Saturday, December 29, 2007

And So It Goes

And so, the holidays have come and gone, and now it's back to the same old grind. Which actually isn't too bad, when I think about it. I got several clients out of jail over the holidays (we only get Christmas Day and New Years Day off), and only one of them has managed to land himself back in jail. While it's not a record for our office, it's fairly unusual for a client to get arrested on new charges less than six hours after being released. It really was kind of silly for the cops to arrest him, as the reason he was released in the first place was that his cases were dismissed due to him being incompetent to stand trial. I doubt that fact changed in the course of six hours. At least the old evaluation is still good, since it's been taking forever to get them done lately.

Betsy is growing like a weed, of course. She's still really cute, and I think she will always be playful. She and the next-door dog (Adagio is her name) are still getting on famously. I was a little concerned initially that once Betsy got older and bigger there may be a problem. Betsy's now nearly six months old, and nearing the rebellious teenage phase. She's also about as large (in dimensions) as Adagio is, but still lighter. But apparently, Adagio's perfectly fine with Betsy being the leader of the two. She's got no problem when Betsy places her forefeet across her back, and when Betsy wants to be mothered by me, Adagio backs off. There were a couple of teeth-baring incidents, but no actual fighting. Adagio must be some sort of retriever, so as long as she gets attention and play, she's happy. I unfortunately have no more pictures of this funny pair, as I lost my camera somewhere in Oklahoma over Thanksgiving.

I still can't believe how good Betsy was for our drive across the country for Thanksgiving. She slept the whole way, and was even good in J's apartment. She would have liked more space to run around in, but we had lots of walks and she got to meet geese for the first time. She was fascinated by them, but wished they were in a more compact group, and kept trying to get them rounded up. It was really unfair that they could just fly away.

Well, that is pretty much all the excitement to report. I will probably talk myself into getting a new camera before too much longer.

Until then, so it goes.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Best Friends

Betsy has been going over to the next-door neighbors to play with their dogs while I'm at work for some time now. One, in particular, she is inseparable from. This dog is probably about a year old, and looks like a small-ish golden retriever, except that she is completely black. She's a very sweet dog, too. So the time has now come that the neighbor dog has discovered how to come to my yard. She has also learned how to come in the doggie door, as well. After several attempts to fill up the hole under the fence and take her back home only to have her come back five minutes later, I figure I'd let her stay if she wants to. She can get back through the hole under the fence, and when I separate her from Betsy she goes back home. And it is really a lot of fun to watch them play together. They romp about and chew on eachother, and then curl up and go to sleep together.

I kind of feel sorry for the neighbor dog. Her big buddy got picked up by animal control a couple of weeks ago, and I haven't seen him since. (He can leap the 5 foot fence.) I told the neighbors the pound had him, but they apparently didn't get him. And the retriever-looking one doesn't have much to do with their minute chihuahua cross. Her family doesn't seem to spend much time with her either. All their dogs are always outside, and their kids don't even seem to play with them much. They didn't even come looking for her when she's been at my house most of the past 3 days. (She goes home at night.) So really, who can blame her for wanting to come by and play with Betsy and me? There's water, and a nice cool kitchen floor to sleep on, and friends to play with. I wonder why some people have dogs who don't seem to want to spend any time with them?

And this dog and Betsy really are best buds. They follow eachother around and whine for eachother when they're separated. Although before too much longer, Betsy will not be so easy to push around. She's already trickier than the neighbor dog. They were wrestling around together, and Betsy was getting her butt kicked. So she runs away and grabs a stick to chew. When the other dog lays off and isn't paying attention, Betsy jumps her and has her on her back. The other dog makes for the stick, but during a moment's inattention, Betsy grabs it from her again. The stick remains Betsy's.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

On Civil Obedience (or Betsy's First Day of School)

So, in my effort to raise Betsy in a manner which will result in her being a well-mannered, civilized beast, rather than a wild pack animal who is unwelcome in modern society, I signed her up for obedience class. Her first class was Tuesday. I must admit, I was nervous. I'd never been to obedience class before, and we had to miss the first class due to my being in training. She's gotten quite used to meeting new people, so I wasn't worried about that, but she's pretty shy of new dogs. But I should not have worried at all. She was great! After about ten minutes of "meet and greet," she became friends with a Saint Bernard puppy named Sarah. Sarah is two weeks younger than Betsy, but weighs about three times as much. They were really funny together. When both puppies had done the given exercise to the point they were becoming disinterested in it, we let them play together. I could almost hear their puppy conversation when they discovered these two hyper-active Chihuahua puppies, who were about the size of hairless, tailless squirrels, and Sarah and Betsy didn't know exactly what to do about them. So they watched them with cocked heads. Their conversation went something like this:

Betsy: What do you think those are?
Sarah: I'm not sure, do you think they play?
Betsy: I'm going to check and see. (Betsy approaches one of the Chihuahuas cautiously, sniffing and wagging. The Chihuahua squeaks and runs away, and the other one yaps in Betsy's face. Betsy runs back to Sarah.)
Betsy: I'm still not sure what they are, but they aren't fun to play with.
Sarah: Maybe they are mice?
Betsy: No, too noisy.
Sarah: Oh well.

