all the criminal work and only criminal work. He was overworked, so I was hired as the criminal associate.

Some of the cases are white collar and the rest are just high-paying criminal cases. Like people who sell a lot of drugs, as opposed to my public defender clients, who sold fewer drugs in more public places. We have a few clients that have a lesser ability to pay, but we're not going to be accused of becoming a public welfare agency any time soon.

I work in new courts now than I did as a public defender, but we also have a few cases in the courts where I used to work, so part of the reason why I was hired was so that I could handle those cases.

I don't have to bring in new cases, we've got plenty of work. I guess if I brought in a case, no one would mind, but there's no imperative, and we don't have any agreement that I would get a bonus or a cut of the case or whatever.

On the other hand, I don't really have any say in which cases we take, or what we charge clients.

I also generally feel that I don't have much control over how to handle a case. For most decisions, I run them past the partner, since, in the end, they're not really "my" clients or "my" cases.

I also have less control over my own schedule. As a public defender, if I wanted to say "I'm going to leave early Thursday afternoon," I could most likely pull that off. I mean, unless I was on trial or something, I could try to avoid scheduling cases for Thursday afternoon, or get a colleague to cover a case for me if I needed to. If I had a brief due on Friday morning, I'd make sure I had it written ahead of time so I could leave early on Thursday afternoon. And no one was going to mind. If my supervisor said "Where are you going?" it would be out of curiosity, or maybe concern, but not because he was trying to think of busy work to make me stay later. As a private attorney, I might be walking out the door when I'm told of some assignment that needs to be finished or a brief that needs to be written or a client that has money is going to stop by to give some of it to us. (And by us, I mean give it to me so that I can give it to my boss.) So, then I stay.

And it's not working late that I mind so much, I worked late sometimes as a PD too, it's the uncertainty and lack of control I have about when/why/and how late I'm going to be working.

But I think that, slowly, I am coming to realize that it's not all that uncertain. I mean, I know all the answers to the previous sentence. Really, the answer is everyday/for no good reason/very late. I'm just not really ready to accept it.

So, that's the story. I'm in private practice. I need a later newscast.


I'm glad I went into private practice.

So that I can fully appreciated blog posts like this one.

Just imagine... a few months ago, I would've read that, and I would've been stuck thinking "I don't get it."

And now I get it all too clearly.

Honesty Has Its Price

There are similarities and differences between my previous public defender clients and my current private criminal defense clients. There is also sometimes a difference in the way in which I respond to these clients.

For example, every client, rich or poor, wants to know whether their case will get dismissed. Of course, a dismissal is the holy grail of all criminal cases, but I'm still always a little taken aback when clients ask, "Why don't they just dismiss this case?"

I think that I was a little more tell-it-like-it-is with my public defender clients. I don't think I was rude in anyway, but I rarely felt that it was necessary for me to sugar-coat the truth.

So, to a public defender client, I might have responded, "Well, they went through the trouble of investigating you, getting a warrant for you, arresting you, and indicting you. A dismissal isn't going to just come easy now. The most likely way for your case to get dismissed is that the prosecutor finds a big screw up in your case, or if you can give me something good to show the prosecutor. Think about it, look over the paperwork about the case, and we'll see if we can figure something out."

With my private clients, they pay not not to have me explain the sad realities of the justice system, or to brainstorm with them, but to just fix it. And so, I say something like, "Yes, I'd really like to see your case get dismissed too. It's not easy, but I'm working on it."

After my tell-it-like-it-is explanation, most of my public defender clients would respond pretty positively. Some would say "Those cops are lying!" but there were some that said that to everything.

But, after my upbeat-but-vague answer, do you know what the private clients say to me?

"Ok, but how much more would I have to pay you to just case the get dismissed?"
"How much to *you know* just take care of the case?"

As if I'm going to walk over to the D.A. and say "Psst! Here's $20. Can you just dismiss that case? No? $50? Oh, ok, great, thanks."

What, am I going to do that only for you and not for any of my other clients? You don't think the judge is ever going to catch on? "Gee, all of Blonde Justice's cases just get dismissed instantly - she must be really good."

Do you think maybe that might be a little improper? And, if I was going to blow my whole career like that, don't you think I'd do it for a client I actually liked?

Or, don't you think I'd charge you a heck of a lot more?

Heartbreak and Frustration

I recently sat in on a new client interview that another attorney was conducting.

The potential client was a young man, 17 years old. The young man was wearing some kind of fancy polo shirt, probably from Abercrombie. And you could probably sell his jeans and buy a round of drinks for a whole bunch of public defenders. He was already on probation for one offense, had already had one probation violation, and had just been arrested with a new charge.

His father, who accompanied him, has some kind of upper class job and upper class life. Accountant or stock broker or something, if I had to guess. Probably drives a BMW or Mercedes or maybe a Porsche.

But I think Dad was genuinely concerned for his son. There really is a possibility that he could face a probation violation and go to jail, regardless of what happens on the new case. And I also think that Dad was genuinely perplexed about why his son continued to get in trouble.

Finally, the part of the interview came when the attorney talked about the legal fees involved in the case. Dad whipped out his check book and started writing without blinking. And as he wrote out the check, he said quietly to his son, "This is coming out of your allowance."

(Allowance? Really? Do 17 year-olds really get an allowance? I was shocked.)

But I was more shocked when the young man replied to his father, "Fuck you, dad, whatever."

Anyone here think Dad should still be perplexed about why this little brat keeps getting arrested? I can only hope, for his sake, that he's better behaved around his P.O. than around his own father.

But, the more that I thought about, the more I felt really bummed. I can think of so many public defender juvenile clients that I represented who would be elated to have a father who would show up to accompany them to a lawyer's office or to court or maybe just put food on the table, never mind buying them fancy clothes, giving them an allowance, or dropping a few thousand bucks on a lawyer. Maybe a father who could just give them a few bucks for bus fare, so that they wouldn't get arrested for fare evasion in the first place. It wouldn't take much.

I spent the rest of the day thinking these thoughts. Like some kind of Criminal Defense Lawyer Robin Hood. Like, maybe Wealthy Dad's money would've been better spent supporting The Fresh Air Fund and making his spoiled son get a job.

Or maybe Dad could've paid me the kids allowance a year ago and I could've taken this little ingrate on a jail visit and show him what his father is trying to help him avoid. My own little Blonde Justice Scared Straight program.

But mostly I just feel kind of sad and frustrated.

Finally Carbonara

Guess what I made for dinner the other night.

Sanchovilla's Pasta Carbonara recipe.

Yummy yummy.

Don't ever try to tell me this isn't a full service blog.

