Midterm Madness

When I got to my office this morning (early, I might add), I already had two messages from one client who was scheduled for court today.  I already had her file on my desk, so I was pretty familiar with it, and I was prepared to see her in court.

I've only met this client once before, right after she was arrested.  At the time, she was quite angry.  But sometimes clients are, understandably, most angry right after they're arrested, but then they calm down a little over time.

If I understood her right (and she's a little hard to understand, she's an angry mumbler, with a lot of "you knows" to things that I, in fact, don't know), her anger was based on, basically, a false defense.  This happens from time to time.  A client believes that they have a defense based on some urban legend or falsehood.  Kind of like the they-didn't-read-me-my-right-so-the-case-will-be-dismissed defense, which is based on a legal urban legend, but these are directed toward the facts of the case.  It's hard for me to explain, without just coming out and spilling her "defense," but I'll give an example.  It's like if a client was arrested for having an open container, and his defense was "But it was in a brown paper bag."  I guess there's some common misconception that having the bottle in a brown paper bag makes it legal.  It doesn't.  It just makes it easier for an easy-going cop to ignore but it wouldn't make a judge dismiss the case or make a jury find you not guilty (you don't get a jury for an open container case, but you see my point).

So, this client has one of these false defenses.  I explained to her that it was false but, at arraignments at least, she was very resistant to hearing it from me.  Like I said, she was very angry, and she really believed (falsely) that she was arrested without cause and that she had not done anything wrong.  Seeing as how she and I were on shaky ground already (basically, she was screaming at me) I decided it wasn't so important to disabuse her of that notion immediately, as I figured I could always bring it up again in a later conversation.  In fact, she had been offered a pretty good plea bargain at arraignments, which she probably should have taken considering she doesn't really have a defense, but she was really too angry and too convinced of her false defense to even consider it.  I was hoping that I'd have a chance to talk to her again, maybe today, before the offer was off the table. 

But I digress.  I came in, and I had two messages from her. 

So, I called her, and she told me, "I can't come to court today, I have a funeral to go to."  I said, "I'm very sorry to hear that.  I'll ask the judge to give you a new court date.  The judge might want proof that you were at a funeral, so you might as well see if you can get something while you're there today."  She said, "Ok."  I told her that I'd call her back later with the new court date.  As we were getting off the phone, I thought that it might be more persuasive to tell the judge whose funeral it was, so I asked, "Oh, by the way, who is the funeral for?"  She said "My sister."   I said again, "I'm very sorry to hear that.  I'll tell the judge and I'll call you back with your new court date."  And we got off the phone.

About five minutes later, my phone rang, and it was her again.  She doesn't introduce herself or anything, I just recognize her voice (and no one else was calling me this early.)  She just said "I have a midterm today."  I was confused, perhaps she had a midterm and a funeral to go to... maybe it wasn't the same client and I was just confused... maybe she wanted me to get her excused not only from court but also from her midterm?  So I asked, "Do you have a funeral to go to?"  And she said "No, I have a midterm," kind of argumentatively or defensively.  Again, I didn't really want to argue with her, so I said, "Ok, then, I'll tell the judge you have a midterm. I'll call you back to let you know what happens."  She said, "Ok," and hung up.

After that I got up to go to the copy machine and to fax something.  I ran into a colleague in the hallway and chatted for a minute.  As I walked back to my desk, I was thinking to myself that it was a little weird that this client would make up a fake sister's funeral just so that she could go take a midterm, but, hey, I guess I've been lied to about weirder things.

When I got back to my desk, I had a voice mail.  It was her again, again no introduction, and all the message said was, "You know what?   This is fucking bull shit.  I'm so fucking tired of this shit. [Mind you, she hasn't even come back to court once yet.] You know that I got locked up for no reason, you know that I didn't do anything wrong, you know that I [insert lame and useless defense here.]  You need to meet me half way!"  And that was it.  That was the entire message.

I tried to call her back.  It rang and rang, and then her outgoing message said something like "You know I don't want to talk to you.  Leave a message, maybe I'll call you back, maybe I won't.  The whole world is out to get me anyway." 

So, um, do you think she really had a midterm today?  


  1. OMG--the false defense thing is crazy. I had one guy tell me that they couldn't use his post-Miranda statements about how he was driving drunk because he was drunk and he heard that if you're drunk, they can't use what you say against you. Uh...yeah...about that...

  2. I worked for in the local county prosecutor's criminal division one summer. Because the office was on the bus line, a lot of the attorneys took the bus in to work. Because the attorneys were nicely dressed, others at the bus stop were suspicious. As such, the attorneys constantly had conversations similar to the following:

    Random person at bus stop: 'You a cop?'
    Attorney: 'No'
    Random person: 'You're lying, but you can't arrest me for anything because I asked if you were a cop and you said no and you would have to tell me if you were a cop. It's the law!'

  3. Isn't this a crazy business? I'm on the other side of the aisle from you so don't have to deal directly with such irrationality. Maybe that's WHY I'm on this side of the aisle!

  4. Don't you have to tell her she risks a bench warrant by not showing up (even if it's a funeral, let alone a midterm).

  5. Maybe. It is about the right time of year for midterms for fall courses. But she does seem not to see truth in the classic Western objective sense.

  6. I recently heard a police tape wherein two suspects discuss numerous false defenses such as "did they read you your rights?...No?...Well then you ain't arrested!" They were handcuffed sitting in the back of a patrol car while saying these things. They seemed pretty arrested to me.

  7. I didn't think she had a funeral to go to, and I'm pretty sure she doesn't have a sister, either.
    It is amazing to me the gap between how people (non-lawyers) think the law is and how the law actually is (or works out).

  8. LOL! I just found this blog and this is the first post I've read, but you must have the patience of a saint.

    I will be back for more. :)

    Check me out sometime --> http://neverbeenlivedbefore.blogspot.com/

  9. My colleague and I recently attended an overnight CLE course out of town. After the first day, we ran out to Wal-Mart to buy a 6-pack of beer (yes, we're classy like that). At the check out, the clerk placed the 6-pack in a plastic bag. In an attempt to be green, I removed the 6-pack and told the clerk I can just carry the beer by the handle. She looked at me and said, "Honey, if you put that [unopened 6-pack of] beer in your car, it better be in a plastic bag. Otherwise, you can get busted for open container. I heard that from a COP."

  10. Arrrghhh!! You must have the patience of a saint, dealing with this woman. It never ceases to amaze me, how delusional people can be.

  11. I've had some garbage clients in the past, and I think this one may not be worth your time. There's a lesson in this somewhere. I also agree with Juliet, you do have the patience of a saint. :) Great post.

  12. Love your website, by the way. And, we think we have a glorious job, right???

    Thanks for making my day!