Betsy did really well with her training exercises, too. She responded to her name, she sat and stayed really well (we'd been working on that at home) and she "left it" with much more predictability than I expected her to. She's also been better behaved at home since class. She almost always gets "off" the first time I tell her to, even though we didn't learn that at class, and it's been nearly two weeks since she's had an accident in the house. She also has been better about chasing and biting my clothing and jumping up on me. But part of that might be the time she spends next door playing with the neighbor dogs. I think at this point I may go ahead and leave the hole under the fence so she can go back and forth. The neighbor won't mind since if I block that hole, Betsy will dig another one, and they're fine with her being over there. It also gives her something to do when I'm at work and she's not so lonely all day alone. The more I think about it, the more I'm leaning toward getting her a buddy once she gets a little older. I'll wait until she's done with teething and house training for sure. Maybe when she turns one or so.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

My Week in a Nutshell (More or Less)

Things have been quite busy here, so I've been unable to blog about them. We had our orchestra concert last night. It actually didn't go as badly as I thought it would. And that Puccini mass is really quite pretty. It made me wish our conductor was a little more experience, and more able to give cues as to dynamics and such, rather than just the beat. I was a little miffed that the program didn't say I was the "section leader," but I'm sure my ego can take it!

Work has been quite strange. I seem to have my caseload pretty under control (for once). We now have fifteen licensed attorneys and I only have about seventy-five active cases. That's fewer than I can remember ever having. I still am quite busy, though. I've got three mentees now, in addition to random other people coming into my office and asking me questions. One of my mentees is getting her first felony cases, so of course she has all kinds of questions since she is no longer dealing with only dwi's and domestic violence cases. Another of my mentees seems to have two hours worth of questions every day. The strange thing is that most of her questions are repeats. So I'm not sure if she really needs help or if she just wants to chat. Because if she really needs that much help, she has the shortest attention span of anyone I know. But if she just wants to talk to me about the same cases into eternity, I really am not that interested, and have work I could be doing on my own cases. The third, I haven't figured out yet. She's actually not my mentee, she's my boss'. I don't think he realizes that even though she did graduate from an ivy-league college and practiced civil law for 2 years, it doesn't mean she understands criminal defense in New Mexico. He gave her felony cases right off the bat (a bad idea, in my opinion), and seems to expect her to know how to handle them without assistance. So, I go over all her cases with her and tell her what to expect, etc. But it is quite time consuming!

Another strangeness is that my boss seems to hold me responsible for whatever everyone else does. For example, an attorney (not my mentee) forgot to do something on one of her cases. She told the client about it, and appealed the case based on ineffective assistance. Apparently someone at the da's office did not like this, complained to their boss, who then complained to my boss. My boss then yells at me for about 20 minutes. How I came to be involved in this at all, I don't know. The gist of the conversation was that he didn't believe the attorney should have appealed (why not, I don't know) and that this makes our office look bad. I asked, "to whom," and he said to the da's! Who cares if our office looks bad to the da's? The attorney did nothing unethical or even wrong, and if the da's don't want us to appeal cases, that's their problem. And again, how is it me that he's yelling at?

Betsy's doing well. We went to the vets again for more shots, and she's up to 18 pounds now. She gained 5 pounds in 4 weeks, and is much bigger. Probably 1/3 taller and 2/3 longer than she was when I got her.

Potty-training is still improving. She goes 4 days to a week without accidents! Her genealogical makeup is still quite the mystery. My bf thinks she is part monkey, which I think might be right. She's got a prehensile tail and a knack for mischief. She's also quite the acrobat. She's a great jumper and escape artist. (I noticed this when she stole a hair-tie off the coffee table and then escaped when I went to retrieve it.) She can move! And sometimes she just runs around because it's fun. And then it's bed time...
I will really miss her when I have to go for annual training next week. (No puppies allowed at the hotel.) I was going to board her at the vets, but this shot was only the first bordatella vaccine, and she needs the second one before they'll take her. So she'll be staying with my secretary and her herd of cocker spaniels in the country. She'll like it. The secretary breeds cockers and so knows how to deal with puppies. She's going to fence Betsy away from the cockers during the day, because she's worried the cockers will pick on her. I think Betsy can hold her own with a cocker spaniel!
Oh, and I finished my tandem socks. I just need to re-bind them off because I bound off too tight.

Friday, October 12, 2007

On Law and Order

So, I have a confession to make. I love the TV show "Law and Order." The original series, not the spin-offs like whatever that one's called where the detective solves all his cases by making the suspect quake with fear and blurt out confessions as a result of the detective's uncanny ability to read minds. And the older seasons. The first four or five. Not the ones where Sam Waterston's assistant is a different bimbo every season. Once Jill Hennessy and Chris Noth left, it was not nearly as good. So, I was trying to figure out why in the world a public defender, like myself, likes this show.

Even though the former Chief Public Defender informed my boss that she did not believe me to be "sufficiently defense oriented" to be a public defender at one point (whatever that means), I certainly am not prosecution oriented. I have too much of a tendency to believe the best in people, I think. You know, "He didn't mean to beat his girlfriend to a bloody pulp. He was drunk and she was cheating on him." Or, "He had to forge $15,000 in checks he stole from his grandmother because he's got 5 kids to support and couldn't make rent with his minimum-wage job." I believe them when they say they'll never do it again, or they'll get help for their addiction problem and walk the straight and narrow. At least I believe they sincerely intend to at the time, even if it doesn't pan out in the end. (By the way, this is also probably why I would be a lousy judge, even if I wanted the power or the responsibility.)

So why do I love this show that is all about the other side? I think I've figured it out. This is the only lawyer show I've seen that treats the justice system with respect. And, it treats public defenders with respect. It treats the law and the Constitution with respect. The detectives are good cops, who try to do their jobs properly, and within the bounds of the law. It's true they really want to catch the guy they think is guilty and "nail" them. But they don't try to nail someone they think may be innocent just to make an arrest. They actually do care about getting the right guy. The ADAs actually do care about justice, as well as the rights of the individuals they prosecute. They will dismiss cases if they become convinced that they can not prove them or if they are no longer sure the guy's actually guilty. Also, while there aren't frequently public defenders on the show (the defense attorney's usually some very expensive private attorney with political ambitions or some other agenda) when they do, they aren't depicted as incompetents. They are shown as competent, or even very good attorneys. There's at least one episode where the pd wins the trial.