Simply the Best

I was tagged by Brad Parker at Where's Travis McGee?. In exchange for being named one of his top 10 blogs, I now have to post my own top 10 faves here. And then, those named are supposed to post their top 10 faves in a similar fashion. But, no pressure. I won't be offended if you're too busy or never get around to it - that happens to me all the time.

So here they are, 10 faves...

9 girls:

Woman of the Law
- You'll see that some of my favorite bloggers aren't the most frequent posters. But that doesn't stop me from checking on them, almost every day. Reading WOTL is like reading about my life, except with a much more love life.

Angry Pregnant Lawyer
- APL cracks me up. This is a good one.

LJC FYI - Both LJC and the next on the list, Not Martha, are super popular, so I'm not really expecting any sort of reciprocity. But I love LJC's photography, and craftiness, and dog!

Not Martha - Crafty and resourceful. That's what I like in a blogger.

Not Guilty - Ok, so she never ever posts anymore. That's ok, I understand, she's got two babies. It doesn't stop me from checking all the time, hoping for an update.

Tea House Blossom - The THB is a funny and hip urban lawyer. I can relate to that.

Will Work For Favorable Dicta
- Another one who never posts. But I had to hope that maybe a mention here would get E Spat back to her keyboard.

Frolics and Detours
- Another public defender girl! I love that.

Leslie's Omnibus - Lots of cute little tidbits. And I was her inspiration to start blogging. Can't say I'm not flattered.

And 1 boy:

Tales of a PD Investigator
- What can I say? Sanchovilla is the man. Got to respect your PD investigators.

Death By Rodrigo

When I was a kid, I loved Reading Rainbow. Remember the part, at the end, when LeVar Burton said, "But you don't have to take my word for it..." and then kids reviewed books they had read? I always thought, "I'm so much smarter than these kids. I could totally do better reviews..." But you don't have to take my word for it.

Death By Rodrigo is a really funny wry look at the world of criminal defense. The book is described as "Janet Evanovich meets My Cousin Vinny," so I knew the book was going to be good.

Junne, the main character and narrator of the novel, is a real city gritty criminal defense lawyer. As a former cop, he knows all the tricks, even though he acknowledges that he doesn't have a lot of book smarts. But he knows people, he knows what's going on around him, and this is what makes him a good criminal defense lawyer.

I can relate to that.

Junne and his partner Mickie not only work with, but also learn the code of, pimps and prostitutes, drug lords and judges. Eventually, though, they find themselves in over their heads (I can relate to that too, but not like this) and know it's going to take them more than just book smarts to dig themselves out. And Junne tries to deal with a secret that I wouldn't even think of revealing here.

The book is funny and engaging. I'll warn you before you read it that the writing style is very, you know, casual, as its all coming from the point of view of this rough and tumble ex-cop lawyer. But if you read this blog, then I'm sure you can deal with improper grammar.

I recommend Death By Rodrigo as a good fun read and a light-hearted look into the seedy underbelly of criminal defense. Da-dunh-dunh!

The Regular Season Comes to a Close

You say you gave up on the fantasy baseball season months ago, because you're a sore loser? Or you lost your password? Well, I added the standings to the Blawgers Baseball blog. So, check that out.

Adjusting. Part One

When I was a public defender, I was always a little torn about clients who wanted to hire a private lawyer.

A client would ask me, "Should I get a private lawyer?" or, worse, of course, "Should I get a 'real lawyer'?"

Sometimes I felt like, "Yeah, if you can afford one, you should. Leave the public defenders for those who really need them." You know, like people who have money but scam to get on food stamps.

Other times, I had clients that were really struggling to make ends meet, but I could tell they were wondering if giving up anything and everything they ever had might be their only way out of their impossible case.

I would say to them, "Look, do what you have to do. But so long as you're my client, I'm going to work as hard as I can on your case. Here's what I'm going to do..." and I would spell out my plans for their defense.

Some people have it in their heads that "you get what you pay for" and that a private attorney, therefore, must be better than a public defender.

But I always thought, it's like anything else: There are good public defenders and bad public defenders, just like there are good private attorneys and bad private attorneys.

At one point, I had this one pain-in-the-ass client. I remember when he announced he was thinking about getting a "real lawyer." I tried to keep not break out in a huge smile as I said, "You know, you're right, I think a 'real lawyer' could really be helpful in this case..."

One day I got a call at random from a client who wanted to let me know that his family had hired a private attorney for him. "No offense," he said. (None taken.) "Besides, this lady, the lawyer, she told me that she has about 100 cases as a time and that public defenders have like 300 or 400 cases at a time, and she'll be able to spend a lot more time on my case. Is that true?"

What could I do? Tell him that his newly retained lawyer had already lied to him? The truth was, my case load as a public defender was also around 100. (Sometimes I'd get lucky and hit a 80-90 lull, sometimes I'd be busier and hit a 110-120 overwhelming period.) And I was kind of surprised to learn that a private attorney might have that same caseload.

But I told the client, "You'll be fine," and assured him that I would send his file over to his new lawyer.

The truth, I see now, is that some private attorneys just can't be as busy as a public defender - they just don't have that many potential new clients calling their office. And I think that other private attorneys probably have a hard time turning clients away - you don't know that you're always going to be able to pay the bills, you don't know when you're going to hit a slow time, so you'd better take the money when it's walking in your door.

But as a public defender I had a limited ability to cap my caseload. I could go to my supervisors and say "I'm totally swamped," and if I was lucky, they might find a way to help me out of being swamped, or my colleagues might pitch in to help me a little bit. But when each client in the door is paying the bills, you don't want to turn them away, even if you are swamped, so it's pretty tough to cap your caseload.

I also had a limited ability to cap the work I did on each case. As a public defender, I could say to a client, in a very polite way, "I understand that you want to have another conversation about the same thing we discussed yesterday and the day before, but I just do not have the time to have that same conversation again today. So I'm going to ask that we not do this today, and maybe we can talk again in a few days or you can call me back if something new happens that you need to talk about."

I could also say, to a public defender client, "I hear you telling me that we should file an entrapment motion. But your baby momma cannot possibly entrap you into punching her in the face. I'm not going to file the motion. I'm sorry that you're disappointed."

As a private attorney, my clients are much more entitled to my time. After all, they paid for it. That doesn't mean I can't ease my way out of a repeat discussion or a frivolous motion, but it does take a little more finesse.

I guess what I've learned so far is that being a public defender is a volume business. Being a private attorney can also be a volume business, but the only difference is that your clients are never supposed to feel like they're on the other end of a volume business.

What I'm Reading...

I rarely read anymore. Ever since I found this thing called the internet. And Tivo. I come home from work late, I veg for an hour or two, I eat a little dinner, and I go to bed. And I've got a few other hobbies going on that I don't blog about. So, I'm kind of too busy to read. I haven't even gotten around to reading the last Harry Potter book, or a few other books that I've picked up since then.

