Now With Pronunciation Guide, Free!

After a long day of thinking and whatnot, today's post will attempt to answer one simple question. I hope this helps you, dear googler, where ever you may be....


What do you call the person the lawyer is defending? The defendant.

And, one more thing: I prefer the "di-FEN-duhnt" or "di-FEN-dihnt" pronunciations, and don't really like it when people pronounce it "di-fen-DANT," although that, too, is a proper pronunciation.

This search term, however, I cannot even begin to respond to:

How to Prepare For Trial: Step One

I suppose, to do it right, this will have to be a multi-post topic, spread over the next few weeks or months as it fits into my schedule of actual trial preparation.

Just a disclaimer: This is not the only way to prepare a trial, nor do I believe it's necessarily the best way. It just happens to be the way I was taught, and what seems to work for me.

Today's lesson is "Step One: Create an outline of the trial."

If you're the type of person who likes to type things out in a neat, organized outline, following actual outlining formatting (you know, I. then 1. then a. or whatever), fantastic, type it in Word or whatever you'd like

I like to write it on a blank piece of a paper. For some reason, I think that the more it looks like a flow chart with circles and arrows, etc., the more it's going to work. As if the level of activity on the page indicates the level of activity in my defense.

Either way, what you're doing is giving yourself an idea of what to expect in the trial.

A basic outline might look like this:

Pre-trial motions
Jury Selection
Opening Arguments
Prosecution Case
Defense Case
Closing Arguments
Jury Instructions


Then I go back through and just start brainstorming different ideas and filling them in under their respective headings. I think through all of the possible Prosecution Witnesses and list them under prosecution case, and all of the possible Defense Witnesses and list them under the defense case.

Next, I might fill in some ideas of questions, themes, or points I want to make with each witness. I'm not trying to write my whole direct examination or cross examination into the outline, but I'm asking myself, "What is my point in standing up and asking this witness a question? What do I want to get out of him or her?" and trying to fill that answer into the outline. I might also put some thought into any evidence I might want to introduce, and which witness I would introduce it through.

Invariably, during this process, I'll think of other things I need to do, whether they're investigation or research related. I'll just jot them in a box along the right margin. Again, the more doodling that gets done in my outline, the better.

Usually, by the time I'm beginning to prepare the trial, I've completed my investigation (although there is sometimes still more I can do) and I've sometimes put some thought into what my defense or theme is going to be. I might jot this under opening argument or closing argument, or both.

Finally, I might type my outline, if, for example, (1) I just need to feel a little more organized and my free-form outline has gotten out of hand, or (2) I want to give it to a colleague who will be working on the case with me, or (3) I want to give it to my client.

I think it's worthwhile to give a copy of the outline to my client as early in the trial prep process as possible - especially for the uninitiated client who doesn't have a clear sense of how the trial works, and even more so for a client who is in jail which may limit your time to talk and prepare the trial together. I find that, in the future, it redirects our conversations from "I didn't do it, I'm not taking a plea, I want to go to trial" to "Let's actually talk about the trial, here's what I think our major theme should be, here's what kind of jurors we're looking for, here's who I think the witnesses will be... " and so forth.

Just to give you a basic idea, I'll write up a quick outline from a trial training I did a while back. This is just off the top of my head, so it'll be a little rough. I've started with the most basic outline as above, and then I've filled it in a bit more with a few hypothetical ideas. The case involves a basic bank robbery. Again, this is hypothetical, and I'm not really prepping a bank robbery right now, so cut me some slack if you think I've missed something.


1. Pre-trial motions.
a. Preclusion of defendant's statement
b. Preclusion of "enhanced" video surveillance

2. Jury Selection
a. Eliminate customers of this bank
b. Eliminate jurors with security jobs?

3. Opening Arguments
a. Teller didn't get a good look
b. Bank video grainy
c. Defendant's "confession" coerced - hours of interrogation (mention only if statement not precluded.)
d. Defendant's home searched - money not found.

4. Prosecution Case
a. Teller (introduce diagram of bank if prosecutor doesn't)
b. Bank Manager
c. Police Officer at scene
d. Detective who takes defendant's statement

5. Defense Case
a. Defendant ???
b. Alibi witness
c. Character witness

6. Closing Arguments
a. Teller didn't get a good look
b. Statement was coerced
c. Defendant denies
d. Defendant was at the movies with his girlfriend
e. Money not found (Prosecution's burden to present evidence)

7. Jury Instructions
a. Basic jury instructions
b. Special jury instruction: Alibi Defense (if alibi witness used)

During the course of sketching out the outline, I might thoughts of things I still need to do, such as "Call character witness - set up appointment." "Go back to bank - distance from teller to door?" The longer this list becomes, the more work I have cut out for me, obviously.

That's all for today, class. We'll pick this up from here the next time I feel like writing about trial prep instead of actually doing it.

Here We Go Again

Right now, I'm prepping a trial. I am always prepping some trial.

I would say that maybe one percent of my cases go to trial. Maybe less. I can usually get a good sense, early on, which cases might possibly go to trial. A small percentage of those actually do.

I think that is a big skill that you "learn as you go" in a public defender's office. You can save a lot of time if you can learn to identify only those cases that might actually go, and triage your cases accordingly.

But even then, it's always uncertain, so you always have two options: (a) be cautious, prep everything, knowing you're probably wasting your time or (b) throw caution to the wind, and "wing it" if the trial actually starts. I choose option a.

Which means that I am always prepping some trial. So, this weekend, you'll find me on my couch, laptop on my lap, and cross-examination questions across the screen. Well, except when I'm stopping to write a little blog post.

Wish me luck!

Spreading Holiday Cheer

I had a professor in law school who also practiced law. (Those of you who haven't gone to law school are probably thinking this goes without saying, but in the weird world of law school, it's quite unusual, and in fact, some law professors have never even attempted to practice law.)

Anyway, I remember him going off on a tangent one day about rainmaking, networking, and ways of keeping in touch with clients to encourage them to think of you the next time that they, or someone that they know, need a lawyer.

One suggestion he made was sending Christmas cards to all of your former clients.

I remember just smirking, and thinking to myself, "Yet another way that so much of what they teach in law school doesn't apply to the public defender practice."

Although, as I wrote out my own Christmas cards tonight, I was thinking that maybe it would be nice to send Christmas cards to my clients that are in jail. I couldn't send cards to all of my clients, but considering I only have a handful that are in jail, and they probably need the Christmas cheer the most, it might be feasible.

Not for the purposes of rainmaking, of course. Just to be nice.

But, I don't know. I don't know if I could expect the cash-strapped public defender's office to pay the postage. And they wouldn't be in public defender envelopes, they'd be red Christmas card envelopes. And then I think we reach a weird line where I'm communicating with my clients outside of regular legal mail, in red envelopes no less, and it's only a slippery slope to the point where I'm marrying my clients. (Yes, I hear it has happened. But not to me, of course. I say no to all of the proposals.)

And then, finally, there's the rainmaking effect which is unwanted in public defender land. The clients, who had otherwise forgotten about me as an outlet for their looneyness and lonelyness, would suddenly remember me, and probably figure I have too much time on my hands since I have time to send Christmas cards, and then they'll start calling me to ask me things like how their "motion to squash" is coming along...

So, I think this year I'm going to have to skip the Christmas cards. To my clients, at least.

Misery Loves Company

I can't help but reflect sometimes, on how my life is different (read: better) this year than last year.

One surprise is how much being a public defender again has improved my friendships. I have more free time and energy, and I've made an effort to dedicate some of it to my friendships that were, unfortunately, neglected last year.

But, there is one friendship that has taken the opposite turn. I have been friends with this one girl on-and-off since elementary school. We'd lose touch for a few months or a year, maybe see each other once a year, usually for Christmas, and she'll email me a forward now and then.

I think part of the reason why we weren't close friends was because... how can I put this... I always felt worse, never better, after talking to her or spending time with her. I wrote about it on this blog once before, years ago, about one particular thing she said that made me unhappy or upset. But what I left out of that post was that it wasn't an isolated incident, that almost every interaction left me less happy than I had been when it began.

So, even before making the switch to the firm, I had decided that I didn't need to dedicate too much time to this friendship that made me feel bad. I've always felt that I don't have enough time for the friends that make me feel good, how could I waste time on a friendship that makes me feel bad?

Then, last year, while I was unhappy and depressed at the firm, I found myself drawing away from most of my friends. I wasn't happy and I didn't want to be a bummer to my friends. But, strangely, this one friend and I became closer. We spoke on the phone a lot more frequently and spent more time together.

Finally, now, I'm a public defender again, happy again. And I can't stand to talk to this friend any more. Suddenly it dawned on me: I could be friends with a downer when I was miserable. But now that I'm happy, I just can't wrap my head around it... How was I friends with her? Was I like her? Did I sound like that? I just couldn't handle it. I guess it goes to show, misery really does love company.

