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.


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?