Conflict Avoidance Behavior

One of the many perks of representing wealthier clients is that they can afford expert evaluations.

They can go to doctors of all different specialties, who can diagnose their conditions and write glowing letters to the court.

In particular, they can go to psychiatrists and psychologists who can write about their condition (most often, depression) and how that led to their behavior. And how they're getting treatment now so it won't happen again. And how their condition would make it impossible for them to survive in jail. Sometimes it helps, mostly in those on-the-cusp cases.

In sex cases, the psychiatrist will do an evaluation and report to the court the likelihood that the client will commit future sex offenses. This can help the client, for example, be placed in a lower classification as a sex offender.

One thing that surprises me is how honest clients are with the psychiatrist. They know exactly why they're going there, they know that the report is being prepared for the court's review. But they'll admit their fantasies about children and all of the times that they acted but didn't get caught. I don't know why - maybe they're relieved to finally be able to spill the details to someone. Maybe the psychiatrists are just really good at getting people to talk (that is their job, after all). Maybe our clients aren't too bright, and it never occurs to them that it might be better to downplay their symptoms a little bit. I don't know.

But regardless, the reports are always interesting, although sometimes disturbing, to read.

The other thing that is disturbing is that every single male client, no matter what they were arrested for - whether it was a sex offense, drug offense, traffic offense, whatever - admits to the psychiatrist that they have had sex with a prostitute. Every single man. Young or old. Single, married, with children, doesn't matter.

All of the clients are each told a few times - at least once by us, at least once by the psychiatrist - that there is no doctor/patient privilege, that everything they say will end up in this report that we will see, the judge will see, the prosecutor will see, maybe even their future parole officers.

So, why, then, will they sit in my office, with their wife, and say, "So, how did that report come out? Is it good? Can I read it now?" As if they're just so proud of themselves. At first, I would pass it to them in a sealed envelope, and I would say something like "You don't have to read it now, during out appointment, you can just look it over when you get home." And, invariably, the client would take the envelope and pass it to his wife. And the wife would thumb through it until she finds the mention and gets all upset, right there in my office.

But I can learn from a bad situation. This last time, when the client asked, I said, "The report is fine. So that we don't take up time reviewing it during our meeting, I'll give it to you at the end of our meeting." I guess he had seen it in the file, which was on my desk, just in front of me. Then my client reached across my desk and took the envelope and handed it to his wife. What was I supposed to do? Fight him for it?

I decided to play it cool. I kept talking, keeping an eye on his wife as I went. I knew the first two pages were basic biographical information, a description of the allegations. I watched her out of the corner of my eye, as she flipped to the third page, to the worst, most graphic information. I saw the color drain from her face. I don't know how her husband didn't see this coming, but I knew I didn't need to sit there and watch it.

"I'm sorry, I have to take a phone call, I'll be back in a few minutes." And I stepped out.

I could immediately hear shouting. I stayed close - I figured if I heard anything break, I might need to step in and make sure it wasn't anything of mine. And I figured I could go back in when the arguing ended.

About 10 minutes later, it seemed kind of quiet, so I made my way in, nonchalantly saying "I'm sorry about that. Now the next thing we need to talk about is..." I tried not to look at his wife. But then she interrupted, saying, "We're going to need a few more minutes." I saw that her eyes were all red and teary.

So, ok, I said, "Sure, no problem, just come get me when you're ready" and stepped out. I went and hung out in another lawyer's office for about a half hour. He joked, "Now you know why we don't do family law in the firm." Ain't that the truth, I can't imagine dealing with this drama every day. Finally the client and his wife came out. He saw me and said, "My wife says we have to go home, my wife said we'll reschedule to come back another day." Alrighty then.

I'm thinking my strategy for the next client is going to be to meet with the client in the conference room and "accidentally" leave the report in my office. Then I can "go grab it" to give to the client on their way out.

Now, if I could just find a way to wait until they're all the way in the elevator to hand it off...

Seriously, if I wanted to hear couples fight, I'd still be living with my parents.

On Judgmentalism and Vegetarianism

To be clear, I thought the host was wrong to say "oh well, I cooked with meat, but it's ok because he's an overweight vegetarian." And I think anyone has the right to eat (or not eat) whatever they choose. But, when you make a point of changing everyone else's meal to meet your wishes or needs, I think it's fair to assume you might open yourself up to their questions or concerns. And I think that it might be better to be open to answering questions that to have people make false assumptions about you or your motives.

I just thought it would have been more fair for the host to ask why the guest was vegetarian than to assume he was a hypocrite because of his weight. I thought she was wrong to assume he was a hypocrite. I don't see how that's judgmental of me.