It's not that she's depressed, or sad, or a mopey downer. She's out-and-out hateful. It's hard for me to get into specifics without being specific, but she just has this way of saying something hateful, in a very casual way, as if she's just accidentally slipped it into a conversation. Imagine being friends with someone who continually mentions little embarassing things from junior high or arguments from your freshman year in high school. And maybe we've never moved beyond that because we don't have much in common anymore. She's been through a lot in her life, and it's become more and more obvious to me that she has some serious unresolved issues that she needs to work through, but she won't be able to do that merely by taking out her hostility on me.

And I understand that your friends are supposed to be there for you through good and bad, but I feel like I've only ever seen her through bad since maybe 1995. So I decided that, for my own mental health, I really needed to distance myself from that friendship. In the past few months I've been learning to make the decisions that are best for me, in terms of my own happiness, and that should apply not just to my professional life but also my personal life.

I didn't have a conversation with her, I didn't "break up" with her, I just decided that I wasn't going to call her, and when she called me, I'd keep it short. And there's never been any need for me to respond to her email forwards.

She didn't take it well. First she started sending me these weird passive-aggressive manipulative emails that said, "Lost: My friend. She has blonde hair. If you see her, could you please tell her that I miss her?" I'm sorry, I just don't think that kind of thing warrants a response. Honestly, I think if she had just sent a normal email like, "Hey, I've missed you lately, give me a call when you can chat," I really would've called her, I'm not heartless, I don't have it in me to be mean. But her emails were just weird. (And the weird emails never actually asked me to call her, just if I see myself, I'm supposed to tell myself that she misses me. Done.)

Then one day, a couple of weeks ago, I felt like crap and I stayed home from work sick for a day. I really just needed to take some Nyquil and sleep it off for a day. I had my phone next to my bed, just in case there was some emergency at work that I felt conscious enough to handle. She called as I was drifting off to sleep. I pushed ignore. She called again, I pushed ignore again. Every time I just started to get into a good nap, the phone rang again. I ended up putting the phone on silent. By the end of the day, she had called eight times, and she hadn't left a single message. And, again, I decided I wasn't going to call her back. If she had left a message that said, "It's me, call me back," I would've called her. Again, I'm not heartless.

But who calls someone eight times in a day? (Besides my stalker clients.) What is the point? If I wanted to talk, I would've answered. If you had something you had to say, you could've said it to my voicemail. But, what if I had been in court and accidentally left my phone on my desk (oops, I do that a lot), ringing obnoxiously all day long? What if I had been in court and my phone was vibrating all day? What if I was trying to conserve my battery power for some important reason? What if, worse, I was deathly sick and really needed some sleep? Oh wait, that is what happened. The worse she behaves, the more I feel like I absolutely should not reward her bad behavior with the response she wants.

Since that day, she's called a few times randomly, I've ignored it. Then she emailed a few of my friends. Not HER friends, mind you, not OUR mutual friends, but my friends. I guess she had their email addresses from things like when I sent a mass email for my birthday party or something. She wrote, "Can you check to make sure nothing terrible happened to Blonde Justice?" We've now entered actual stalker territory.

Finally, today I received a card from her. I'm thinking about putting it straight in the shredder without even opening it.

And I know it makes me sound like a bitch. You're thinking, "Hey, if the girl is dying to be your friend so bad, why can't you just give her a few minutes of attention?" And, yeah, I see that. But the further she goes, the less I feel like I could ever be friends with her. And can it be a real friendship if I'm only doing it to get a stalker off my back? And then how long do I have to put up with it before we're back here again?

So, give it to me. What do you think? Am I bitch? What would you do?

Because I'm "Quirky"



Although I'm happy just to be nominated, I'd love to get your vote and actually win for once. If there's anything I've learned this year, it's that a little hope can go a long way in a big election.

So, please go to the ABA Journal website and vote for Blonde Justice. It only takes a second, they don't ask any complicated questions, and you only need to vote once.

Just in case you're having problems with it, here's the link:
http://www.abajournal.com/blawgs/blawg100_2008/quirky



Thank you.

Deep Thoughts, by Blonde Justice

Back in, like, the 70s, marijuana was called "dope," right?

But now, I think, "dope" means heroin.

Anyway, I'm wondering if that ever gets confusing. Like, for old drug dealers who were around in the 70s.

You're like, "Hey, man, can I get some dope?" and they're like "Marijuana dope or heroin dope?" And then, since you're starting to feel paranoid anyway, you're like, "What are you a cop? You're trying to get me to say the exact name of the drug?" and then, the old drug dealer never makes any sales. Hey, maybe that's why there aren't too many old drug dealers around.

Oh, wait, I have one more: What if you had an old person on your jury? I'm not saying "old" like senior citizen, I just mean anyone who was of smoking age in the 70s. And your client is charged with selling heroin. Then the undercover says, "I heard that man (indicating the defendant) say 'Want to buy some dope?'" And then the old juror is like, "What? I thought this was a heroin case? Now it's about marijuana? I believe marijuana should be legalized!" And then he votes to acquit. That would be awesome.

Also, seriously, I do believe that some old people are into that medicinal marijuana thing. So, they'd be good jurors too.

This has been another deep thought by Blonde Justice.

Inspired

I haven't had a lot to say. But I decided to make a short little mix tape inspired by the election. It will give us something to listen to as we navigate the merging of Sirius and XM channels over the next few days. Now, where did my all my favorite stations go?

MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes

I Voted

All I can say today is, I voted. And it was good.

Now, we wait. (And possibly sleep.)

I really hope that this won't be another election where we have to stay up all night (and then a few weeks more) awaiting results. Because I have a trial tomorrow, and I don't want to be tired for it.

This is Halloween, This is Halloween

I have a Halloween tradition. One night (usually during the week leading up to Halloween), I like to turn out all the lights, light up all my pumpkin decorations in the windows, and watch The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Now, it just came to my attention that some people have never seen The Nightmare Before Christmas. It came out when I was in high school. A few of my friends saw it and became fanatics. I decided they were crazy, and figured I'd never see the movie. I don't think I ever saw until law school

And it's really good. So, tonight, I've turned out the lights, lit all my decorations, and am eating Thai leftovers, to be followed by apple cider donuts and one last bit of chocolate dipped banana. You'll find me on my couch, singing along, in the dark.

Aah, I love traditions.

Silver Lining of Funny

My job hasn't been filled with funny stories lately, mostly sad.

But there was one sad story that had a tiny funny silver lining.

My client, who had been out on bail, had to show up to court, and I knew that it was extremely likely that the judge was going to revoke his bail and lock him up. (My client had, unfortunately, broken one of the conditions of his release on bail.) I advised my client that it would be best to come prepared - bring proof of his work history, bring family members that could vouch for his community ties, so that I could argue for his continued release or a new bail, and, in case that didn't work, he should not bring any weapons or drugs because he would be searched during the jail admission process.

My client called me every day leading up to the court date, asking whether he would get locked up (answer: most likely) and what he could do about it. Again and again, I give my client the same speech. I told him it would be impossible to bring too much information: bring proof of every medical issue you have, bring proof of every job you've ever had, bring every upstanding citizen that can vouch for you. I tell him to come early, so I can go over the documents and meet the family before court starts.

So, the day finally comes. I get to court early. I sit around waiting for my client until the judge shows up. Then I go wait in the hallway, so I can grab my client as he walks in. He didn't bring any of the documents we talked about. And he's got family coming, but they aren't there yet. This always amazes me: You can put the time and energy into calling me 27 times but you couldn't even dig up one old paystub or get your job to write a little letter that says "Client works here"?

The judge was on the bench, his mouth foaming at the proposition of locking my client up and throwing away the key. And, while I had hoped my client would give me at least a little something to work with, I had nothing.

But then, we were saved by the bell! The fire alarm went off and the building was evacuated, buying us a few minutes before the inevitable.

Out on the sidewalk, my client's family showed up and we got a few minutes to talk. My client had three brothers, and they all showed up. Fantastic. I took a minute to meet each one, get their name, their age, their address, and ask them where they worked.

The first one, the oldest, was a realtor with his own business, and owned his own home where he had lived for about ten years. Great.

The second one was an administrator in a dentist's office and going to school to be a dental hygienist at night. Good.

The third one told me that he has owned his own business for 8 years and he has served on, and been the president, of the city's small business owner's association. Without blinking, I asked the obvious question, "Great! What kind of business?"

"We provide entertainment for events. Adult entertainment. Strippers." Why did I have to ask?

So, of course, I had to make the bail application, "... and the third brother, Your Honor, also in the audience, is a (mumble, mumble, don't ask me) small business owner."

Would it be wrong for me to say "Thank God the judge was too busy setting bail on my client to ask what kind of small business the brother owned?"

Breaking News

Blonde Justice has just endorsed Barack Obama for president. And not just because of these hot pink pins...

(now available on Cafe Press.)