Which is why it's so remarkable that I'm totally hooked on this book, Death by Rodrigo by Ron Liebman that Simon & Schuster sent to me. (A perk of blogging.)

I'll tell you more about it later, I'll probably be able to finish it this weekend, but right now I've got my nose in the book.

I Can't Say I Didn't Do It

Alford Pleas, No Contest Pleas, Nolo Contendere... they all mean the same thing. "I can't say I didn't do it, I can't say I did it, but I'm ready to take the punishment."

Frankly, the judges I practice in front of just don't allow Alford pleas or No Contest pleas. Judges really want to hear a client say "I did it." And, again and again, judges say, "If you can't tell me what you did, you should just go to trial."

I can think of only one time when a judge not only allowed me to enter an Alford plea, he encouraged it. It was in night court. And my client was a little old woman, who was completely deaf. As in old-people-deaf, not knows-sign-language-deaf. I can't remember now what the little old lady was accused of, but I think everyone in the courtroom was just appalled that she had been kept in lockup overnight.

I don't remember a whole lot about the case, I think maybe the prosecutor was offering some kind of non-criminal disposition (no criminal record) with time served. But I remember explaining to the old lady again and again that if she could say "she did it" she could just go home. Again and again, the old lady would say, "Ok, I'll do it," and then, I'd ask her, shouting, "Mrs. Old Lady, did you do what they say you did?" and she was said, "No sweetie." And I would try again to explain it to her again, but I would have to shout in the courtroom, "Remember what I said, you could go home?" And she would say, "Oh, yes, that's right, okay," and then we go through the whole thing again.

Finally, the judge, who was pretty cool, shouted, "I'll allow an Alford Plea. Mrs. Old Lady, would you like to go home?" The old lady said yes.

"Alright, that's sufficient," the judge said.

Overall, though, I would say that judges want to hear that guilty plea. Why? Maybe because it makes it harder for that plea to come back on an appeal. A defendant with pleaders remorse will have a harder time saying "I didn't know what I was doing" if they already admitted their criminal act.

And, I have to say, I think there is some truth to Manitor's comment:

The system demands admitting guilt. That's why it has evolved into the efficient submission-extraction process it is today.

What really matters is not punishing crime; what matters is repeating the ritual of having individuals submit their autonomous will to the authority of the state by admitting guilt. Honesty and truth have nothing to do with it.

What about everyone else? Do your judges allow Alford or N.C. pleas? It seems that you hear about them sometimes on television with regard to celebrity cases, so I wonder if that's because they're popular elsewhere or they're popular in celebrity cases.

We Should Do Something

I had a particularly frustrating time in court today. I walked out, cursing under my breath, wishing I could direct those words at my client, who I was hating so much. Nothing particularly bad had happened in court, but I had reached my frustration tolerance. And then I skinned my finger.

I got in my car, and opened the windows to glorious weather. A block away from the courthouse, I sat at a traffic light, and, I don't know what came over me, and I knew I should be happy, I was done with court and the day was beautiful, but I was sucking on my bleeding knuckle, and I just started to cry. You know, that one little second, where your face crinkles up and you just know you're not going to be able to help but to let it all out?

Three high school girls were walking on the sidewalk, next to my car. I didn't really see them there, but I heard one of the girls say, "Hey, look, that lady in that car is crying. We should do something." And the other one shouted one "Hi, Lady! Hi!" The two of them, then, were shouting, "Hi!"

I had my windows down, and I was less than ten feet away from them. So, I had to turn and smile and say hi. Kind of half-laughing, and feeling so awkward and embarrassed about these kids who were just looking at me through my window.

Then the third girl said "You stupid fucks, you know we're not supposed to be talking to fucking strangers. Idiots."

The light turned green, and I drove away. And I heard the girls behind me screaming, "Bye Lady! Bye!"

And I heard the third girl shout, "Shut up!"

I don't know. But it cheered me up. And I always feel like it's these little thirty-second interactions sometimes that can make such a big difference in a day.

How Many Guilty People Are Guilty?

LawSchoolBlogger asked, in a comment:

I wonder what percent of people who say they're guilty really aren't...What's your guess?

You know, it happens. False confessions exist, as do false guilty pleas. Some of the people who have been exonerated by DNA evidence actually made confessions when they were arrested, for a variety of reasons, perhaps it was coerced or they were naive or it was a My Cousin Vinny -style "I killed the clerk?" confession.

As far as guilty pleas, I wouldn't say that it happens a lot, but I know that it happens. I see it particularly where defendants are offered time served if they plead guilty or, in the alternative, they will be held on bail if they want to wait for a trial. And that can takes months or longer.

I also see it in the context of illegal immigrants - pleading guilty and walking out of the courtroom immediately means escaping the long arm of ICE, waiting a few months in the jail might mean having your status questioned. In the end, a criminal records makes the non-citizen more deportable, but someone who is here is pretty much deportable anyway, so why make it easier by waiting for the ICE agent to show up?

And it's not always about jail time. I had a case just last week, where my client told me that he "didn't do it," and came to court every month for months waiting for his trial. And I knew, no matter how it shook out, that we had a good shot at trial. And, worse case scenario, he was probably facing probation and some fines.

Recently, though, my client lost his job. Last week, he got hired for a new job. He told them that he could start the day after we had court. So, he asked me, "Can you just work out the best possible plea for me today? I won't be able to keep taking off work at my new job." I explained to him that he had consistently told me he was innocent, and that I thought we had a good shot at winning at trial, and that to plead guilty he'd have to "admit his guilt" to the judge.

And he told me, "I just can't afford to lose this job. I just need to get this over with." It was his fourth or fifth day spent in court.

I went to the prosecutor to work out a plea. And I said to him, "Look, I don't think my guy did it. But he wants to get this over with." I laid out the evidence I thought the prosecutor would have at trial, I laid out the evidence I would have, some of which I had been saving for trial. I think the prosecutor recognized that this was working out well, and offered my client just a fine, no time on probation.

So, he pleded guilty, "admitted" his guilt.

It's kind of a weird thing, because of course I'm never allowed to lie to the court... but this is kind of a lie, right? I stood next to my client and let him lie and say he did it, after he told me twenty times he didn't do (and had kind of proven it to me).

I guess the cynic would say, "For all you know, he could have been lying when he said he didn't do it, and finally telling the truth when he was pleading guilty." But, really, then why doesn't the reverse work? If my client had told me twenty times he did it, and then I led him through testimony in which he finally claimed that he didn't do it, I would be suborning perjury.

But guilty pleas are what makes our judicial system efficient. So, I guess a little lying is allowed for that purpose only.