Truly, I don't have any problem with anyone choosing to be a vegetarian. And I'll admit that I am bothered by the many vegetarians that I'm exposed to that are so preachy about their vegetarianism. Or, to be fair, maybe I only notice the preachy ones more because they are so outspoken. So, if there's a quiet go-with-the-flow vegetarian out there, good for you, eat what you want.

I guess it's hard for me to swallow (bad pun) because I was raised that if you are invited to someone's home for dinner, you do your best to eat what is put in front of you, short of maybe life-threatening allergies. I think asking your dinner host to change the entree to make it vegetarian (thereby effecting someone else and maybe many other people) is different from choosing a vegetarian entree in a restaurant or choosing not to buy meat at the supermarket (effecting only yourself). And I think it's different from asking that they leave the honey off the top of a dessert too. (Without knowing the recipe, I imagine that the honey could be left off only your dish and everyone else can enjoy their honey. If not, one could always skip dessert, it would be less awkward than sitting through the main course while everyone else eats.) I guess it's better to ask ahead than to show up for dinner and not eating anything but the salad (depending on what, if any, side dishes are offered), but maybe the way I raised has something to do with it. As a child, I politely swallowed many a brussel sprout, despite my wishes.

Which, I guess, vegetarians would argue, is different. I understand that, to some, there is a difference between my "dislike" of brussel sprouts and a vegetarian's "decision" not to eat meat. I don't know if I agree with the comparison of a vegetarian house guest to a Jew/Muslim who requests a Kosher/Halal meal. I guess, for me at least, that might I keep coming back to why the vegetarian is a vegetarian. I mean, in 7th grade I was a "vegetarian" but I certainly I don't think I was in any position to say "By the way, Mom, let grandma know she needs to cook a special vegetarian dinner for me." I could maybe eat an extra serving of salad and skipped the entree. But I certainly don't think my vegetarianism was the same as a Jew's request for a Kosher meal.

My post began because I was questioning the host's behavior, I thought she was wrong to be judgmental of the vegetarian. But I guess by admitting that I do sometimes wonder what is behind a vegetarian's decision, whether it's a fad for them like it was for me, or whether they have some commitment to it, I exposed myself as judgmental - if you think having questions is the same as being judgmental. Finally, then, I was judged by the vegetarians who left comments. So, I guess judgment is something that is going around.

On Vegetarianism

On the subject of hypocrites, here is today's question: Are vegetarians hypocrites?

First, the preface, which is probably pretty obvious if you're a long time Blonde Justice reader: I eat meat. Plenty of it. And I enjoy it.

I think that I tried a little stint as a vegetarian, maybe in junior high, I'm not too sure why. My first guess is that my friends were doing it, but I can't really remember if that was true. Anyway, it lasted maybe a month, at the most. I remember the night it ended: I went out for Chinese food with my parents - I can remember which restaurant, what booth we sat in - and I ordered my favorite, lemon chicken. Before the waitress could even walk away, my father asked me, "I guess you're not a vegetarian anymore?" Um, no, I guess not.

In a way, I thin I've always kind of associated being a vegetarian with this kind of junior high phase. And obviously, it isn't for everyone, but it was for me, and many of my friends. So was writing really terrible poetry. And, so, just to admit my biases, I think that for me, when someone tells me they're a vegetarian, I have just a quick passing thought of, "What are we, in junior high?"

Ok, so how did this question of vegetarians and hypocrites arise? Last weekend, a friend of mine had a little dinner party. One of the guests was a vegetarian (actually, I think he's vegan, but whatever). No, he was not in junior high, he was a grown man. This vegetarian also happened to be, under any medical definition, morbidly obese. After dinner, as we were cleaning up, the host remarked to me, "I didn't realize until it was too late, but I used chicken stock when I was cooking. I guess it doesn't matter. I don't know how he can say he's a vegetarian and be that overweight."

To tackle the issue of whether vegetarians are hypocrites, I think we first need to grasp why a particular person is a vegetarian. A few reasons that come to mind, although I'm sure that there are many more, are:
  • The most common, the "I love animals" reason.
  • Health reasons. These vegetarians believe that there are health benefits to avoiding meats or certain meats.
  • Environmental reasons. These vegetarians believe that land could provide for more people if it was growing vegetables or grains for human consumption rather than being used for animal grazing. Also maybe because cattle let off greenhouse gases too, I think.
So, let's assume, just for sake of argument those are the only 3 reasons for being a vegetarian.

Now, let's say you see a vegetarian wearing a leather jacket. Is he a hypocrite? It really depends on what his reason is. If he's an "I love animals" vegetarian, than yes, he's either a hypocrite or sorely misinformed about where leather comes from. But if he's a "health reasons" vegetarian, there is probably no conflict.