Zima Confession Time

MillerCoors announced this week that the malternative beverage known as Zima, introduced by Coors Brewing in 1992, would be discontinued.


Zima was my underage drink of choice.

And I have a confession to make. I've never told anyone this.

One year, my college roommate and I had a bad relationship. Basically, we hated each other but pretended to be friends because (a) all of our friends were friends and (b) we thought it would be easier to just finish out the year on friendly terms than for either of us to move. We both went to the on-campus therapist and complained about each other and then we were nice to each other. It was the most dysfunctional relationship of my life.

Anyway, one weekend, we had a party, during which we served Zima with Jolly Ranchers. You drop the candy into the Zima, and then the Zima (otherwise somewhat flavorless) takes on the candy's flavor.

My beloved roommate was finishing up her Zima, she had it completely upside down over her mouth, trying to get the last few drops out. The candy was stuck to the inside bottom of the bottle, now up in the air, and she was shaking it a little bit, as if she was trying to get the candy to drop down.

I was a little drunk, so maybe I just wasn't thinking, but I used the palm of my hand to smack the bottom of the bottle (which was now up in the air) and SPLIT HER LIP. Blood everywhere.

I apologized profusely, but, I'll now admit, in the back of my head, I thought it was kind of funny. I didn't do it on purpose (I would have never even thought of it) but, after it happened, it really was kind of one of my shining moments.

And, there was a fringe benefit... For a few days, she gave fewer slutty random blowjobs to anyone and everyone in the dorm room that I had to share with her for a few days. I never intended it, but I'm a freakin' genius.

But, I figured now that Zima's days are over, I could finally tell you all about it.

Seriously

Fla. Woman Chooses To Go To Jail Over $7.45 Bill

This is newsworthy? I have clients every day who go to jail every day for not paying their $2 bus or train fare so that they can get to work, get to their drug program, get their mental health medication, get their kids to and from the doctor, get to the welfare office, get to court.

I represent clients begging for money, arrested because seeing a poor person is a "nuisance." They don't even have a $7 sandwich to not pay for. They have a coffee cup with some change.

Where are the TV crews and cameras? Where is the Associated Press? Where are the riled masses?

As far as I can see, it's only me and my colleagues. We fight for the Maryanne O'Neills and Edna Jesters of the world well, pre-pubescent teens to feisty old ladies, "re appropriating" sandwiches and footballs coast to coast.

We are Public Defenders.

Giving Lip

Not Martha blogged about Nivea lip balms, so I was excited to finally get two to try. But, strangely, the two that I got (and the others that I saw at my drug store) are not at all the ones in her post (even the second photo with the Nivea display). I got Nivea A Kiss of Shimmer Pearly Shimmer Lip Care and Nivea A Kiss of Rejuvenation Q10+ Anti-Aging Lip Care SPF 4. I don't even see them on the Nivea website... the first one is close, but not quite exactly, this one, and the second one is close, but not quite exactly, this one. Weird, right?

Now, truthfully, this was the first I realized that lips could age. But, thankfully, mine won't be. That reminds me, a few years ago, I read that hands really show signs of age, because people don't go to as great lengths to protect their hands from sun damage and other causes of aging. And it's true. Next time you see those beautiful 50-something actresses and singers on Ellen, look at their hands - sometimes they're really obvious old lady hands, in direct contrast with their youthful faces. (I guess you can't really get any plastic surgery to make your hand look younger either.)

But I don't think I've ever seen someone with a young-looking face and old-looking lips. Except for really fake puffy Botox or implant lips that look old in the sense that they look like something an old person would do, or that they don't really fit the face. But not just that the lips themselves look aged.

But, either way, I guess it can't hurt.

Anyway, the Nivea lip stuff is pretty good. Not too sticky, it feels pretty nice. Not too lipstick shiny, it's barely noticeable. I would recommend it.

And if you like beauty care and makeup reviews, I recommend the blog Spoiled Pretty. Daneen, the blogger, really goes above and beyond to give her readers the scoop on every type of beauty product (and some celeb dirt and photos too.) Just this week, she had reviews of lip stuff, hand stuff and even a handbag. I love it.

And sometimes she has giveaways and contests or points you to other websites' giveaways. Free stuff is good. My blog never has giveaways. Anyone have anything they want to give away?

Blonde Bits and Pieces

I've got a few little things I want to post.

First, how about some music to get you through it?

MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes


I was the mix tape princess of the early 90s. Matter of fact, I feel so old, but when I went to college we still made mix tapes for our sorority parties. I was elected "tune mistress" or whatever we called that position. But back in '98, people would lend me CDs of their favorite songs, and I'd make them into mix tapes for our parties. Just think, our songs were played in basically the same order at every party. Anytime I wanted to add a new song, I'd incorporate it into a new tape. And I thought I was high tech because I had a stereo that automatically turned over the tape, and then went to the next tape deck, allowing me hours free of tape-turnover duties. Wow, that really seems outdated. Little did I know what was on the horizon. It's funny to think about how much easier it would be now - I could just make a playlist, people could email me songs they want to include, the songs could be shuffled as necessary, and I could easily hook the ipod up to any stereo. Kids these days, they have it so easy.

As a tradition, we always willed down the old tapes upon graduation to the younger sister who took over the position. I wonder what ever happened to those tapes - and whether they would even have a cassette player to listen to them now.

Anyway, mixwit is the new place to make the digital mix tape for online listening. I whipped this one up in only a few minutes. I'd love to see all of your creations! (link via happy mundane.)

So now that you've got some tunes rolling... How about two new links?



As you may know, I can sometimes see the search terms that bring people to Blonde Justice. Usually there's nothing too surprising, but I thought this one was surprisingly succinct and detailed:
"A couple does not wish to spend more than $60 for dinner. If a sales tax of 6% is added to the bill and they plan to tip 13% after the tax has been added, what is the most they can spend for the meal?"

It doesn't seem as if this is just some guy planning his budget for a dinner date, does it?

Well, if you click on the link, you can see that Blonde Justice comes up as the first link in a google search for this question. The second link is to a textbook, Algebra and Trigonometry with Analytic Geometry by Jeffery A. Cole, Earl W. Swokowski, which features a surprisingly similar word problem.

So, there's another thing to make me feel old. This is how kids solve math problems these days? They just type the whole thing into Google? Geeze. Anyway, I'm not going to do your algebra homework for you, kid.

An interesting Ask Metafilter: What to expect out of short stay in county? What to know when you're headed off to jail... for 3 DAYS!?! I feel like I could get through anything for 3 days. Besides, "3 days" is one of those "technicality" sentences - you probably show up for an hour, get processed, and then get released with time served. It doesn't seem like there's a lot to prepare for. Except that no one mentions the most important piece of advise I give my clients turning themselves in for a sentence of any length: Don't Bring Your Drugs, Weapons, and Other Contraband. (I would have added my advice, except that you have to pay to join MetaFilter. And usually people pay me for my advice, not the other way around.)

Two good recent news stories:

And, finally, since Sancho mentioned it...
The Blawgers Fantasy Baseball League. I finished in 7th. Which wasn't last place. The truth is, I tend to get discouraged early in the season (when I was in last place) and give up. But, hey, at least I wasn't in last place, right?
Sancho finished it out in 5th. Not too shabby. If anyone else wants to take credit for their final standings, the comments are open.

Glad we knocked a few of those little topics out.

Reviewing Raising the Bar

I've wanted to review Raising the Bar since it started. But I get so behind in my tivo watching, that I haven't been able to review a recent episode.

But I'm caught up. So, here goes:

First, let me say that I wasn't too impressed by the pilot. I wasn't sure where this was going. But it has greatly improved each week. If you only watched the pilot and gave up on it, I highly suggest that you catch another episode. They're all on the TNT website.

My favorite episode so far was "I Will, I'm Will" which I think was a week or two ago. (Feige, tell TNT to put up an episode guide!) That episode so clearly displayed being asked to do the impossible, on an impossible deadline, with no one on your side, with very few resources, that being a public defender requires.

I guess one of the problems I have with Raising the Bar, like I had with Indefensible, is that I'm not sure that I'm the target audience. Do most people come home and watch a show, or read a book, that is exactly like their life all day? I could see watching a show that is a fictionalized version of their career, or an exaggerated version, but, to Raising the Bar's credit, it's almost too realistic.

So, I sat down last night to watch the newest episode, "Hang Time." In the first scene, Bobbi (the new public defender from Brooklyn, not Philadelphia, my mistake. Either way, she wasn't in the pilot, and she's a great improvement to the show.) is handling a domestic violence case. And they hit the nail on the head. The wife who says "I want my husband to come home with me, I didn't sign the complaint," but can't say it didn't happen. She told the police that he threw a mug at her. It's a bell that is going to be hard to unring.