The other thing is, people who "did it," in that they did the actions described by the police or other witness, but who probably aren't legally guilty because they didn't have the requisite intent or maybe wouldn't be found guilty at trial because of other facts of the case.

For example, if Senator Larry Craig said "I did what they said I did - I tapped my toe and put my hand under the stall... but I only did it because I was out of toilet paper." Sure, if this was a video camera in the bathroom, he did what they say he did, but would he have a shot at that defense at trial? I think so.

To answer your question, it's hard to put a number on it. Some clients don't tell me their whole story, some clients don't tell me the truth. If I had to guess, maybe I would say somewhere around 10-15% of the people who are pleading guilty are not, in fact guilty.

But that's just a guess. Anyone else want to take a stab at that?

I Did It, I'm Sorry, I Didn't Do It

So, what do we learn from this Senator Larry Craig thing?

Once you plead guilty, it is much harder to say, "I didn't do it." The way the average American looks at this now is, "If you didn't do it, you wouldn't have pleaded guilty. You would've wanted to scream the injustice from the rooftops 'I didn't do it! I've been framed!'" But, instead, once you plead guilty, you're kind of stuck with it.

(Similarly, if you didn't do anything wrong, why would you resign? Why not fight it out and try to prove your innocence? Why bother to apologize but then follow it up with "I cannot control what people choose to believe?" )

This happens all the time in criminal courts. Someone's criminal record is questioned, and they respond, "I didn't do it, I just pleaded guilty to..." either avoid a hassle, or save money, or for any other reason. But this just doesn't fly, because the next logical question is, "Ok, then you lied to a judge, under oath, when you said you did it?"

But from a criminal defense perspective, the point is, it is very hard to overcome a guilty plea, or to overcome a criminal record.

Think long and hard before pleading guilty (especially to things you are not guilty of), it could be something that scars your record (and people's opinion of you) for a long time.

50 Cent Regret

I had a weird dream the other night. I dreamt I was on some kind of game show. And, at the end, somehow, I had to choose between my current boyfriend or 50 Cent.

And I don't know why, but I chose 50 Cent. And I immediately regretted it. I just kept saying, "Wait, I didn't want to," "I changed my mind," and "Where's my boyfriend?"

And I was so upset.

I actually woke up upset. Instead of waking up thinking, "Wow, that was a weird dream," I was thinking, "That was horrible. Why did I do that?"

I was still thinking about it even as I showered, even as I got dressed. And I kept thinking, "Why is this weird dream upsetting me so much?"

Then it came to me, all of the sudden: I had chosen something new and flashy over something I knew and loved. And I had regretted it.

Now I'm just trying to stay optimistic that this was just some weird dream, and not a comment on my new job choice. I thought about trying to take back my resignation letter, but I feel like I need to go forward with this, just to see what happens.

“Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience.” -Victoria Holt

Defending Michael Vick

Stephon Marbury came out in support of Michael Vick's dogfighting ways.

Hey, Stephon, didn't you notice that not even Michael Vick is defending Michael Vick?
We don't say anything about people shooting deers and shooting other animals, you know what I mean? From what I hear, dogfighting is a sport. It's just behind closed doors and I think it's tough that we build Michael Vick up and then we break him down ... I think he fell into a bad situation.

The only person breaking Michael Vick down is Michael Vick. But the most telling words in that statement? "From what I hear." Sure. From what you hear. From your "friend."

Michael Vick is doing the right thing by pleading guilty. Stephon Marbury might think that shooting deers and fighting dogs are the same thing, but I can tell you that it'd be very tough to find twelve people who feel the same way.

Sorry, Gertrude

Sometimes people comment on really old blog posts here. I imagine they googled something, found a 3-year-old post, left a comment, and, most likely, they never came back. The only other person who is going to see their comment is the one other random googler who happens to find that one post (out of 742, so far). Because I don't think my regular readers are going back to my 2004 posts and checking on the comments.

But sometimes those comments are just so... "good"... that I have to make sure you all see them.

For example, in August 2004, I wrote a post called "Law and The Amazing Race." In it, I added, regarding Mirna, a participant of that season's Amazing Race, after noting that I did not like her name:
...[t]he most surprising part is that Mirna isn't even her first name, it's her middle name.

I understand that sometimes people have a good reason for using their middle name. Maybe it sounds better, maybe it's less confusing. But if my first name was Lara and my middle name was Mirna, you could bet I'd go by Lara.

I think my post is clear: I don't think "Mirna," is a nice sounding name. (The word I used in the original post was "awful.") If I had a choice over the name "Lara" or the name "Mirna," I would choose "Lara."

I wrote that I think sometimes people have a good reason for using their middle name. Sometimes parents name a child after another family member, for instance, and then use the middle name to differentiate.

I'm personally from the school of thought that a middle name should be more like an accent, and if that's what your parents want to call you, they should make it your first name. I think a middle name should be more like the flower in your hair, not your whole outfit, you know what I mean?

Someone commented (back in 2004), that they don't trust people who use their middle name. I don't really care. Personally, I don't really trust people who have first names as both their first name and their last name. (Like, "Joseph Thomas," where "Thomas" is the surname - but you weren't really sure - maybe that's his middle name, right?) And I realize it's something you can't really control. But still, I feel like, at best, it's confusing, and at worst, it's kind of shifty.

I'm also a little confused by women who have compound first names, like "Mary Beth," but "Mary Beth" is their first name, not their first and middle name. Because, really, how can you tell? I mean, if your birth certificate says Mary Beth Smith, it sure looks to me like your first name is "Mary" and your middle name is "Beth." And then when you correct me and say, "No, my first name is Mary Beth," I think, "Well, ok, maybe your parents called you Mary Beth, but the first name on your birth certificate is Mary and the name Beth really falls in the middle, doesn't it?"

And, you know, we all judge people by their names, sometimes before we even meet them. (Men, tell me you'd want to go on a blind date with a "Hilda," "Gertrude," or "Esther," rather than a "Christina," "Allison," or "Kathryn.") That's why there is such pressure on new parents to come up with good names for their children.

So, the only real problem I have with people who use their middle name instead of their first name is when their first name is the nicer name. (If you were born "Sarah Gertrude Smith" and you're going by "Gertrude," I personally question your judgment. Period.) We all have our ideas of what are names are nice and what names aren't, or what names fit a person, and what names don't. So if you don't like your first name, use your middle name. And if you don't like your middle name, no one has to know it. And if you don't like either name, come up with your own nickname.