My answer to myself is this: I like the show because it is what the justice system is supposed to be. An adversarial system on a level playing field whereby the truth comes out. And this results (usually) in the innocent guy being cleared and the guilty guy being punished. (Although for you new lawyers out there, don't use it to learn rules of evidence or trial techniques!)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Puppy Update

So, Betsy is now eleven weeks old. She's growing so fast! She's able to climb onto the furniture. She knows she's not supposed to, since she usually comes right down when I see that cute fuzz-ball curled up on the sofa. She's really getting the hang of potty-training now, as it has been two whole days without any accidents. She actually takes it upon herself to go through the doggie door when she has to go, and then come back in to continue the playing. I'm kind of surprised, since I'm sure I'm less vigilant than I'm supposed to be. I'm still glad that I held off getting the carpet cleaned, though, in spite of my mother's urging! (Bo had trouble keeping food down the last few months, and I had a flood before that.) She has also cut down on the biting. She will still try to mouth me occasionally, but she usually only bites when she's really tired and hyper. But this is getting less, too. I think she finally trusts that I will not disappear or leave her when she's asleep. She's also catching on that some things are toys for her, and others she'd better keep her sweet fuzzy nose away from! I guess eleven weeks is roughly equivalent to a two year old human. At least it seems that way to me. You know, refusing to sleep when they're tired and getting progressively more hyper and unmanageable, and constantly testing to see where the boundaries are. I've been making use of both a squirt-bottle and the "time-out" approaches, which seem to be working.

The more she grows, the more I'm quite sure that she's probably got a lot more Rott in her than anything else. I saw a book on rottweilers at the pet store, and the puppy on the front cover looks nearly exactly like her. Betsy has more fuzz and a little more brown on her head and face, but the rest of the markings are exact. Down to the black triangle in the brown under her chin. She's also got characteristics that I was attributing to either German or Australian shepherd, but that may very well be rottie ones. (I couldn't help buying the rottweiler book.) For example, I had no idea that rotts were as smart as they apparently are. Nor that the herding instinct (which is quite pronounced in her) was so common in rotts. (She runs laps around the house with her toys, and is very good at fetch.) I also had no idea that rotts were as playful as they are. She's got the playfulness down! Here, she's investigating my violin. The case is fortunately quite indestructible!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Promotion!

Well, not exactly a promotion, as I don't get paid. But I've been somehow voted principle second violin at our little community college orchestra. Which, I think, is good for everyone involved. Mainly because it doesn't seem like any of my fellow second violins have the ability to watch the conductor and play the music at the same time. I also have a rudimentary understanding of what are helpful bowings and fingerings. The main problem previously, though, had been the section had no leader. The prior principle would not figure out bowings, and he would not pass them back if he did. So we always looked discombobulated, even if we were playing things right. I took it upon myself to arrange a meeting with all the string section-leaders to come up with bowings that actually make sense. And we actually sounded pretty good at our last rehearsal! We're playing 2 masses with the chorus, one by Puccini, and the other an American (whose name I always forget) who simply loves to change time-signatures every other bar. Also, there's a guy who wants to start a string quartet. Fun!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Court Craziness

So, my DWI trial for my deaf-mute client actually occurred yesterday. It was quite strange. First off, I was quite surprised when there appeared four interpreters to interpret the proceedings for him. (Too many cooks in the kitchen, anyone?) One of the interpreters had worked with him at all his prior proceedings, so I was comfortable that she would at least be able to communicate reasonably effectively with him. An additional issue my client has is that in addition to being deaf and mute, he does not read or write English. This is a problem, as a lot of sign-language has to do with spelling words where there is not an "official" sign for them. And obviously court proceedings have a lot of words without signs. (e.g. plead, witness, jury, testimony, etc.)

I knew this was going to be interesting when, before the trial even started, one of the interpreters expressed concern with my client's understanding of the proceedings. She told me she thought I should raise competency. She also expressed concern about interpreting for my guy's wife, who would be a witness, something about divided loyalties to the client. Now first of all, my client is not her client. Her client is the court, for which she is interpreting. (And I hate it when people uninvolved in the proceedings try to tell me how to handle my cases. Especially people who are not lawyers and who have known my client for about 3 minutes.) My second problem with this conversation was that there was no way I had a basis for raising competency, even had I wanted my guy to stay in jail another 6 months waiting for an evaluation. Now, the guy isn't a brain surgeon, but he had previously understood the basic concept of witnesses testifying, jurors making a decision about whether he was guilty or not guilty, and the roles of the prosecutor, the judge, and me. While he didn't necessarily know those terms, he could definitely grasp the concept once explained with terms he did know. He also had no problem assisting in his defense, as he had made it very clear that he was not driving, his wife was, and he was therefore not guilty of DWI. So, rather than taking the time prior to trial actually starting to help me explain to my client how things like picking a jury actually worked, they spent their time arguing with me about what my client did or did not understand and what I should do about it.

So, voir dire started without my being able to speak with my client at all. Then, in the middle of voir dire, it became clear that one of the interpreters could not use signs that my guy understood. So, rather than simply not using that one, the interpreters wanted to stop the proceedings to confer. The judge, of course, would not. So they had their conference after voir dire. I thought at that time that they were probably going to walk out. They were from an advocacy group for the deaf. Normally, in my opinion, a laudable thing. However, they seemed unable to grasp that their jobs as interpreters is to interpret, and not to advocate. That is my job. So rather than a conference to discuss a manner in which they could accurately convey what was occurring to my client, they apparently conferred about how they could yell at me for not getting the judge to dismiss the case. They kept trying to explain about the "bigger picture" and how I was violating my client's right to due process. Now, obviously the judge was not going to dismiss a case because the interpreters are unable to interpret. He might declare a mistrial, resulting in my client being in jail an extra 6 months waiting for retrial, which I don't want to have happen. He might also grant a continuance to allow the interpreters time to figure out how to interpret, again meaning my client is in jail longer.

