He shared that the police hadn't been fair to him, that he had tried to tell them that he wasn't drunk, that the handcuffs were too tight, that he wanted to call his wife, and the police officers had not listened to him, had refused to listen to him, had persisted in arrested him and in keeping him cuffed tightly.
"A few weeks ago," he continued, "when I heard about all of these people protesting the police, I thought they should just shut up and respect the police. But, now, I kind of see where they're coming from me. If the police treated me like this, I can believe how the police could treat them even worse."
I'm so torn about this. I've been thinking about it for days.
On one hand, of course I am sorry that this man went through this, I am sorry when anyone suffers injustice. On the other hand, maybe there is a small part of me that is glad that one more person's eyes are opened to the injustice that others face.
As I said, part of me feels bad for what this man faced. But another, smaller part of me felt like saying, "Sir, part of having compassion for your fellow man, is being able to put yourself in his shoes without ever walking a mile in them. I've never been arrested and yet I have compassion for people who suffer abuse. Why did you not believe it until it happened to you?"
What do you think? Am I wrong? Should I just be glad he sees the light now, and sorry that this happened to him? Am I judging him too harshly?
A big part of my job is making up excuses. Especially about why my clients or my witnesses are late. When I was in the big city, I relied more on train trouble. In the suburbs, "He's just parking" is my new go-to. Everyone is always "just parking." Sometimes for hours or days.
But these are the things I think they should teach public defenders in law school. That, and copier repair.
My client left a message for me and spelled her name in the cutest way. I can't help but think that it took her some time to come up with it. I don't want to give up her name obviously but let's just say her last name was Grubs. Her message said "G as in Glitter, R as in Rainbows, U as in Unicorns, B as in Butterflies, S as in Stars." It was great! So cheerful... and I'll certainly remember to call her back! Oh, I'd better go do that!
Asshole client, who has wasted a ton of my time being an asshole client: Well, I mean, I have some critiques to offer her...
But today I heard my new favorite localism. My client was telling me about what happened with his cases in another county. "Judge gave me thirty days running wild."
(Note there is no article "the" here, always just "judge" instead of "the judge," "prosecutor" instead of "the prosecutor." If I want to assimilate, I'll have to give up the "the.")
Anyway, where was I? Oh, I followed up with, "30 days on each case? You had three cases there."
My client said, "Yeah, running wild."
It was then that I started to realize that maybe "running wild" was supposed to mean something, not just be some kind of exclamation.
"Running wild?" I asked.
"Yeah, running wild. You know, like I had to do all that time running wild."
I was so confused. How could you be running wild and doing time? If you're in jail, you're not running wild, right?
The client could sense my confusion because he then explained, "You know, 30 days then 30 days then 30 days so I had to do 90 days. Running wild."
"Oh... consecutive?" I asked.
"Back to back?"
"Yeah, that's what I said. Running wild."
To-may-to, to-mah-to, consecutive, running wild, let's call the whole thing off.
If not the "best," they're at least usually like-minded. And in a world where our chosen profession is often misunderstood, that is no small thing.
If you are a public defender having some doubts, or experiencing "burn out," I would suggest going to a PD conference, maybe even in another state, and making some new friends. It helps to realize there are people going through the same (or worse) challenges, and people you can swap war stories with - who haven't already heard all your best ones. It's like a little spa retreat for the professional mind.
I'm not going to go as far as to say that professional development can be a form of self-care, but at least the socializing aspect can be a form of... career-care? Is there a better term for it than that?
And, never say never, some day you might be looking for a new job and those connections you made might really pay off.