But, please, don't be such a crybaby like this commenter, who, just yesterday, left this comment on my Amazing Race post from over 3 years ago:
I want to make a comment about idiots saying that people who go by their middle names shouldn't be trusted by anyone. That is a retarded and bigoted statement to make about people. I go by my middle name and my parents forced me to do this every single day of my life. This means that my parents started doing this to me on the day of my birth. My older brother, sister and some of our cousins were also forced by our parents to do this from the time of their births. Almost everyone that I know who is called by their middle name was forced to do this from their birth as well. Why on earth do you idiots force people from birth to go by their middle names, get amnesia about us, refuse to accommodate us, screw up our names on every single legal document and then punish us because of your stupidity? Why don't you quit creating the problem that you hate so much and stop acting like a bunch of jerks because of it? If you want to screw up someone's name and punish them for it, then you should feel free to screw up your own names. Leave other people alone about this because it is rude.

Leave other people alone? Really? Because it kind of seems like maybe you were out searching for the topic.

But, more importantly, if you're old enough to use the internet, then you're old enough to say, "From now on, I'm going by my first name, and that is that." It might be a little confusing for a while - like when your high school friends who know you as "Gertrude" come visit you at college and meet your friends who know you as "Sarah." But they'll get over it.

And maybe that will help you get over it.

P.D. For Life

Listen up. Announcement time.

I have tendered my resignation, I will no longer be a public defender.

I really wasn't looking for a new job. Someone asked me to take a job that I think will be interesting, and it kind of seemed like the right time for a change.

I will still be practicing criminal defense. Plus I'll get to try a few other areas of law, and get my feet wet in a few different courts. I think that's all that I'm ready to say about the new job.

I haven't figured out whether I will keep blogging. I think that I can, logistically, but I'm not sure that I'll have as much time as I once did. I have a few more weeks, and I hope that I can figure it out in that time.

I guess I will be opening up the 2007 Public Defender Awards to a whole new round of contenders for Best Blog by a Female Public Defender and Best Personality - so consider that my gift to you, ladies. And other people with good personalities.

I am also accepting ideas for a new quote at the top of the page. I would try to think of one myself, but I'm rewatching Season 2 of Weeds before tomorrow's season premiere.

And don't you worry, I will always be a P.D. at heart.

When Kids Die in Hot Cars

Two fathers leave their young children to die in a hot car.

One is a college professor. He and his wife had struggled for years to have a child, and conceived their son through IVF. One day, after a night of being awakened by the baby, he drives to work, and completely forgets his son in the back seat.

Another worked as a horse groomer, a non-citizen, working 16 hour days, and taking care of his daughter the entire time. One day he decided to spend a few hours betting on horses after work, and left his daughter in the car.

Both have already suffered a great tragedy by losing their children. But is one more at fault than the other? Does one deserve prison time more than the other?

Well, the college professor is White, and the horse groomer is from Peru. So, the public defender background in me can tell you, just from that information, who goes to prison.

Maybe the additional fact that the college professor was at work, while the horse groomer was betting on the ponies matters. But should it? Probably not. I mean, the baby in the car doesn't know (or care) why daddy left her there.

The article also points out that the college professor had "studied parenting books," while the horse groomer presumably had less time and education for reading books, the article states that he "had no idea" a car could heat up in that way. He left the window open just an inch because he was afraid that if he left it open further, someone might take the child. Obviously he cared, he just didn't understand. His IQ was low, his defense attorney called him "borderline retarded."

In my mind, that makes the college professor more responsible. He knew, or could have known, or should have known the consequences of his actions.

Ultimately, though, the issue came down to the fact that the college professor "forgot" his son in the car, while the horse groomer made an uninformed decision to leave his daughter in the car. Why is it better to forget your child than to not understand how quickly a car can become too hot for a baby?

Because he was just forgetful, the college professor was not prosecuted. The horse groomer was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and will be deported when he finishes his term. The college professor and his wife went on to have 3 more children.

Another article points out more sentencing disparities: Sentences Vary When Kids Die in Hot Cars. The article points out that these deaths rose when laws changed to require parents to put car seats in the back seat, rather than in the front seat.

According to this article:
_Mothers are treated much more harshly than fathers. While mothers and fathers are charged and convicted at about the same rates, moms are 26 percent more likely to do time. And their median sentence is two years longer than the terms received by dads.

_Day care workers and other paid baby sitters are more likely than parents to be charged and convicted. But they are jailed less frequently than parents, and for less than half the time.

_Charges are filed in half of all cases — even when a child was left unintentionally.

In cases where parents are charged, sentences range from 20 years in prison to pretrial diversionary programs (the charges will be dismissed after a period of probation and other conditions such as parenting classes). Some judges are more creative in finding sentences that they believe fit the crime. One mother was ordered to produce a video about her ordeal to be used in parenting classes. A babysitter was ordered to pay the child's funeral expenses, make donations to the hospital that treated the child, in addition to eight months in prison.

Most creatively, one judge sentenced a father to "spend one day a year in jail for seven years and to hold an annual blood drive around the anniversary of his daughter's death."

The most important thing that can be done is to educate parents that don't ordinarily have access to parenting books and informational websites about the dangers of leaving children in a car so that parents and caregivers don't make bad decisions.

Also, if you've been to a baby shower in the past year, you know that there are a million gadgets for sale to ease any parents' neurosis. So, why can't something be created, whether it's as hi-tech as an alarm or a low-tech as a post-it note on the dashboard that says "DON'T FORGET THE BABY!" Hundreds of children die this way, and it is something so easy to avoid.

I recently noticed a car commercial which touted a "heartbeat monitor" so that the woman approaching her car in the dark parking lot would know that there was a psychopath hiding in the backseat. I would imagine that this could be used in reverse, to alert a parent walking away from the car that the child is still in the backseat. I can imagine this someday becoming a mandatory safety feature for parents, much like child car seats.

That helps solve the problem of parents who "forget" their children. But this country has a far way to go before we solve the problem of parents who leave their children in the car while they work because they can't afford childcare.

Without Prejudice on GSN

Now I remember what got me thinking about blogging about TV. About 2 weeks ago I watched the series premiere for this new show on Game Show Network (which is now just called "GSN," by the way). Which makes me wonder, are they planning to move away from showing Game Shows? Kind of like how they say Kentucky Fried Chicken started calling itself "KFC," when they stopped using real chicken? (And, therefore, the urban legend went, couldn't use the word "Chicken" in their name.)

Anyway, the show was called Without Prejudice and it was somewhat interesting for a trial lawyer to watch.

So, here's the concept. There's 5 people on a "jury" and there's 5 contestants, vying for $25K. Not much, I know, but then again, they don't have to do much. The jury's job is to choose which of the 5 contestants will get the money. They are not supposed to judge based on who needs the money the most (so it's not a contest of "who is the neediest,") and the one question they're never allowed to ask is, "What will you do with the money?"