In the next scene, Jerry is in the pens, talking to his client. His client starts with one of my favorite lines, "Give me some good news." Jerry is talking to his client about a plea offer of 8 years. Throughout the episode, the dialogue between Jerry and his client is so realistic. There are a few lines in this scene that I hear myself saying, or hear my clients say to me, so frequently. "Every trial is a crap shoot."

His client says, "I can't believe that I'm still here." Everyone who gets arrested thinks that they'll quickly be able to clear up the misunderstanding - but that doesn't always happen. Then he says, "If I did this, I would cop out like I did before." I get that.

Back at Bobbi's DV case: The Judge and the D.A. don't want to hear that the "victim" doesn't want an order of protection. The client doesn't understand how he and his wife don't get to go home together. Bobbi tries to warn them both that things will only get worse if they get caught together. But do they listen? Does the D.A. listen to the "victim" when she comes to him and says she doesn't want to go forward?

I shouldn't be surprised that Feige hits the nail on the head. He's been there.

A few little things that bother me:

  • Both Bobbi and someone else in this episode (Jerry?) pronounce the word "complaitan" instead of "complainant." Update: I watched it again to find the second "complaitan" foul but couldn't, but I'm pretty sure it was said at least twice in this episode. Maybe both times by Bobbi, but I'm not sure. Either way, that really grates on me.

  • Neither the D.A.'s office nor the Public Defender's office has any security - the PD's walk in and out of the D.A.'s office to drop off muffins and coffee without being announced, Bobbi's abusive husband walks into the P.D.'s office unannounced. It makes me really glad to have a receptionist in all of the offices where I've worked. I guess it's more about the theatrical effect of having someone walk in unexpectedly or find them sitting at your desk, with their feet up.

  • I didn't like it earlier in the season that Jerry was dating/sleeping with one of the D.A.s. But I think that might be over. We'll see.

  • I don't like that Bobbi is this helpless battered woman in her personal life but a strong, confident lawyer in her professional life. But I guess that's the incongruousness that we're supposed to feel.


I won't give away any of the interesting twists the episode takes, in case you have it sitting on your Tivo too.

But, overall, I think the show is spot on. It almost hits too close to home.

That one scene, when Jerry goes back to his client with the best offer of 3 years, and explains, "I believe you, but I'm not the jury," explains that the only way for the client to get his story across is to take the stand and simultaneously expose his criminal record. And, finally, Jerry says, "You go to trial, and 15 years from now, you'll be sitting in a cell with 10 left to do, wondering why you didn't cop to 3... I'm not happy about it either, but 3? It's too good to pass up." It couldn't be more realistic and the only way it could be more entertaining is if I didn't have to have the same conversation with clients week after week.

But, Feige has given us public defenders something good. Now, when someone asks us, "So, what you do... is that like Law & Order?" I think we can all say, "No, it's more like Raising the Bar. Check that show out."

Without the coffee and muffin delivery to our adversaries, of course.

A Scene From Jury Selection

Different places do jury selection differently.

The old place had the jury come into and out of the room. Come in so we can talk to you, send you out so we can talk about you. Come back in so we can talk to you again. Send you back out so we can decide who we want and who we don't. Come back in so we can tell you whether or not you're wanted. Send you back out so we can pick the rest of the jury. Come back later for the trial to start.

The new place lets the jury stay in the courtroom. The attorneys walk back and forth up to the judge's bench to whisper - loud enough for the court reporter to hear it, quiet enough for the jury not to hear.

The new place cares more about the potential juror's privacy too. In the old place, the jurors would answer questions about their prior arrests, their family members' arrests, the crimes they were the victims of, in front of the entire courtroom.

In the new place, the jurors come up to the bench to do the whisper thing, for just about anything. It takes a lot of time - juror comes out through the box, approaches, we wait for the court reporter to get set up again, the juror does the whisper thing. Without years of practice, none of them has quite mastered the fine art of whispering just loud enough. So we spend a few minutes saying, "A little louder... no, no, a little quieter..." We listen, the juror goes back to their box,
and we do it all again with the next juror.

The whole routine is a little ridiculous.

On top of that, the prosecutor is absolutely clueless about jury selection - he has no idea what he wants, or what he doesn't want, so he just goes on little tangents, doing these whispering conferences with potential jurors that either he obviously doesn't want, or who obviously can't serve (e.g. "I'm pregnant, and I'm due next week, I don't think I can serve." I just say okay. I'll consent to her being excused "for cause." The prosecutor whispers, "Let me ask you a few questions. You said your husband is a teacher? What grade does he teach?" What does it matter? Let the poor lady go home and have her baby! Why are you trying to make jury selection take all week?)

But one potential advantage of the whisper conferences is that you really get up close and personal with the jurors. You get to see the little details - the name brand on their clothes, the stains on their shirt.

Last week, one potential juror approached to whisper his reason why he couldn't possibly serve on a jury. He was old, bald and pasty pale, dressed all in black.

Up close, I could see the dark circles under his eyes. Even closer, I could smell the sick smell of alcohol on his breath.

"Judge..." he started.

"That's ok, I think I've got the picture," the Judge tried to interject, crinkling his face at the man's breath.

"I can't possibly serve on a jury," the man continued. "I work nights."

"Wait. Because you work nights?" Now the Judge was confused and annoyed. He was going to excuse the man, figuring he had an alcohol problem, maybe he would say he needed to be at rehab or go to meetings. It is a disability, after all. But now, the Judge suspected that this man was just trying to get out of jury duty. "You can take a few days off from work like everyone else here."

"Well, the thing is," the man tried to explain, "I work nights as a grave digger. I've been a grave digger for 40 years. I've been working nights, I haven't seen the daylight in 40 years. I can't even be awake during the day anymore. It makes me sick. Absolutely sick. To even see the the sunlight." With that, he covered his eyes with one hand, and held a hand over his stomach.

"We could pull the shades in the courtroom," the prosecutor tried.

The Judge was holding his hand over his nose. "I don't really think closing the blinds is going to be enough. Sir, you're excused."

The man walked back to the jury box to collect his belongings. The prosecutor walked back to his table. I walked back over to my client. As soon as my butt hit the chair, I heard the Judge say, "Counselors, approach again."

Up again, we walked back to the bench for the hundredth time that day.

"Counselors," the Judge said, "I don't even think they have grave diggers anymore. I think they use backhoes or something."

Ummm... really? He called us back to tell us this? Does it matter? The guy was obviously an alcoholic vampire. I've been doing this Catholic Mass routine all day of sit down, stand up, approach, go back, sit down, stand up, approach... and you want me to approach to discuss backhoes?

I looked at the prosecutor, expecting him to share my exasperation.

Instead, he looked at the Judge, and nodded very gravely, "Yes, Your Honor. I understand. Thank you."

And, with that, we went on to the next juror.

Blonde Mamma Mia

Don't laugh, because I'm not joking. I couldn't even make this up.

After months and months of my mother telling me how good the movie Mamma Mia was, and how I really need to see it, and how she wants to get the soundtrack...

It was finally revealed that my blonde mother thinks that the songs in Mamma Mia are NEW and that they were written for the movie.

I haven't seen the movie, so I thought maybe, it is possible, there were some new songs in the movie.

So, I asked her for an example.

And she said, "Well, they had one song called Mamma Mia. And it goes, 'Mamma Mia, here I go again...'"

I told her that first there was a group called ABBA who had these songs, and then there was a musical based on the songs, and then there was a movie based on the musical. But, she told me, that's just absurd.

What's absurd is that my mother has never heard of ABBA.

How is it possible that I'm the one telling my mother about the 70s, when I really wasn't around to experience for myself?

You Can Just Disregard This...

Sometimes, I reach a point where I have posted anything to the blog in a few weeks, and then I start to get this weird writer's block, like, what could possibly be interesting enough, important enough, to return to blogging after such an absence?

And then I need to just post some dumb "throw away" post like this, just to get things going again.

Know what I mean?

Raising The Bar

Unfortunately, I don't really have time right now to right a whole little review, but I don't want you to think it went unnoticed that the second episode of Raising the Bar was a pretty big improvement over the first episode (pilot).

I shall keep watching.

Job Hunting Tips

I am loving the bad on campus interview ("OCI") stories over at Above The Law. Especially "Comment 83," but be warned, it's a little off-color.

Anyway, I've got one story. It's not really an interview story, but it is a good "don't" story for law school students interested in finding a job.

Two friends of mine from law school work together as lawyers for the government. They're good friends with each other, they were friends in law school and they're happy to work together now. Neither of them have any hiring responsibilities. Maybe they could put in a good word for someone, sure, but government hiring is a little more complicated than that. One of them, we'll call her Sarah, was out on family medical leave this past spring. The other one, Joan, got a call from a student who was, at the time of the call, a student at our former law school.

The student called Joan at her office and said, "I'm currently a student at your alma mater, and I just had a first interview with your employer. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about your job and maybe get a few tips for the interview process." My friend Joan thought this was a nice approach and was happy to help out someone from our law school, so she spent about 15 minutes chatting with the law student and sharing some thoughts and tips.