So, as calmly as I could manage, I explained to them that if they wanted a continuance, they could ask, but I would not. The judge had made it clear to me that the trial was going to proceed, whether there were interpreters or not and whether they were effective or not. And that it was not my job to advocate for the deaf at large, it is my job to advocate for my client in his criminal case. It is also my job to get him out of jail as quickly as possible, and that would only happen if the trial occurred sooner, rather than later. So, no, I would not ask for a continuance, and I would not ask for a mistrial. If they wanted one, they could ask, but they would not do this. Given that, I told them that it would be better for my client if they got their heads together and figured out a way to interpret accurately, rather than how I should be handling the case. I mentioned that my clients due process rights would also be violated if his case kept being delayed due to ineffective interpreters who obviously had some other agenda, and that if they walked out there would be no interpreters, thus violating my client's rights even more.

Apparently, this was not an effective speech, as they actually did walk out after the first witness. They went on a rant to the judge about not having notice that my client is Navajo (which they did, as I had told his original interpreter before he even had his first appearance) and they would be violating their ethical code by interpreting in a way that my client did not understand. The judge threatened to throw them in jail for contempt if they left, and I reminded them that if they did leave, there would then be no interpreters at all, violating my client's rights even more. I almost wish the judge had gone ahead and thrown them in jail. Maybe that would have straightened them out on what their roles are as court interpreters!

In any case, we ended up getting my client's daughter to interpret, rather than having a mistrial and delaying the proceedings even more. She wasn't the greatest, but she did manage to convey enough of what was going on so my client was able to follow reasonably well, and the wife's testimony (who is also deaf) didn't go too badly, either. After all that, they ended up convicting my guy. According to the foreman, it was because my guy went into the drivers' seat to wait for his wife and daughter to get out of the Wal-Mart, rather than the passenger seat. Oh well. It's not like we don't have appealable issues in this one!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

No, I Haven't Quit My Job

It just seems so much more interesting to talk about fuzzy puppies, than the doings of the criminal justice system in Podunk, NM. But there are things going on. The first is that my second murder case pled out Wednesday. It was a horrible plea offer, and he would not have gotten a worse sentence if it went to trial. But the idea of the State filing for the death penalty scared him, even though there is only the minutest of possibilities that the DP filing would make it past the judge, never mind the jury and the appellate process. But it was what he wanted, so now he's going to die in prison, in all probability. How many people do you know that can make it to 75 years old in prison? But I don't feel nearly so bad for him as I did for my last murder defendant.

More news is that mental health court is underway. It is as I feared. The judge simply wants to create a program so she can say she's created a program, rather than creating a program that can really help the situation. In other words, her belief is that we should go the easiest possible route and have mental health court as part of probation, so we don't have to actually do any planning or come up with new ideas. She just wants it to be exactly like drug court, and have drug court running it, since that program is already in place. She turned a deaf ear to my suggestion about a diversionary program, and pretty much has ignored me since. There's a new ADA participating who can't even tell the difference between the competency docket and mental health court, knows nothing about mental illness, and spends her time screaming at the rest of us about such things as dress codes and whether the participants in the program should be called "clients" or "defendants." And we still have no services here that can actually help the mentally ill. The service provider we are using has only 2 therapists, no psychologists, and a psychiatrist that comes once a month to write scripts.

I had only one trial since I last posted. It was exceedingly strange, as the state "found" the surveillance video of the incident at about 9 the morning of trial, they had to send someone to get it, which took until about 10. Then we both had to watch it and argue about whether to exclude it, declare a mistrial, or what should go on while the jury was sitting there. No one could ID my client other than that he "strongly resembles" the guy on the tape, and my client went crazy in the middle of trial. (Talking to himself, laughing, etc.) He had previously been found competent, but had obviously decompensated while in jail.

And I have a trial Thursday that involves a deaf-mute that cannot read or write English, who was found parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot and got charged with DWI. We've been trying to have the trial since May, but there are recurrent problems getting an interpreter. I really hope to win this one, as he really didn't do it. His wife had driven to the Wal-Mart and was inside when the cops showed up. She comes out and tries to tell the cops that she was driving, but this is difficult, as she's deaf, too!

Anyway, that's the latest with work. I also am continuing to play my violin. We're thinking of getting together a string quartet! But for now, I am going to go to the grocery store, watch the rest of the football game, and work on my tandem-socks.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Observations on a Puppy

So, never having actually had a puppy before, I'm finding it absolutely amazing just to watch Betsy grow and learn and discover the trials and joys of life. We're discovering each other, which is immensely fun! With help, I've narrowed down the breeds I think she's composed of. Australian shepherd is definitely in the mix, as is Rottweiler. Probably chow, as well. There's almost certainly nothing in there smaller than aussie, as her feet have come close to doubling in size in the three weeks I've had her. I took her to the vet's and she weighs thirteen pounds. Fairly good sized for a 9-week-old puppy, wouldn't you say?

She's also got quite the interesting personality. She's quite shy when being taken to new environments or being exposed to new people and dogs. But she does not run away, whine, bark, or bite when she is shy. She sits and watches. (A rott thing, I believe.) If she sits there long enough, and nothing extremely bad happens, she eventually gets up the courage to investigate things, usually by trying to eat them or play with them. (A puppy thing.) She was extremely good at the vet's. After her initial fear of the building itself, she only wanted to play with the vet. Even after having the shot and her temperature taken! She's also made friends with the dogs next door, all except an extremely ugly chihuahua mix, who tries to attack everything. She loves the labs, and tries to get them to play games with her through the chain-link fence. The younger lab will sometimes oblige, while the older one supervises, and disciplines the younger when he feel things are getting out of hand.
I also gave her a bath last weekend. She didn't care for the whole idea, but once her initial attempts at escape were foiled, she sat and took it. And then compensated by trying to get as dirty as possible immediately thereafter while giving me dirty looks.