Round One starts off with the 5 jury members evaluating the 5 contestants solely on the basis of seeing a short video of each of the 5 contestants in which each contestant just introduces himself by name and where he is from. Based on that alone, the 5 jury members have a few minutes to discuss the contestants, and then they have to vote 1 off.

It's kind of interesting what the jurors think they can make of someone in that less than one minute clip. Some of the comments are "He doesn't look like he needs the money," "He seems creepy," and even one guy who just comes out and says, much to the surprise of the other jurors, "I don't really like that contestant because I don't really like Black people." Wow.

Just think, that's how the panel is sizing up my client as they walk in the room. Before they even sit down.

Left with 4 contestants, the jury then watches a slightly longer clip from each contestant solely about their backgrounds. For example, in the premiere, one young man reveals that his mother raised him, and that his father was shot when he was young. Others talk about how they were raised, or where they went to school.

Now, with slightly more information, the jurors discuss the contestants again. There is a "host" to the show, a psychologist who leads the discussion with useful questions like, "Why do you say that?" and "How does that make you feel?" She also tries to redirect the conversation when it goes astray.

One interesting "twist," is when the jurors learn a little about the contestants based on a "moral dilemma." For example, in this episode, before the taping began, each contestant was caught on hidden camera as they saw another "contestant" (actually an actor that they think is another contestant) "steal" a few hundred dollars by not reporting it when they are overpaid for their expenses by the show. Every contestant told the show staff member when asked, but one female contestant tried to cover for the thief a little bit by saying something like, "Oh, I don't think she did it on purpose. She probably didn't realize."

One young male contestant calls one of his boys on his cell phone to say, "Whoa, I just saw this girl, she totally just stole that money."

And, he actually got slammed by the jury, who thought it was an immature move that he needed to call his boy to help him deal with the dilemma.

The jury votes to eliminate another contestant.

Next they hear from the remaining 3 contestants in a video about how they live now, mostly what they do for a living, but also about their family lives and whatever else they do.

In this round, one man states that he works as an actor in the "adult entertainment industry." More specifically, he's a porn guy.

One of the jurors states, "Porn ruins lives," and votes to eliminate that contestant. Another juror says, "good for him." Ultimately, that contestant is voted off immediately after this revelation. But we also learn that he makes a heck of a lot of money, so he doesn't really need the $25K.

The next round requires each of the contestants to answer questions about hot button issues like affirmative action and gun control. One of the jurors continuously says, about almost everyone, "I think he (or she) could be gay."

Finally, when it is down to only 2 contestants, the jurors get to meet the 2 remaining contestants and ask their own questions (anything but "What will you do with the money?"). And then they have to vote between the contestants.

After they ultimately choose someone, they get to hear from both of the final contestants what they will (or, from the loser, what they would've done) with the money.

It wasn't the most riveting show ever. It was also a 1.5 hour premiere, so I don't know if it will be better when they boil it down to a one hour show. But I thought it was interesting to see how quickly people think that they can size someone up.

It's also good reality check, as a lawyer, that jurors are always being told "Don't prejudge the case," but knowing that the reality is that humans are always judging one another.

I just wish my clients would watch the show. Maybe then they'd think twice before, I don't know, fighting with their girlfriends or spanking the bejeezus out of their children in front of the courthouse as all of the potential jurors stream in, ready to be selected for my client's assault case jury.

Entertainment Round-Up

Here's what I've been watching...

The Simpsons Movie - Better than I expected. I'm not a huge Simpsons fan. I liked it a few years back, but in the past few years I haven't watched it much at all. Anyway, the movie was funny. I laughed out loud more than I have at any movie in a long time. Go see it.

Nancy Grace on Celebrity Jeopardy - I don't think I've ever routed against a charity like this before. And her face. It's just always stuck in such a sourpuss. Do you think her face is stuck like that? You know the weird thing about Nancy Grace? I had seen how she was characterized on SNL and I kept thinking, "She can't really be like that." But then, I watched her show once, and I kept thinking, "Is this real? Or is this SNL? Is she for real?"

Scott Baio is 45... and Single - It's not exactly what I thought, it is actually kind of weird, but it is somewhat entertaining. I'm too young for Happy Days, or Joanie loves Chachi, but I kind of remember Charles in Charge. I used to watch it after camp. And I never really thought he was all that hot. But, you know, I guess some women did.

Rock of Love with Bret Michaels - I only saw 1 episode. The one where he had all of the contestants demonstrate their best phone sex voice while he was hooked up to some kind blood flow meter. What was even more entertaining than the girls who had good technique were the girls who used the most monotone voices to say, "So, um, I sat by the pool today, so, um, that was fun."

Weeds, Season 2 - Now on DVD. So you can prepare for what we've all been waiting for... Season 3 premiers August 13th! I can't wait. Also, David Duchovny has his own show Californication premiering immediately afterwards. I don't know what it's about, but I do know I had the biggest X-Files crush on that man. Yum. And you know who else is in it? Charlotte's husband.

What's everybody else watching?

Tante Jemima

I've been feeling an itch. No, not the "I spent an afternoon at the jail and all I got were these itchy flea bites" itch.

It's more like a little noise.

My passport scratching to get out of the drawer it's stashed it.

I want to go somewhere.... international.

But, my credit cards just aren't up for it.

I wish one of my friends would take a job abroad so I'd have an excuse that I just "have to" go visit whoever so they don't die of loneliness. Me, the martyr.

I wish I could take a job abroad. And all my friends could come visit me.

I think that is one of the drawbacks of being a lawyer. Or, a criminal lawyer, at least. My skills don't translate very easily from state to state, never mind from country to country.

I guess maybe I'll have to settle for a batch of crepes this weekend. Or really thin Aunt Jemima pancakes at least.

News Roundup

I have 2 criminal law-related news stories worth sharing.


Techdirt: Cops Who Started 'Hackers Are Us' Service Convicted

Apparently a private investigation firm in the UK named "Hackers Are Us" (by the way, fantastic name) got busted. (Gee, wonder if the name could have somehow hurt their case?) The founders of the service were convicted, and, to add even more intrigue, they were both police officers at the time they got busted.

Second, I apologize, I've had this story sitting around for a few months:

Police blotter: Teens prosecuted for racy photos | Tech News on ZDNet

Here, a teenage girl was convicted for taking "risque" photos of herself, because, guess what, she was producing child pornography. Her boyfriend, to whom she was sending the photos, was also charged with possession. And the Florida appeals court upheld the conviction.

Even more confusingly, it would not be a crime for the two of them to have sex. So, you can do the deed, but not take "risque" photos. Oh yes, the law makes a lot of sense.

RSS Reader

Just curious, what RSS reader do you use or recommend? I use Google Reader a little bit, mostly because I like that it's already on my google toolbar, but I feel like it doesn't quite work how I want it to work. Anyone got anything better? And not too complicated.