I thought it was really nice of Joan to give her time in that way.

But, then the law student called again. And again. Asking things like "When do you think I'm going to hear from them?" and basically whining about not having a job. I understand that it's frustrating to not have a job. I understand it's frustrating to not hear from an employer, especially if it's a job you really want. Tell it to your friends, or your classmates, or your career services office. But, seriously, one phone call to a lawyer in the office is fine, then you get maybe one follow-up, tops. Any more than that, you're entering stalker land.

(Unless, of course, the lawyer is saying, "Call me back and let me know what happens!" Which wasn't what Joan did.)

But wait, it gets better. Then she called Joan again. And she went out of her way to thank Joan for her time. Which was nice. Sort of.

She said, "Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. I really appreciate it. You're the only one who even spoke to me. You know, I called someone else from our law school. Her name was Sarah. Can you believe she didn't even call me back? And I left her a bunch of messages. How unprofessional is that? She couldn't even give me the courtesy of a phone call? What is with some people?!?"

Not a good way to get a job. Here's a free tip: Don't bad mouth ANYONE, you don't know when you're talking about someone's best friend. And don't assume the worst about someone - if someone doesn't call you, maybe they're dealing with something more difficult than you can imagine.

p.s. I've heard she did not get an offer. Go figure.

A Public Defender Once Again

A recap of my first few days as a public defender.

I had to wait around a half-day while someone found the person who was supposed to know where my office was going to be. I met my supervisor. I finally found an office, although I've been told it's only temporary.

I got my picture taken for my ID, and for a court pass. I filled out some tax forms, some insurance forms. I got a half-hour class on my health insurance coverage. I got an introduction on vacation time, sick time, and some other stuff that I already forgot. (So long as I remember "vacation time" that's all that matters.)

I set up an email account and a password. I tried to set up my voice mail and phone but there was something wrong with the phone. I spent a few hours reading the internet because there was nothing for me to do yet and no one around for me to bother (and say, "Hey, can you show me around?") I got a little mailbox, and checked in ten times. So far, nothing. Some day, an empty mailbox will be a blessing, I guess.

I figured out the copiers, to the extent that they can be "figured out."

I spent a half-day just sitting in a few different courtrooms, just trying to get "the lay of the land."

Then, it turns out that there's a guy who is leaving at the end of the week. I'm going to be taking over a lot of his caseload. So he's been trying to fill me in on all of the unwritten details of his cases and introduce me to a few of the clients who have more involved cases. A couple of those cases are on for trial soon, so I'll have to decide whether I want to jump right in, and try a case immediately, or whether I want to go to the judges and play the "I'm new..." card.

I think it's going to get interesting fast.

First Reactions to "Raising the Bar"

I liked Indefensible. A lot. So, I'm willing to give Raising the Bar another episode or two.

I'd really like to see more of a serious, intelligent Law & Order from a public defender's point of view. If I cared about everyone-is-sleeping-with-everyone, I'd watch soap operas.

But, I'll give it some time. Let's see how it progresses.

Introspection

Is it time to start the introspection already? I guess so. Here goes.

I've been unhappy in private practice. For the most part, my remedy has been to "put on a happy face." I try to resist acting outwardly depressed, to the extent that I can control it. I think sulking can only bring further unhappiness, and to some degree, putting on a smile, whether real or forced, does make you a little bit happier. Some kind of inverse cause and effect.

But I had some fears about finding another job. My main fear was that if I found another job, and I was still unhappy, that it would prove that it wasn't just work making me unhappy, that I really am depressed. That there's something wrong with ME, not just my job. So, that's one fear.

My other fear is what I think of as my "summer camp" fear.

When I was a kid, I went away to sleep-away summer camp. And I hated it. I was the kid at the nurse's station every day, getting "homesickness medication." (Yes, they had this. And I can tell you that the placebo effect did very little for my actual homesickness.)

I don't know exactly what it was that I didn't like about camp. I made friends, I was good at the activities. But I just felt like crying the whole time. I was just homesick, plain and simple. And there was nothing particularly great about my home, believe me. I was swimming and playing games at camp, and if I was at home, I would have been doing chores. The only thing better at home was probably the food.

But, the next spring, when my mother asked me if I wanted to go to camp again, I would say yes. Maybe I thought it would be different the next year. Maybe my mother didn't ask me so much as tell me. I don't know. But I always eagerly went to camp, and I was always homesick.

It's a little embarassing to admit, but one year I was so homesick, I made myself throw up until the nurse made my mother come pick me up. This was after I had covered myself in poison ivy, thinking it would get my mother to come pick me up, but the nurse didn't think poison ivy was worth calling parents about. I wish I had known that before I was covered with a pointless itchy rash.

My mother came to pick me up, and quickly determined that I had played sick to get to come home. She actually made me work off the price of camp the rest of the summer. I think she told me that camp was $250 and I then earned about a dollar per chore the rest of the year to work off the price of the camp.

Years later, I found out that I went to camp for free on financial aid, so I think I probably got ripped off by my mother. Then again, I'm not sure that kids deserve a dollar for chores, I think chores are probably the price of being part of the household, so maybe we're even.

And if you're wondering what hating camp says about me as a person, the answer, according to Slate's You Are How You Camped is:
Some people hated camp so much that they made their parents bring them home . . . The come-and-get-me set grow up to be neurotic and needy. These are people who can often be heard on CSPAN's early-morning call-in program Washington Journal, filibustering from a time zone still blanketed in predawn darkness, until the host says, "Please state your question."
I, of course, respectfully disagree. I have never called CSPAN. I don't even watch CSPAN.

Regardless, here's where I'm going with my "summer camp" theory: Every spring, I had forgotten how much I hated camp the year before. And I again, went willingly. And again, I was miserable.

I wonder if it's almost like childbirth. They say that there are hormones or chemicals that cause women to quickly forget how painful the birthing experience was, allowing women to have more than one child, not be so overwhelmed with the memory of the pain that they swear off having further children. Although I don't see how summer camp would elicit those same hormones, although maybe the excitement of spring and the prospect of any upcoming summer would.

Back to the topic though. Applying my summer camp theory to my job situation, my fears were: (1) what if I was unhappy when I was a public defender, but I've already forgotten it and convinced myself that I liked it? and (2) what if I someday convince myself that I liked it in private practice and think "I loved that job, why did I leave it?"

What if I somehow end up on this crazy cycle of one year at a public defender's office, one year in private practice, miserable for the rest of my life, moving and taking bar exams all over the country? (Have I just proven that I am neurotic, despite swearing that I've never called CSPAN?)

Besides having my blog to reread, allowing me to relive my relative happiness and unhappiness, I've also taken to making lists. In a weird (again, somewhat neurotic way), writing these lists has been both a major reassurance to me as well as a source of anxiety. As if, if I can possibly get everything down on paper, I could prevent myself from ever feeling unhappy again. But if I miss something, I might be doomed.

My list entitled "Public Defender - Happy" list includes things like, "help people," "be what I wanted to be when I grew up," "lunch with friends," and "days off." My list entitled "Private Practice - Unhappy" includes things like "lonely," "miserable," and even more pathetically, "crying." My "unhappy" list includes names of clients that I particularly dislike. My "happy" list includes the names of some clients that had a particular impact on me during my public defender years. I'm going to miss my co-workers at the law firm, but I missed my co-w0rkers at the public defender's office, so I left that off both lists. I don't know how I'll know I'm done list-writing.

As far as money, it's harder to calculate than it sounds. What is the cost of happiness? How much would you need to be paid to make unhappiness profitable? And, even then, how long could you take it? I found myself always doing this weird accounting in my head. What the client paid, what I made, how much I was paid to take their abuse. Per word.

Sometimes I'm more mathematical. I'll try figure out the number of extra hours I worked per week (let's say at least twenty) and the amount of extra money I took home in a week (let's say $300) and try to figure out whether I could, instead, work as a public defender, and take a second job making $15/hour for 20 hours a week, and be happier. Work at Starbucks, tutor LSATs, babysit, waitress. But, realistically, it just doesn't work out that way. (For example, even if I could reliably say I'd leave the public defender's office at 5 p.m. every day - which I couldn't - it doesn't mean I could start a second job at 5 p.m. in some other location... Unless I found a public defender's office with a Starbucks in the same building... Do you see how your mind can get stuck on these ridiculous things?) What if I went to the public defender's office, and then took my 4 week paid vacation doing something that paid about $20,000 over the course of the month? Like, working retail at Christmas or maybe preparing income taxes during tax season? If I worked a ton of hours from March 15 to April 15, could I make that much? I doubt it.

Someone (windypundit) asked if I'd saved up money during my year at the firm to dig myself out of debt. Sadly, I haven't. I don't know where or how, but I spend a lot more money in private practice and it eats up all of the salary difference - or more. I spend more on suits. I work so late that I eat out most nights and end up paying for conveniences instead of things like grocery shopping and doing my own laundry. Overall, I don't know where the "extra" money went. Not into any of my accounts, that's for sure.