She's also displaying distinctly aussie characteristics. She loves to hide her toys, and I have yet to find her cache. I think she's buried them. She herds me, as well as attempting to herd such things as ants, and she herds her toys as well. She collects the toys, and they must be within a certain distance of each other. She believes herself to be a mighty hunter. Her favorite toys are those at least twice as large as herself. There's this pillow that Bo used to sleep on that Betsy loves to pounce upon, shake, and drag about the house. It's at least three times her size. Weren't rotts cattle dogs at some point?
As with all puppies, once she has chased, played with, and chewed on all things she can locate, tried to behead them, and put them in her special spot, it's nap time!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A New Addition

Everyone, meet Betsy!

She's about 6 or 8 weeks old, I think. German Shepherd mixed with at least one other breed. Maybe some rott. After a busy day of riding in a car, going to the pet supply store, and investigating my house, she's now sound asleep on my bathroom floor. How could anyone resist that face?

She was pretty shy at first, but after the initial shock, she started doing regular puppy things like playing with chew toys and stuff. It was impossible to get her to sit still for a picture, but after chasing her around with the camera for a half-hour, I got a couple decent ones. And she likes me, too. She's been following me around since we got here.

I've never had a puppy before, so I hope I do a good job with the training and stuff. She's obviously not potty-trained yet. She's been at the animal shelter her entire life. But I get the general idea, and bought a crate and everything. Bo never was trained to use a crate, so it seemed silly to start when he was 8 years old.

I'll say this, though: There's nothing that can cheer a person up better than a happy, boundy, fat-tummied puppy!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In Memorium

Bo: November 1991-August 29, 2007

Loyal friend

Faithful guardian

May you be young and free

Be at peace


Friday, August 17, 2007

On Prosecutors Who Shouldn't Be Prosecutors

I've been wondering lately when some of the ADAs I work with are going to figure out how to do their jobs! There are a couple of young-ish ones who have absolutely no clue how to figure out the strength of their cases. Now, you may say I'm being unfair and that they will get the hang of it in a few years. They've both been at the DA's office for over two years now! When are they going to get it together? They don't even start looking for their civilian witnesses until the day before trial. They don't interview any of their witnesses at all. They just take it for granted that what is contained in the police report are the "facts" and those people on the computer-generated witness list will show up at trial and parrot what is in the report. Never mind that I've been telling them for months that their victim is out of town, has recanted, or whatever. You know it's bad when they call me to ask if I know where their own witnesses are!

Cases in point: I got a case a couple of weeks ago with an Aggravated Fleeing and receiving a stolen vehicle plus a mess of traffic violations. We go to the preliminary hearing and the ADA happily tells me that two officers had come to court and he was ready to proceed with the hearing. I tell the ADA that the officers clearly did not follow the procedures for a high-speed chase (an element of agg fleeeing) and that he had no one who could testify that the vehicle was in fact stolen, much less that my guy had any reason to know it was stolen, so my guy would plead to failure to pull over for the officer and the traffic tickets if he'd dismiss the felonies. The ADA then argued with me about whether the pursuit procedures had been followed, so I told him fine, we'd sort that out at trial, but for now, I'd be ok with waiving the prelim on the agg fleeing if he'd dismiss the receiving and release my guy on his own recognizance. No, he didn't want to do that either, as my guy has a host of prior felonies. So, after waiting another half-hour for the ADA to finally make his decision, we have the hearing. Why it took 3 hours to get to this point, I have no idea, but there we were. An hour and a half into the hearing I realize neither of the cops could even ID my client as the person driving the car! Apparently, the ADA hadn't even asked them before the hearing! The whole case then gets dismissed, and the ADA gets a lecture from the judge on preparedness.

Next case: We were set for trial today on a domestic violence case where the victim has both disappeared and recanted. She mailed both me and the ADA a letter months ago explaining that she had lied to the officer and my guy didn't touch her and if she were required to testify that he did, she would be committing perjury. The case drags on. Yesterday, the ADA calls me saying she was (just now!!) reviewing the file and did I know how to get a hold of the victim? I said no, but it wouldn't do her any good anyway, in view of the letter we both received. I asked whether she was now going to dismiss. No, she has to think about it. What is there to think about?! She has no case! Further, why wasn't she thinking about this prior to the day before trial?! She dismissed the case this morning while a jury panel was waiting.

I guess the thing that bugs me is that this kind of indecision is so time-consuming and wasteful of resources. We routinely receive plea offers where it's clear that the ADA has not looked at the cases. The ADAs sometimes offer extremely lenient pleas (which I take in a heartbeat) and then they get in trouble with their supervisors. Or we have nonsensical trials or dismissals the day of trial where the plea offer is extremely harsh and not at all in line with what they can prove. A good ADA is able to look at a case, gauge its strength, and dispose of it accordingly; either by offering a plea that is on par with what they can prove or by dismissing the case. This mamby-pamby procrastination drives me crazy! Why can't they just make a decision, based on the facts of the case, and then they would be able to back it up! Without wasting every one's time with trial settings that everyone knows won't happen. I do like both these ADAs on a personal level, but I can't help thinking they're in the wrong line of work.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tandem-Socks and Sweater-Parts

I've been meaning to start my "tandem-socks" for quite some time. See, a while back, my knitting buddies (Y and MD) and I all decided we would knit a pair. (Tandem-socks in tandem, as it were...) According to the instructions, you knit both socks of a pair simultaneously on two circular needles, from the toe up. As I'd already done individual socks on two circulars, I figured two socks would be exactly the same. The only difference would be the toe-up factor. So the three of us dutifully bought our sock yarn and our two circular sock needles. And then we waited. Both MD and Y had other projects they wanted to finish, so I started my lace scarf while waiting for them, having yet to finish the sleeves of a green cable sweater. I vowed that I would in no way have more than two projects going at one time, as this would likely lead to an ever-increasing number of partially finished projects. So, a couple weeks ago, I finished the sleeves of my cable sweater, stitched the shoulder seams, and did the neck. It's now drying in preparation for seaming together and weaving in the ends.