I'd need to do more research to decide whether an "environmental" vegetarian can or should wear leather - I would assume grazing cattle that have a future in leather are just as bad for the environment, but I guess I could see the flip side - Native Americans used all part of the animal - ate the meat, used the hides - and they are/were better for the environment than we are. But the truth is, the modern slaughter houses probably aren't providing hides to the tanner, unless maybe the "environmental" vegetarian lives on some kind of eco-commune, and they raised an animal in some eco-friendly way, and killed the animal for the sake of the group, but he didn't eat it (because he's an "environmental" vegetarian), but he got the jacket. But by that description he could have eaten this animal too, so this isn't making any sense, but whatever, now you see how my imagination works.

Ok, next up, a vegetarian who doesn't recycle. Is this hypocritical? Again, we go to the reason. If he is a vegetarian because he's worried about his cholesterol or something, who cares if he doesn't recycle. If he's an "I love animals," he probably should recycle because what's good for the earth is good for all animals, but I can see how that is a little more remote possibly. But if he's an "environmental" vegetarian, sure, he's a hypocrite.

Ok, finally, is an extremely overweight vegetarian a hypocrite? Sure, if he's claiming that he gave up meat to improve his health but his whole diet consists of pizza and cake, he's either a hypocrite or pretty uninformed in the ways of healthy eating. And we're not even talking about pizza with whole-wheat dough. But I think you can be an "I love animals" vegetarian or an "environmental" vegetarian, and acting strictly within those themes, still be plenty fat.

So, no, I don't think an overweight vegetarian is necessarily a hypocrite, but he might be one. It might not hurt to take a minute to ask your vegetarian house guest why he is a vegetarian, unless you feel like you would just be indulging his junior high attention-seeking-behavior.

Stickler

There's another associate at my firm who was previously a prosecutor here - in the courthouse where I practice now. Now he's at the firm but he doesn't do criminal defense - I'm the only criminal defense associate.

It makes for an interesting dynamic. He's one of the only people in my office with whom I can intelligently discuss my criminal cases. He technically has an interest in my success since my cases are the firm's cases - and therefore, he has an interest in sharing his "prosecutor's secrets" and tips for working in this criminal court and this prosecutor's office. On the other hand, he still has a prosecutor's "how can you defend those people" mentality.

So, somehow, he says to me the other day, I forget what the original conversation was about, but he says, "I guess I'm a real stickler for the rules. That's why I was a prosecutor."

But the thing is, I'm a stickler for the rules too. That's why I'm a criminal defense attorney. I think the rules and laws should be enforced fairly and evenly. I think it's my job to make judges, prosecutors, and witnesses play by the rules.

That's why I have a real problem with police officers who steal marijuana from the evidence locker and get high with their wife.

I have a problem with people who build their career on enforcing the law and being tough on crime, but also patronize prostitutes.

I am a criminal defense attorney, and I am a real stickler for the rules.

I know that not every prosecutor is such a "rule stickler." I know there are prosecutors who use drugs, or drink and drive, or worse. I know that not every criminal defense attorney is such a rule stickler, it takes all types. But I don't know why there's this stereotype that because I can "defend those people," I must not care about rules. I don't know why there's this stereotype (perpetuated by Law & Order) that as a criminal defense attorney, I must throw ethics rules to the wind, while prosecutors walk such a straight line. Obviously my experience is pretty one-sided, but I have seen quite a few ethical violations by prosecutors, and I just haven't experienced any by my colleagues in the criminal defense bar.

So, I'll say it again, just in case there was ever any doubt. I am a criminal defense attorney, and I am a real stickler for the rules.

Cop "Overdoses" on Confiscated Pot



A police officer and his wife from Dearborn, Michigan cooked up a batch of *special* brownies that included marijuana he confiscated from a suspect. He then called 911 because he thought they were dying of an overdose.

Key lines include "I think we're dead" and "Time is going by real slow." I love how the reporter just can't even keep a straight face, and you can hear another reporting actually snorting with laughter off-camera.

Even better, if you look on YouTube you can find a recording of the whole 911 call. Including the beginning, before the 911 operator picks up, when the caller is saying "And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." He really thought he was dying! How pathetic.

He also asks the operator "What's the score of the Red Wing game?" She asks why, (I'm sure she's wondering if this is some sort of prank), and he says "I just want to make sure I'm not hallucinating or anything."

He also plays this weird little game with the operator, when she asks if he has any weapons in the home, he says no. (I'm thinking, "Really? A police officer doesn't have a gun in his home?") Then she asks again later in the call, and he says "You already asked me that," before admitting that he does have a weapon.

And then finally he says that the police have arrived, and so has his mother-in-law. Ha ha, he first called his mommy to say "I think we're overdosing!"

You already know the serious side of this. This represents every dirty cop, every stupid cop, every clueless cop. Every prosecutor and potential juror should be required to listen to this. What in the world was he thinking?