Besides the blog, and the lists, I've got a few good friends who have heard it all now. For the most part, I didn't want my friends to know that I was unhappy. First, I didn't want to be outwardly depressed, and, second, I guess I feel like it's almost like declaring to your friends that you're going on a diet. Some people like the peer pressure of having everyone ask, "How's the diet going?" but I know that, for me, that pressure would annoy me into eating a big brownie. But I told a few very good friends - friends that I could trust to kick my butt into gear to look for a new job, and to inspire me to do what I love and settle for nothing less. Perhaps most importantly to me, they heard all the sad and miserable crying and won't let me forget it.

I don't want to sound as though I'm complaining about my job. It's been an experience, I've learned a lot from it. I liked my co-workers, I liked my office, I know that the partner I worked for tried to give me the best possible experience. If this was a break up, I would have to say, "It's not you, it's me." And mean it.

But, irrational lists aside, I feel certain that I'm going to be happier as a public defender. Certain enough to take a big pay cut and start all over again at a new job.

I can't predict the future but I do know how this new job has made me feel so far. When I got the interview, I felt a little nervous, but good. When I got the offer, I felt even better, but still a little anxious. As soon as the offer was official, I finally told my bosses at the law firm. And I felt fantastic. Amazing. Call every number in my cell phone. Shout it from the rooftops. Throw the blackberry into the ocean. Last bell ringing on the last day of school ever. Run to the car, not knowing or caring where I'll go next. Drive with the top down on a perfect sunny day. And just keep driving.

It's like I've been waiting for the results from a very scary test result, and I've just found out that I'm going survive. Not just survive, I'm going to be great.

Can't Judge A Magazine By Its Title

This has nothing to do with either looking back at my current career or looking forward to being a public defender (again). It's just something funny.

Over at Above the Law , there is a post about an upcoming legal magazine for women. They're looking for the perfect name and are accepting votes. (Choose from such great names as the super serious "Women in Litigation," or the super silly "Trial Mama.")

Anyway, it reminded me of a funny story...

It was the summer I took the bar exam. So, that tells you where my mind was. I hit the gym at the law school, taking advantage of my last weeks as a student. The school gym didn't have TVs by the cardio machines, so I decided to grab a magazine off the magazine rack.

And they had this magazine there, the title of which made me think, "Wow, perfect! A magazine for lawyers!"

The title? Why, The Advocate, of course.

It must speak volumes of my little lefty liberal world and my bar-fried brain that it took me until halfway through the magazine before I realized, "Hey, this magazine doesn't really seem to be about lawyers at all..."

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Two weeks from now, I will once again have my dream job. Public defender.

I've got a lot going on in the next two weeks, including a possible jury trial, but I also have a few posts in my head I want to write, a kind of self-debriefing as I move on.

Thanks for going along on this ride with me.

OMG!

My former BFF, who you previously read about here and here, and who is now on facebook...

Has updated her photo to be a wedding photo!

And she added one of my friends as her friend, and wrote on our mutual friend's wall about where she's living and what her new husband does. (From the little thumbnail photo I can tell you it is not the reader!)

Mystery solved. And now I think I've lost interest. Except that I also wanted to tell you...

Her husband is not attractive. At all.

Karma, that's all I have to say.

Oh, wait... just one more thing. Does she even believe in marriage? Or, will it be no big deal if her husband cheats on her? Or if she cheats on him?

Ok, now I'm done.

More Questions Than Answers

Please allow me to kick the horse that may already be dead and follow up on one comment to More On Defending The Guilty...

Gidge, a (former?) prosecutor, comments:
I'd rather have the hypothetical "how could I get out of..." questions than someone make assumptions why I'm in my job. What kind of follow-up questions would defense attorneys prefer?


That reminds me of a funny story. I guess it was last summer, I was at an event where I was pretty much the only female in a large group of men, many of whom were drunk.

At some point the topic of me being a criminal defense lawyer arises.

To which, one of the guys asks, "Ok, so, let's say I didn't want to get arrested, but I wanted to start a business... you know, like, an "escort service"... but a "legit" one, you know? You know? Like totally "legit." Right...?" Complete with air finger quotes around the word "legit."

I guess the best follow-up questions are, "Wow, I bet you see a lot of interesting things..." That leaves the door open for me to either say, "Yeah, I do, thanks," quickly closing that door, or to say, "Yeah, recently, I had a case..."

I guess the other awkward follow-up that I get is confusion over what I do. Like, my doctor. Who, every appointment, asks me, "What kind of lawyer are you?" I think the first time I just said, "criminal defense." Every time since then, I've tried to explain what I do with a little more detail. Most recently, I think I said something like, "Let's say you got arrested. You'd want a lawyer who would help you tell your side of the story and try to help you avoid going to jail. That's my job." But, no matter how much I break it down, she always gives the same response, "Yeah, that's good, put them all in jail! Right? Right?"

Let's hope she pays more attention to my symptoms than she does to my career choice.

Anyway, back to the question: What kind of follow-up questions would defense attorneys prefer?

But, Everyone Likes Cake, Don't They?

Stop me if I told you this one before. It happened a while ago, but I don't think I ever wrote about it.

It was the first round of voir dire (jury selection). The courtroom is packed with almost one hundred prospective jurors, filling the audience. We start by addressing the first twelve as a panel. The prosecutor gets to go first.

I'm listening, but it's the same old stuff from every case. But then he's making some long, dumb analogy about reasonable doubt being like a recipe. Maybe you have some ingredients of the recipe, but you don't have all of the ingredients... could it still come out as the intended finished product?

I knew where he was going with this. The prosecutor didn't have a key piece of evidence. The police had given the allegedly stolen property back to the victim immediately upon my client's arrest. He's trying to make sure the jury is going to be alright with never getting to see that key piece of evidence.

My mind starts to wander just a little bit. I started to think that maybe when it was my turn, I would get up and follow up on his analogy. Maybe I would ask, "Ok, if you're asked to make a salad for a dinner party, and then realize that you don't have any lettuce, can you just toss the salad dressing in a bowl and call it 'close enough?' Can you hope that your dinner party guests will just smell the salad dressing and jump to the conclusion that you've made a nice salad for them, without you ever having to show it to them...?"

But luckily, something pulled my attention back to the courtroom. Just in time to hear the prosecutor address Juror Number Five, the lone obese man on the panel, by saying, "Mr. Smith, you like cake, right?"

Poor Mr. Smith turned bright red. One woman gasped out loud. The entire room gave the prosecutor dirty looks. To his credit, he kept on talking, as if maybe he didn't even get his faux pas. But there weren't enough peremptories in the world.

And there was no way I was touching that analogy with a ten foot pole.

The lesson to learn here is: Stick with salad, it's safer. That's the easy lesson.

I guess the slightly more complicated lesson is, look at someone and try to be sensitive to what their insecurities might be. But that takes a little more empathy than most young prosecutors have.

(Later, I overheard the prosecutor talking to a court officer. I think the court officer was trying to explain to the prosecutor where he went wrong. To which, the prosecutor, still clueless, responded, "But, everyone likes cake, don't they?")

Facebook Weirdness

So, I joined facebook a few months ago. It was all well and good until...

In the past few days, I've run into a few things on facebook that just make me feel... weird. There's no other word for it.

First, someone I didn't know at all added me as a friend. I checked her profile, and I went to high school with her. Except I don't remember her at all. Even after I've seen her picture. Maybe if she listed her maiden name I'd remember... but I've got nothing. I accepted her friend request because she's "friends" with a few of my other high school friends, so she's not a spammer or anything, but I have no memory of her whatsoever.

Weird, right, how some people from high school are so memorable, and others are so forgettable? It made me wonder if I was memorable or forgettable. Quite a few of my high school friends have added me as "friends," despite the fact that I haven't seen or spoken to any of them in about a decade, so I think that might mean I'm at least somewhat memorable.

Ok, so that was the first weird thing. Just a little bit weird.

Then, second. There was this girl that I was somewhat friendly with in high school. We certainly weren't close friends. And I've never spoken a word to her since graduation. But I liked her a lot in high school. I guess I would say she was almost the opposite of the first girl I mentioned - she was extremely memorable. She was incredibly outgoing, kind of the star of every situation. Strangely, I remember that towards the end of high school, there were some rumors that she was involved with some serious drugs (my high school was kind of a pot and beer atmosphere, at worst), and eventually I think I heard that she had dropped out of college. So I kind of never knew what became of her. It seemed like a shame, she had a ton of potential.

Anyway, I noticed her on facebook a few months ago when I joined. I could see her little mini picture without adding her as a friend, and she looked good and healthy and had some crazy outgoing (but typical for her, as I remembered her) picture. But I didn't add her as a friend because I kind of thought that she might not remember me - like I said, we weren't tight, and maybe I only remembered her because she was so outgoing, but maybe she wouldn't remember me.