When I finished my sleeves, I decided to look at the tandem socks again and dive in! Y was done with her project, and MD couldn't really get enthused about the Aran sweater she's started (it's still getting over 90 degrees pretty much every day here ) or about ripping out this really cool looking camisole. (It's always depressing to rip stuff out.) Her camisole problem was that while the yarn was gorgeous and the pattern was gorgeous, the two didn't really work together well. (She called it her chain-mail camisole because the yarn knit together quite tightly, while the pattern was light and airy.)

Anyway, while looking at the instructions for the tandem-socks, I became quite alarmed. I just couldn't picture how to start the things! For those of you who knit, you know that you usually have instructions like: Row 1: this stitch, that stitch, do this and that; Row two: do these other things, you now have X stitches; etc. Or you have a chart that grids out the various stitches or colors in a stitch-by-stitch, row-by-row fashion. Never have I seen directions like these! They were written in paragraphs! It began with this long explanation of the concept, then it would tell you what you were actually supposed to do. There were poorly illustrated pictures of needles with stitches on them, that I could not make heads or tails of. (And I'm fairly good at figuring stuff out.) Finally, I just guessed.

It's actually pretty cool how they work. Instead of doing a "provisional" cast on thing with short rows (as is usual when you start at the toe of the sock) you simply pick up stitches along the cast-on row by holding the knitting upside-down! Very unique! And at knitting night yesterday, I helped Y figure it out, so the two of us have begun... (MD couldn't make knitting night.) Now, I'm all excited about my tandem-socks. It's just so cool! And my wool is quite pretty. (As well as machine-washable!) While at the moment, they seem to look more like the ears of a kitten than anything else, I am confident that they shall form ...SOCKS!

Monday, August 13, 2007

If At First, You Don't Succeed...

Sometimes, I am just stubborn enough to be good at this! I just wish it didn't always take so **** long! In the past two weeks, I've received three favorable rulings from the Court of Appeals.

One was a meth possession case that was reversed and remanded because the State did not have either their drugs or the person who analysed them. The judge simply allowed the report into evidence and the lab guy testified over the phone from his car. The lab guy didn't have the drugs or his report, either, he was just testifying from notes. Of course these notes were in his car with him, so neither counsel could see them. The Court of Appeals ruled that this violated my client's right to confront witnesses against him. (Ya think?) At the time, the judge had told me in chambers that the lab guy wasn't that important, as I didn't have any real questions to ask him! Alas, in spite of the judge's quest for efficiency, we now must re-try a case that's over 2 years old. (And he's served all his time.) But, maybe we won't have to re-do it. I'll take odds on the State being able to locate either the lab guy or the drugs!

The second was the result of a relatively new law called "Aggravated Fleeing," which no one, least of all police officers, seem to understand. It's written in an immensely convoluted fashion. Basically, it makes leading cops on dangerous high-speed chases a felony, rather than just the misdemeanor resisting or evading an officer. The cops, however, need to be conducting said chase "pursuant to the Safe Pursuit Act," yet another confusing statute, which tells law enforcement to make a pursuit policy and gives guidelines on the policy they should have. Anyway, to make a long story short, the cops following the guidelines laid out in the Safe Pursuit Act is an element of Aggravated Fleeing, the state didn't prove the cops did this, so back it comes. This one doesn't much matter, though, since this charge was run concurrent with my client's 7th DWI, which carries twice as much time as aggravated fleeing, anyway.

Last, and my favorite: (This one's published, and they quoted a whole chunk of my cross of one of the cops! They didn't name me, though, I'm just "defense counsel.") The Court of Appeals determined that in a DWI trial, the State has to lay some minimum amount of foundation to show the breath machine was actually functioning properly before admitting the results. The cop just saying, "they regularly check it" does not suffice. I like this one best because it was a very memorable trial in which the judge was constantly overruling my objections without letting me explain them, yelled at me for trying a case with "no defense," and even yelled at my client for not pleading guilty and maxed him out because he didn't plead guilty. (He said this on the record.) This case is now 3 years old, and my client's almost done with his parole by now.

The down side of all this is that the judge was immensely pissed. Normally, I don't care, but he said today he was going to issue warrants to all my clients whose cases got reversed and make them sit in jail for 6 months pending re-trial. Then sentence them to the max again. I felt like telling him that if he'd just conducted the trials properly the first time, he would have nothing to be mad about, but I restrained myself. The sentencing doesn't matter much, since they've already served their maximum time. It just bugs me that he can't get it through his thick head that an "efficient" docket is not one that convicts people as quickly as possible with little effort on the State's part! How efficient is it to still be dealing with these cases 2 or 3 years later? If he had just done it right the first time, they probably would have been convictions that would have stuck! Even if there were acquittals, he could always blame the juries and the cases would still be concluded. And if he really does keep them in jail pending trial specifically because their convictions got reversed, that's appeal-able too! (And very likely to win!)

Friday, August 10, 2007

When We Were Young

What strange creatures we were when we were young. It's something of common knowledge that children are honest. Perhaps brutally so. But I think that when we were younger, we were highly observant, as well. I look back on observations I made at the age of eight. Or nine. Or ten. At the time, they were perfectly obvious and unremarkable. To me, anyway.