Not So Glamorous

I just needed to ask you something about the lyrics to Fergie's Glamorous.

You know that part, where she's almost kind of rapping? Ok, at the end of that, when she says...

Sippin', reminiscing
on days when I had a Musss...

Every single time you hear it, no matter that the radio plays it twenty times a day, don't you think for sure that this time, she's going to say, "on days when I had a Mus... tache?"

Or, maybe it's just me.

On Patriotism

Two things have me thinking about patriotism. Well, ok, 3.

Last month Army Sgt. 1st Class Clarence D. McSwain, was killed in Iraq when an IED detonated near his combat vehicle. I didn't know him, I had never even heard of him.

But the article I read said that there were protesters at his funeral. At first I thought maybe they were anti-war protesters, but when I read the article, I found that there is this (thankfully, small) group that believes that God is punishing America and American soldiers, for allowing gays in the military. And now they protest at soldiers' funerals. And although they're a small group, they get around.

I won't dignify that group by mentioning its name here. But I can't express how despicable I think their whole thing is. They act as if they're working in God's name, but they clearly aren't. And then they bring their hate filled message to funerals, to families that are mourning. This was the first I had heard of this group, and it really upset me.

There is an anti-protest group called Patriot Guard Riders, motorcycle riding veterans, who go to the funerals to block the protesters from the grieving families.

I don't know what else there is to say about the protesters. They're disgusting. And I think that most Americans know that. I know I've blogged here, and you've commented here, about our thoughts on the war. I'm against the war. But I want every soldier who fights to come home safely.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Clarence D. McSwain was 31 years old. He leaves behind a wife and three children, including a five month old. This was his fifth overseas deployment in his 12-year military career. I didn't know him, but I feel like honoring his memory is maybe the only small thing I can do to counteract the cruelty of these evil people.

Then, this week, I went to baseball game. A group of four people sat one row in front of me. I'm not sure that they were a family, but they might have been. There were 2 older people, maybe mid to late 50s, the man had stringy grey hair, and the woman was wearing a cap (not a cap for either team, just a random cap.) And then there were 2 people in their 30s, a man and a woman. So, they could've been a family. I don't know. But, anyway, they didn't stand or remove their hats for the national anthem. I know, compared to picketing a soldier's funeral, it seems really small.

It reminded me of this girl that I went to school with. Her religion didn't allow her to stand for the pledge of allegiance. The other thing I remember about her is that in high school she got caught giving a teacher a blowjob. So, I'm not sure what religion that was, but anyway, she was religious and didn't stand for the pledge of allegiance.

And I remember that our teacher (not the one who got the blowjob, our 1st grade teacher) told her that it was fine if she didn't stand, but she had to sit quietly at her desk while everyone else said the pledge of allegiance.

Which is what bothered me about this little group at the ballgame. They sat and talked and ate through the national anthem. And they weren't even whispering discreetly. They were talking loudly. Almost like they were annoyed at the people all around them, singing. You don't believe in standing, fine. But I think you should at least be quiet and respectful.

And I think that if you asked a soldier or veteran, they might tell you that part of the reason why they fight is so that Americans have the freedom to not stand for the pledge of allegiance, or the national anthem, or to protest at funerals.

But I felt annoyed. Maybe because I had just read that article, and about that group. And I was surprised there is so much opposite-of-patriotism out there. For all I know, maybe these are the same group of protesters. Hey, they could take in a game in between their acts of evil, right?

I wanted to say something to them. Ask them what their deal is. But I didn't. I hoped someone else would. People in the section were all looking at them. And, it's not like they didn't know what was going on, it was a big and crowded enough stadium that they couldn't have just "missed" that everyone else was standing for the national anthem.

But I didn't say anything. Maybe I should have. I don't know. It wasn't that I wanted to tell them off, I just wanted to know their reason. And I guess I don't have a right to know their reason. And maybe it would've just bothered me more.

And the third thing is, of course, Independence Day. Wishing you a safe, happy, and Patriotic 4th of July.

WWFD is Back!

After a 7 month hiatus, one of my favorite bloggers is back. Albeit, not with good news.

Drop by (no pun intended) and show your support.

Hey, I Live in Springfield Too!

Me, as a Simpsons character:

My shirt symbolizes Blonde Power!

(You can make your own at

And, here's me, spending my Friday night hanging out at Moe's:

Hope you're having a good weekend too!

Jailhouse Quotes

While "tomorrow" is something you hear a lot as a defense lawyer, something that is always fresh are your clients' jail house quotes.

To me, they never get old. When I hear a client say something that starts with, "You know, it's like we say in the big house..." I tune my ears in good, because I know it's going to be something good.

You know, kind of like Paris Hilton's quote from her little jail experience:
"I went with the motto, 'Don't serve the time, let the time serve you.'"

You got that right, sistah. We can be cellies anytime.

The Sun Will Come Out... Tomorrow.

You get to the point where you hear the same B.S. over and over. And it just starts to sound like B.S.

One thing that the judges care about is whether your client has a job, what the job is, and how long he's held it. Holding a decent job for a long time is a good sign that (a) you're reliable, and you won't skip court, (b) you've got a good reason not to skip town and (c) you might have someone else relying on you financially. Not holding a job means, in the judge's eyes, you've got nothing better to do with your time besides get in trouble, so you might as well stay in jail.

The salary isn't a major issue. Even if you have a regular gig sweeping the church after BINGO once a week, it might mean something to the judge. Maybe your boss at the church would be willing to say, "He's a good guy." And that would mean something to the judge too.

So, I routinely ask every client if they have a job, any job. If they say no, I ask what my client what he does with his days. If you don't work because you're taking care of your elderly grandmother or your handicapped child, saving your family the cost of a home health attendant, that means something to the judge. If you fill your days selling crack on the corner, well, let's not mention that. (And, yes, there are clients that say, "I sell crack. What do you think I'm here for?")

But what I can't get over is why EVERY client who doesn't have a job tells me that he has a job interview "TOMORROW." That, and a drug program. EVERY client is starting rehab "TOMORROW." Yeah, and "tomorrow" might be the day I get up early and start running before work. Let's hold our breath.

I think I might have believed it when I was a newbie. I think that maybe for my first five, ten clients, I thought, "I have to get my client out... he's got that job interview and rehab appointment tomorrow." Now I'm just like, "Let me guess... tomorrow?"

But I still repeat it to the judge. I put on a good show about how my client needs to get home for his important job interview tomorrow, or his appointment for rehab intake, or the medicaid appointment so he can afford rehab. Even though I know the judge has probably heard it as many times as I have. Because my client wants to hear me say it.