So the weird thing that happened was that she added me as a friend on facebook, and, first, she looks COMPLETELY different, even from her picture a few months ago. There's no way I would have recognized her. And, second, she's a singer under a different name with some moderate success. And there was a link to a few of her songs, and she sounds really good. I would have never known. I always thought she had the ability to do anything, I could have totally seen her growing up to be an actress or something, but I didn't know anything about her as a singer.

But it got me thinking about how you don't really know what people are going to be when they "grow up." And how if I had gone to one of the bars she sings at with her band, I would have ever known that she was the girl that I went to high school with.

Finally, today, came the weirdest thing. I saw that one of my friends had found a new friend, and it said that my friend found this other person using "classmate search." So I clicked on classmate search. And guess who is on there...

Remember this friend? The one who stopped speaking to me after this terrible date?

Yup, she's on facebook. Weird, weird, weird, right? After all this time that I've wondered what ever happened to her, she looks exactly the same in her little picture and, from what I can see, it looks like she still lives in the same "region" where we grew up. As of right now, we don't have any mutual facebook friends, she hasn't added any of our other high school friends as friends.

That's all I know - I couldn't see her whole profile without adding her as a friend, and her inviting me as a friend.

Which I decided not to do. At least not right now. I think I'd be too upset if she didn't accept. And it would just be weird. And I hate feeling weird.

On the other hand, I think if she added me as a friend on facebook (without me friending her first), and she had a phone number on her profile, I'd probably pick up the phone and call her immediately. But I feel like she needs to make the first move.

In the meantime I'm feeling some real facebook weirdness. ugh.

More on Defending The Guilty

Anonymous Law Student follows up on my post on how to answer the oft-asked question, "How can you represent someone when you know he's guilty?" complete with a funny video!

One of the interesting things that comes out of ALS's post is:

It seems to me that there was a consensus that asking a person, "how can you defend someone you *know* is guilty" at a social gathering is somewhat crass. I think it's rude to ask a person to justify their job, especially at a casual get together.


So, is it a rude question? Is it crass for a person I meet at a cocktail party to ask, "How can you represent someone when you know he's guilty?"

I'll admit, when I hear the question, I feel a bit defensive. Maybe wrongly so, I'm not sure.

I haven't had many other jobs, but I waitressed in high school, I don't remember a lot of people worrying about the moral quandaries involved - it's not as a lot of people said to me, "How can you serve fatty food to people who are already obese?" Maybe waiting tables isn't a good example, but it's one job that I was never asked to defend.

I wonder if you could come up with a moral quandary for every job if you tried hard enough. In college I worked at a computer help desk. "How do you repair people's computers when they messed them up themselves, and you know they're just going to do it again?" Doesn't work quite as well.

But, maybe it's not meant to be rude or crass. Maybe I read too much into it. Maybe it's more like someone saying "Wow, a bus driver? How do you drive all around the city and pick those people up and drop them off?" Maybe they're not questioning my morals so much as expressing their awe...

Yeah, that's it, they're expressing their awe. Maybe the best response is, "Yeah, I know, it's hard, but I am pretty amazing."

Or, I also liked A Voice of Sanity's response:
You could always screw with their mind. Tell them, "The same way a funeral director can bury someone they know is dead".


Not that my client's prospects are as dim as the funeral director's, of course.

But, back to *the* question. What do you think... Is it a rude question? Are people just curious, and possibly well-meaning? Am I over-sensitive or too defensive? Those of you with other occupations, do you get any similar questions?

Apollo Justice? It's an Injustice!

Here's a first. My first video game review.

I found myself playing this video game, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. I just figured it out while "researching" for this blog post, but apparently it's a sequel to the more popular Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.

In this game, I am Apollo Justice (hey, at least I don't have to change my last name.) I'm trying my first case, defending Phoenix Wright (of former ace attorney fame), accused of murder after a poker game. (Hell of a first trial, I know.)

This game is a "text based" adventure game. It's almost like a comic book mixed with a "choose your own adventure" concept. I remember PC games from the late 80s-early 90s that were somewhat similar. Basically, you reading the story, clicking "next," and collecting information. Your job is to look for inconsistencies and then make objections based on the inconsistencies.

I didn't get too far in the game, so if I reveal any "spoilers" here, they're from the first chapter, which is about how far I got before getting totally frustrated.

My first problem with the game is that it absolutely nothing like real courtroom proceedings. I realize the game was developed in Japan, and I'm really curious to know whether this is how a case proceeds in Japan or if the creators just didn't bother with making the game realistic at all.

For example, the trial against my client started by me cross-examining my client. First of all, the defendant usually gets to testify after all of the other evidence is presented, or at least after the prosecution's case. Second of all, as the defense attorney, I wouldn't cross-examine my own client - I'd leave that for the prosecutor.

Then, when you find an inconsistency, you're supposed to object, and argue to the judge that the testimony is inconsistent. What?!? So, for example, in the game I played, my client is accused of killing a man by hitting him over the head with a bottle. My client testifies that he never touched the bottle. Then I'm supposed to yell "OBJECTION!" (and I do mean "yell," the entire screen shakes to show how loud my character is yelling) and argue to the Judge, "Judge, there's an inconsistency here," showing that my client's fingerprints are on the bottle so, obviously, my client isn't telling the truth. That makes no sense! Who's side am I on?

Throughout the game, I kept thinking, "...and then I got disbarred."



And there are other dumb plot things. For instance, the more experienced lawyer who is supposed to be mentoring me through this murder trial turns out to be a witness to the events. While it might not be mandatory, I would assume that would be something your mentor would mention before you start your first murder trial.

Another issue was that the prosecutor sprung a "surprise" witness on me. Now, every jurisdiction has their own discovery rules, some more liberal than others. But, so far as I know, in every case you at least get a witness list before the trial begins, if for no other reason than to allow the judge or jurors to recuse themselves if they know any of the witnesses.

And then (spoiler alert!), that surprise witness, turns out to be using a fake name and identity, and then reveals it by ripping her costume off, Scooby-Doo style. What?!?

So, that was frustrating. But, ok, I'll concede that there are many games out there that aren't realistic in terms of portraying a job or occupation.

I know anyone who has ever waited tables can tell me all of the problems with Diner Dash, and anyone who has ever run a bakery can describe how unrealistic Cake Mania is. (Especially the level in Cake Mania 2 where you open an outer space bakery and serve cakes to aliens - that probably doesn't happen too much.) The same goes, I'm sure for wedding planners and Wedding Dash, hair stylists and Sally's Salon, Zoo Veterinarians and Zoo Hospital, and surgeons have Trauma Center:Under the Knife. And so on and so forth, everyone's got a game.

Which is why I was so excited to try a game that highlighted my chosen profession.

But aside from the plot (which, for all I know, could be an accurate representation of Japanese criminal procedure), I also found that there were problems with game play. For example, after each segment of testimony you have the option of "press" (as in, press the witness for more details) or "present" (that's when you say "OBJECTION!" and present the inconsistent evidence.)

But when I "press" for more information, the answer might deal with one area of the testimony, but not the other. In other words, if the witness says "I sat at my usual seat in the restaurant and ordered my usual meal." I might want to press by asking "What is your usual meal?" (there was some food in the photo that I thought might be inconsistent) or "How long have you been dining there?" But the response was always "My usual seat is nearest the piano."

More frustrating, though, was that, basically, you couldn't make an objection until the game was ready for you to make it. For example, in a few instances I found an inconsistency and immediately made an objection. The judge would say he didn't know what I was talking about, and I would lose points. (Eventually you lose enough points that you "die" and have to start all over again - hearing about the facts of the case from the beginning again, or at least the beginning of the chapter. Very annoying.) Then, if you don't make the objections, you get through the testimony, and the mentor says something like "Why don't you listen to the testimony again? You missed an inconsistency." I didn't miss it, I lost points for finding it too soon.

I found that most online reviews of Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice were good, so perhaps it helps to not have a basis in reality that you must suspend.

I might give it another chapter, just out of curiosity. But, I'm curious, have any other lawyers out there tried this game? Or the original Phoenix Wright game? What did you think?

Overall, it's kind of frustrating to lose at a game that I should really kick ass at. I mean, amateurs, even kids, play this game, and I do this for a living and I get booted out of the courtroom? Of course I have to blame the game.

Cold Brewed Coffee

I guess I can get away with one more food-related post before everyone takes me off their criminal lawyer blogrolls...

Today, after reading all of the publicity, I tried cold-brewed coffee. I made it myself, and it is delicious.

I happened to have a french press already, so I used that. I filled it with 1.5 cups of cool water, and about 1/3 cup of coffee at night. I let it brew in the fridge overnight. This morning, I had to pour it through a little filter again, basically because I had overfilled my french press (but I'll be more careful next time.)