I remember my father taking me to orchestra concerts, beginning when I was about eight. I saw Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg play Bruch's violin concerto around that time. She was probably in her early 20's then. My father asked me what I thought, as was usual. I said that she was wonderful and I loved the Bruch, but why was she so angry? And she was angry. I knew this in the incredibly certain way that kids have. And I'm still quite certain that she was. I hear some of her stuff now, and there is a completely different, more relaxed feeling. Maybe she's grown up a bit from those angst-ridden early 20's years.

There was another time, when I was yet again riding with my father to a concert, but this time we rode with his friend, who played French horn. The French hornist was seeing someone that would be sitting with me in the comp ticket section. She was quite in love with him. (And this was obvious to a ten-year-old!) My father and I drove back alone. (Looking back, I guess that the French hornist rode back with her boyfriend or stayed there.) My dad asked me, as always, what I thought. I remember quite clearly that the thing that stuck out to me most was not the music that was played. I don't even know what was played now. What struck me most was that my dad's friend's boyfriend was exceedingly chatty. He talked about absolutely everything. Except he did not talk about her at all. That struck me as odd, as she was the only thing the two of us had in common in the world! So, I told my dad that I didn't think he loved her as much as she loved him. This was quite obvious to me. But sadly, not to the French hornist until a little while later.

Would that I had that same observational skill now! And that honesty. Now, I would possibly know these things. I would be able to hear and see them, but not speak them. I would second-guess myself. How do we lose this confidence in what we know to be true? Is there a way to get it back? Will I ever again be able to look at a person and know that they are angry or happy or in love? Is there a way to re-learn how to look at a situation and describe it in so succinct a manner? In this way, I guess, I was much smarter when I was ten, than I am so many years later.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Warm-Fuzzy Moment in the Midst of Craziness

This week has been insane. The strange thing is that according to my calendar, it really shouldn't have been. Monday, we had regular "pit day." Where they got the name for this, I don't know, but it's where we do pretty much every kind of hearing that does not require witness testimony: pleas, arraignments, sentencings, etc. I had a moderate 6 cases, and should have been done by 10:30. Not so. I had normal preliminary hearings Wednesday and Thursday, 2 or 3 each day. Not bad at all.

The craziness occurred because I was set for a trial today and one tomorrow, on cases that should never have hung around for nearly this long. So my entire week was spent attempting to resolve them. Of course, I have been attempting to resolve them ever since their first "pre-trial conferences" in May at which I received a plea offer for each case that, with a couple small adjustments, would have been fine. I called the ADA on each case immediately after that "pit day," and left messages about what I thought would be a reasonable plea that the clients would take. The plea offers at that point were such that my clients would lose nothing by having trials, and they were easy fixes. (On one, just a sentencing recommendation that the judge was going to follow anyway, since she'd never been in trouble before at all, and on the other a plea combining both pending cases, that really should have been filed together in the first place.) I didn't hear back from either ADA.


Monday. On Monday, each ADA calls me and leaves frantic messages demanding to know whether I was going to "make" them have trials. Of course, I was in court when they called. (They don't need to attend "pit day.") So, I call each back, leave messages (very specific) on what would make the pleas acceptable. They return the call, but do not actually leave on the message whether they're willing to do what I ask. Of course by this time, I'm on the phone with the clients involved re-assuring them that they won't have to have a trial (neither of them wanted one, with good reason) and just to be by a phone in case they need to come in on short notice to do the plea. This judge won't call off a jury without a plea or dismissal in place in case something falls through. So at the same time, I'm calling the judge's clerk telling her I doubt the trials will happen, but I can't find out from the ADAs whether we have agreements. This goes on all week!! Fortunately, these particular clients are very responsible, want their cases resolved (without trials if possible) and have functional telephones. I finally get what I had been asking for all along from the ADA's (Tuesday, on the one set for trial today, and today for the one set for tomorrow) and am able to schedule a change of plea and get word to my clients for yesterday and today, respectively.

Now, it may not sound like last-minute plea hearings should be that taxing. The hearing itself takes all of 10 minutes, we've got the paperwork and the client, and I'd already told each client what the plea would entail (if I get what I want, which I finally did) what's the problem? Well, our county includes 5 different courthouses in two different towns. The prelims I was doing yesterday and today begin at 8:00 and 1:00 each day. So, to get to the plea hearing, I had to leave prelims, do the plea, go back to prelims, etc. In addition, I had a couple other random hearings (of course at different courthouses than the other hearings) and a mental health court meeting (more on that when I'm less angry with all involved). I've used a half-tank of gas since Monday just driving to various courts and to the office!

Anyway, this afternoon, I finally wrap up the last plea, and only have to worry about next week, which will be as bad, if not worse, since I'm set for 4 trials, and for half of them I cannot find my clients. So, we're doing this plea today, and afterwards, the judge wants to see me in chambers alone. For you non-lawyer types, this is very odd. In almost all situations, the ADAs come, too. If for no other reason, it's so there is not any reason to believe an impropriety is occurring. We're in a small town and a rural area, and we're quite informal compared with most courtrooms, in terms of attire, the manner in which you address the judge, etc. Sometimes the judges just get friendly (in the most benign sense) with the attorneys. But in that case, usually you just chat whether the judge is on the bench or not. You don't get called into chambers for a friendly chat. So, I figured I was going to be yelled at for something. Or at least informed of ways in which I could improve myself. (My district judges tend to be quite "grandfatherly" towards me, which does have its benefits and drawbacks.)