You know, it's like when I was in high school, I was in a play. I think the play ran maybe 3 nights. And on the third night, before the curtain opened, the director (who was also the drama teacher and one of my favorite English teachers) said, "I know this is the third time you're going through this. But for the audience, it's the first. So give them as good of a show as you did the first night."

And I thought that was a good point.

Although, for my clients, it's probably not their first time seeing the show that is called court, it is usually their first time seeing this actress on stage.

So the show goes on.

Did You Pledge? Every Morning.

Thinking about that corn scene in Big reminded me of this little bit of dialog, when Josh (Tom Hanks), now a grown-up, goes for a job interview:
Interviewer: Where did you go to school?
Josh: It was called George Washington.
Interviewer: Oh G.W. My brother-in-law got his doctorate there. Did you pledge?
Josh: Yes. Every morning.

What's funny is that, as a 10 year old watching that movie (over and over again), I certainly didn't get it. I think I knew there was some sort of misunderstanding going on, but I didn't really get what it was. It wasn't until I saw it again years later that I heard that line and said, "Oh! G.W.! Pledge! I get it."

I guess because the movie wasn't primarily made for 10 year old kids. (Too much romance! Boring!)

Which reminds me of how I didn't get that Dirty Dancing had an abortion theme either.

Gosh, I wonder how many other movies I completely didn't get.

Corn, Baby, Corn

Driving in the car tonight, I noticed that the girl in the car next to me was eating corn on the cob. A little weird, right? Because it's not exactly a food I would think would be easy to eat while driving. A sandwich, maybe. A slice of pizza? Sure. Some cookies or something? Great. But, corn on the cob? It's not what comes to mind.

Anyway, it gets weirder. She was holding the corn cob vertically while eating it. Who does that? It made me think that she had maybe never seen corn on the cob before and was trying to figure it out - like that scene in Big, when Tom Hanks is eating those little baby ears of corn.

I thought maybe she was just trying to get the few very top kernels or something. But, no, traffic was bad, I sat next to her for a while, and that's how she kept eating.

I wonder if it was even cooked corn.

If it helps at all in your upcoming analysis, she appeared to have maybe been Asian (I'll admit, I was staring at the corn more than her face) and the car had Canadian license plates. So, is this maybe an Asian thing? A Canadian thing? An Asian-Canadian thing? Or is she just a freak?

One more thing... she had a really really huge GPS screen on her windshield. Freakishly big. It was like, HDTV or something. And I just had to wonder, is that because she drove really far?

One of My Most Rambling Random Posts Ever

I was just wondering, do you remember what you did after your high school graduation? (I mean that night "after," not ever since "after.")

My school had some stupid rule that, in order to walk in graduation, you had to go to this all night anti-drinking after graduation party. And I know what you're thinking, how could they enforce that, since you had already graduated? They said they wouldn't release your diploma or your transcripts unless you went and stayed. Anyway, I'm concerned now because I don't really remember it at all. I just remember not liking it too much.

Maybe somebody spiked the punch. Don't look at me.

And I also remember that it was on a boat. And the only reason for that was probably so that we couldn't leave early. You'd have to be a really good swimmer. They probably just saved money on putting armed guards outside.

And, I could be wrong, but I think it was a relatively new thing, back then, that they were making grads go to these lame all-night parties. This was about 10 years ago. So I don't know if, before that, there was all sorts of after-graduation craziness going on. Drunk driving accidents or something. Probably not in my town. Cow tipping, maybe. I don't know.

When my little cousin graduated from high school, I bought him goldschlager. The gold flakes make it look kind of celebratory. And it seemed more appropriate for a guy that champagne, which can kind of seem girly. (Don't tell that to all the rap guys drinking Cristal.) Not that I advocate buying liquor for minors. You don't know, maybe he was 21. Some people take a long time to get through high school.

A few months ago, I went to my college roommate's bachelorette party. Her little sister, who was like my little sister all through college, said to me, "I remember when you used to buy me alcohol." I said, "I did?" (Don't worry, you can keep reading, the statute of limitations has passed.)

And she said, "Yeah, and you always told me, 'Some day, you can buy alcohol for someone else, just like someone else bought it for me.'"

And I knew she was right, because that's totally something I would say.

So, I had to ask, "Well, did you?" And she assured me that she did, complete with the pay-it-forward message I had given to her. See, it's just like I have my own little Haley Joel Osment thing going on.

And what good have you done for society lately?

I Like Cold Beverage, Yeah

It's summer, you're looking for something good to keep you hydrated. Here's what I've got.

I found a really awesome bottled iced tea, it's called Sweet Leaf Tea and it's delish. I particularly love the mint & honey flavor. And I want to try the diet, it's made with Splenda so I might like that although I don't like most diet drinks. So, look around for that. Also, they have a "where to find" section on their website, but I bought mine someplace not listed on the website, so you might find it somewhere unexpected.

Also, I went to a bar on Saturday afternoon and ordered my favorite summer beer, Hoegaarden. The bar owner told me that Budweiser had acquired Hoegaarden and Stella Artois a while back (for U.S. imports and distribution only, I assume), and he'd had problems with his deliveries ever since. I'm disappointed by this. It's summer. This is what I order during the summer. I guess I'll have to stick to fruity Lambics this summer. And that Sweet Leaf Tea.

Let's see... what else have I been drinking? My new favorite Starbucks drink for summer is an iced caramel macchiato. It is full of sugary caramel syrup, so I'm not getting it too often. And I get the nonfat. That makes me feel like it's a little healthier. And I checked the Starbucks website, which does have the nutrition information if you poke around enough, and the iced caramel macchiato does have 90 less calories than the mocha frappuccino, last summer's favorite. Even though, really, who am I fooling?

The other night I stopped at a juice shop in my neighborhood and got a really good smoothie that was just fruit and ice. (No sugar added.) Mine was mostly pineapple, with a few other fruits I guess. It was really delicious and awesome for summer. If that place was more accessible to my daily commute, I would easily replace my iced caramel macchiato with something healthier.

What else? Wine. First, I have a new favorite cheap white wine for summer. Who knows, maybe it will be for the whole year. It's the Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling, from Washington. I can find it for about $8 in the wine store, and it's on a lot of wine lists, so it's a good cheap white wine standby. I don't review wine, but it's a good, light, easy to drink white wine. (By the way, did you hear the digg boys are now sponsored by Wine Library? I was cracking up listening to them try to review wine a few weeks ago.)

And I had never tried a Cotes Du Rhone before, but a few weeks back I tried one on the recommendation of a really good waiter, and I loved it. It was by Laboure Roi, and I will definitely buy some of that to have at home if I can find it.

So, that's what I'm drinking. I was so inspired by that smoothie the other night that it might be time to break out the blender and start smoothie season in my own home. What have you been drinking?