I drank it with lots of milk and sugar (it's strong!). It was delicious, all of the good of iced coffee without any of the acidic taste. Yum. I strongly recommend it.

If you don't have a french press, this is kind of a neat little cheap solution: Cold Brewed Coffee on the Cheap

Hummus Talk

Somewhat random, but I wanted to mention...

One thing you didn't know about me is that I love hummus. I'm a little bit of a hummus fanatic. I've been eating hummus nearly daily for about 8 years. I like to try different kinds of hummus, I like to make different kinds of hummus, I just really like hummus. I like to put hummus on all different things, not just pita. My favorite is garlicky hummus.

And I have a new favorite kind. It's Sabra's Roasted Garlic Hummus. It comes in a bigger tub than most hummus (which is good), it has a red ring around the lid (that's how you can find it), and it has real garlic right in the middle that you can scoop up. It's so much creamier than any other store-bought hummus I've tried.

I don't know how they make it so creamy, but it's delicious.

(This is not a paid advertisement. I'm just really enjoying that hummus. You should try it. Seriously. But, Sabra, contact me if you want to sponsor me. Because I've been trying to find your Caramelized Onion Hummus but I can't find it anywhere, maybe we can set something up...)

Wool Over Your Eyes

If I ruled the world, I wouldn't let kids be prosecutors right out of law school. Or, without having some kind of prior job or career or life experience.

It's not that I'm that much older than 24 (really, I'm not!), it just disturbs me to hear these 24-year-old kids, who are still living off daddy's trust funds, judge someone, as if they've ever walked a mile in any shoes.

They're just so clueless and naive.

Like this one: I was explaining to the prosecutor that my client was a really outstanding student, a fine young woman who was well respected by her classmates and professors. Something really traumatic happened to her, and she turned to drugs. She realizes now she took a wrong turn, she's been sober and she's seeking treatment to address her post-traumatic stress disorder.

I explained all of this, including the unfortunate details of the traumatic event, expecting a little bit of understanding from the prosecutor. But, instead, I got absolutely nothing. Which is funny, because, you know, if this prosecutor was prosecuting the person who victimized my client, then they would be quick to explain to a judge or a jury how no one could expect my client to not to be traumatized, how she couldn't be expected to just get on with a normal life.

But, no, nothing.

So, I continued, "Look, she's been through a lot, but she's getting her life straightened out. She's seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist..."

At which point the prosecutor interrupted, "Wait."

Wait? Maybe she's starting to get it?

"Wait," she continued, "You expect me to believe there's a difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist? You're just trying to pull the wool over my eyes. You're just trying to confuse me."

Really. They let these people judge people, decide their futures. How nice.

Defendants on the Web

This is an interesting read:
Web networking photos come back to bite defendants.

The issue of myspace or facebook pages, etc., comes up more often in private practice than it does as a public defender. Matter of fact, literally just this morning I got an email invite on my work address to be a facebook "friend" from one of my clients. I assume she invited her entire email list, and her criminal defense lawyer happened to be on that list.

Perhaps not coincidentally, we had dealt with the issue early in the case that this particular client had admitted to the theft of which she was accused on her myspace page.

The client denied the theft to me, and later denied the online admission to me, until the prosecutor presented me with a print-out of the myspace entry which read, basically, "Ha ha, I stole that shit from that bitch, she'll never see it again."

Both my client and "that bitch" were somewhat shady characters, neither particularly known for their truthfulness or reliability. The prosecutor told me that the office would have probably declined to prosecute the case at all had they not had that key admission.

So, let this be a lesson to the defense lawyers and defendants out there.

It's Not Perfect, But It's The Best I've Got

Let's say you were a doctor. And you had a patient. And he had AIDS. And it was totally his own fault. You know that he contracted from unprotected sex or sharing needles. Would you still treat him? But, how could you help fight AIDS when he totally did it to himself?

What about a patient who has emphysema or lung cancer but smoked his entire life? How could you help him fight the emphysema or lung cancer when you know he totally did it to himself? Does he really deserve a doctor and medicine when he did it to himself?

What about a kid who comes into the emergency room? He was doing stunts with his motorcycle and pretty much nearly killed himself - now he needs emergency surgery in your E.R. Does he really deserve it? How can you, as a doctor, help him, when he was just so reckless himself?

Even worse, what if he killed someone else with his motorcycle stunts? How could you possibly help him?

Shouldn't you just sit back and let those patients die? Shouldn't that patient just take his death sentence like a man instead of trying to find a "loophole" like medicine? Shouldn't he just kill himself immediately to save everyone else the trouble? After all, it's his own fault, shouldn't he just accept responsibility?

It's not perfect, but after five years, it's the best response I have to "How can you represent someone when you know he's guilty?"

Charitable Contributions

Some cases are clearly slam dunk winners for my clients. When those cases come along, a decision needs to be made - you can either go to the prosecutor and say, "Here's why your case is a loser..." and hope they see it your way and dismiss it, or you can sit back and wait for the trial, and win it. The risk with tipping the prosecutor off is that it might give him an opportunity to fix the hole in his case, by finding an additional witness or modifying the charges, for example. The risk of waiting for trial is that (1) if the prosecutor would have been willing to dismiss, you have wasted months of valuable time preparing for trial and (2) you could possibly be underestimating the prosecutor's case and be shocked when you lose (and wish that you had tried to plea bargain.)

Some cases are clearly slam dunk winners for the prosecutors. I'm talking about caught on tape, full confession, and the three eye-witnesses are a priest, a rabbi and a nun. In that case, too, you can try to beg for a plea bargain. If it doesn't come along, you might as well go to trial. For example, if the prosecutor's only "offer" is seven years, and you think a judge might give somewhere between five and seven years after trial, it might not be a bad thing to go to trial. Some trials aren't even about trying to win, they're about trying to humanize your client. For example, I remember a case from my public defender years where a drug addict client stole some property from his employer. The trial wasn't about showing he didn't steal the property, it was just about showing the judge that he was a messed up kid who was now trying to get his life right - when he was inevitably convicted, the judge sentenced him to completing the drug program he had already enrolled in.

Most cases fall somewhere in between. Even knowing your evidence, and the prosecutor's evidence, it's hard to know for sure whether you'll win or lose in front of a jury. Maybe my client did something wrong, but had a good reason, or didn't quite do something as bad as the exaggerating complaining witness describes.

In these cases, we're usually working both angles at once: preparing for trial and trying to work a plea bargain at the same time.

I sat down with a client in exactly this position last week. We are thoroughly prepared for trial, and I think we have a decent shot at winning. I wouldn't call it a slam dunk, and I think a lot of it will come down to getting lucky with a good jury. But my client has decided that he would like to see whether the prosecutor will offer him a good plea bargain, so that he could avoid the risks of trial.

Part of plea bargaining is negotiating the worth of the case - I'm trying to convince the prosecutor that I could win at trial, so he's better off getting something out of my client as opposed to nothing. Another part of plea bargaining is convincing the prosecutor that my client has some redeeming qualities that make him worthy of an offer better than the standard offer.

So, I sat down with the client and quizzed him about his life, hoping to learn some redeeming qualities about him that I could share with the prosecutor. I already knew that he works "in finance." My initial impression was that he is just an overgrown college boy - he likes to drink and party, and that's about it. (Does everyone like how I avoided using the stereotype of "frat boy," even though that's what we're all thinking? Oh, I guess I just failed to avoid it. Oh well.)

But I figured there might be something more if I really dug. But, as it turned out, there wasn't much more.

"Do you do any volunteer work?" I asked.
"How would I have time to do volunteer work? I work in finance."
Hmmm.

"Maybe you... donate blood?"
It was as if I was speaking a foreign language.

"Ok, how about a charity that you donate money to?"
I swear, he was looking at me like I had two heads. Surely he must not understand what I'm asking. Perhaps an example would help.

"You know, like, you hear about an earthquake in another part of the world and you donate $20 to the Red Cross or something?"
Silence. Should I try a different example? Something less global, more local?

"How about... at work? For example, maybe some woman at work has a son with a terrible disease and someone takes up a collection?"

Are you ready for his response? Are you sitting down?

"If he has 'some terrible disease,' I can't possibly see how I could get a return on that. He could die and I'd never see the money."

It was my turn to be silent. Really? He thought I meant a loan?

It's funny because when I was a public defender, I felt like my colleagues were much poorer, but much more generous - there was always a collection for someone or something somewhere. And I felt like my clients, also poorer, were also much more generous, at least with their time if not with their money. Many of my clients did some volunteer work - either at their church, at a neighborhood center, or at a program that had helped them.

But I see less generosity from my wealthier clients. I'm not sure whether that's the chicken or the egg. I suppose you could argue that they are wealthier because they prioritize saving over giving, working over volunteering. Or it could be that they're greedy jerks. Who knows.

All I know is that the best thing I could come up with to tell the prosecutor is, "One time he bought girl scout cookies from his niece."

One time.