What he actually wanted to tell me was that he knew that it was not my fault that these things kept happening at the last minute. He said he never has any question whether I'm being diligent or honest with the court, and that if I said the ADAs were the hold-up, he knew that it was true. How cool is it for a judge to find me to have that much integrity? And to actually tell me that he found me so. I don't know that I've had a higher compliment in my entire legal career.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Of Lace and Symphonies

I am trying my hand (or hands, actually) at a couple of new things this summer. I am knitting lace and going to orchestra. The community college has a little orchestra. It even has 4 or 5 french horns and several sundry woodwinds! I haven't seen a clarinet yet, but there's an oboe, a flute, a trumpet, 2 or 3 trombones, and a bassoon. But sorry, Daddy, the bassoonist is quite young. Very good for being all of 15, but he gets nervous, and chokes. I think he has it in him, though! (They drafted high-school kids to fill out some of the lack in that department for the summer...) It's really quite fun. I do miss playing, especially with people.

I played violin from the time I was nine until I graduated college. I used to be fairly decent. Not a virtuoso, by any means, but decent. And it's fun to teach some of my second-violinist cohorts some tricks. (e.g., fingerings and how to mark half-steps and other handy music marks so you don't get lost in endless whole notes, etc.) Some people wanted me to play first (primarily N, who got me into this in the first place), but there are at least twice as many firsts as seconds, and the herd of high-school girls that made up the rest of the firsts seemed to be adverse to switching parts. Even if some of them do play with their mutes on all the time! (for reasons passing understanding). I don't mind. I played second in college and sang either alto or tenor in high school. Contrary to what N says, second isn't really more boring than first, you just have to listen more... With most "real" music, you usually get just as much "tune-time" as the firsts do, it's just lower. (And therefore easier to make it sound really good!) Besides, as seconds, you're more involved with everyone else, rather than just waiting until you can play the pretty tune... Anyway, it's fun, and makes me all nostalgic. And we are playing one piece of "real" music. Overture to Barber of Seville. Always fun. We're doing the quintessential summer orchestra thing a week from Friday: a concert in the park. (how original!) Of course, I'm not sure who will show up, since it's July in the desert. It's either a hundred degrees outside, or there are thunderstorms (with high winds) in the evening. Good planning guys!

My other new summer thing is attempting to knit lace. Lace has heretofore intimidated me. I'm not sure why. Possibly the complex looking charts it seems to require or maybe the very fine yarn. However, about 2 months ago, I saw this gorgeous-looking picture on the internet of a scarf and tam (with pattern, and recommended yarn) which lured me in. And who am I, if not up for a challenge? So I dutifully purchased the pattern and yarn suggested (only $5 for a skein of baby alpaca lace-weight yarn! And the scarf only requires one skein!) and I sallied forth! When the yarn came, I was intimidated again. It was about the thickness of thread. But... so far, so good!!

I seem to be doing ok. There are diamond-y things at the sides, and the North Star in the middle. I will be able to pull out the yarn-overs (the holes that make the design) when I block it to make them more obvious. But you can see the pattern!!! (There's a single point at the top that I haven't got to yet -- it's symmetrical with the bottom.)

So, see, I do something besides work!!

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Two brightly-colored, springy, fluffy, made-all-by-myself socks! (Ha, ha, ha.)

Granted, the second sock took a lot longer than the first. But I was doing other things than fueling my newly-found knitting obsession. Going on vacation, having many trials, having my family over, trying to remember how to play violin, etc. But somehow, work seems so much more meaningful when there are other things going on in my life. I'm not sure why that is, exactly. But it seems that whenever I can think of nothing besides my clients, cases, and judges; nothing is very fun. Maybe it's about stepping back. Maybe because I now am doing other things that I enjoy, I can step back from my clients and their problems and see them more in perspective. Not to say I no longer care about my clients and their problems: in fact I seem to care about them more. But I no longer live and die by whether they are in or out of jail or whether I lose their trials. So I guess now that I'm doing some things that make just me happy, I can expend more emotional energy on their problems. I have the emotional energy to expend. Does this make sense?

Oh, and part of this feel-good-about-work thing is about a strange encounter I had the other day: I was at the Wal-Mart and this lady comes up to me. She looked vaguely familiar, but for the life of me, I couldn't fathom where I knew her from. It turns out that she was on the jury panel I had for two of my trials last month. Inexplicably, I had two trials, a week apart with the same panel. (That is, the big group of people from whom the twelve jurors are chosen. Here, they use four 60-person panels that serve for a given month.) Anyway, this lady explains that she was on that particular panel, she served on one jury, but not the other. She tells me that she really enjoyed me, that she liked me, and wished me good luck. (It wasn't until several hours later that I was actually able to figure out which juror she was, and remembered that I really liked her too! The State struck her in the second trial.) It just gave me pause to think that Jane Citizen would make the effort to compliment me in that fashion. And it seemed extra-strange that she would do so after being on the first jury, which convicted my guy within 15 minutes! (That part didn't surprise me at all, although I did figure I would have more of a chance if she ended up being the foreman. She wasn't.) I mean it struck me as an amazing thing that a juror on a DWI case (a HUGE social issue here) would walk up to the guilty guy's lawyer in the Wal-Mart and compliment me like that. It kinda gave me warm fuzzies...

Anyway, I seem to be rambling a bit, so I'll stop. I'm waiting for the pics of the socks to upload. There seem to be "blogger connectivity" issues...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Back into the Swing of Things

I took two weeks off from work the first two weeks of June, so everything was hectic at the end of May as I attempted to not leave too big a mess for everyone else to fix. I then went out of town and did nothing at all work-related for a whole week. It was GREAT!! I didn't even do much knitting. I did nothing productive, and just played. The next week, I didn't do much of anything. I caught up some of my housecleaning, etc., but mostly, just relaxed.

But the last two weeks have been completely crazy. Why is it, that no matter how hard you try to get things set up and organized prior to being away from the office, it still seems like everything's in complete disarray when you get back? Apparently all my judges decided that my cases all needed trials immediately upon my return. Fortunately, only two of them actually materialized, and they didn't really require much preparation. They were both DWIs with no real defenses, the guys just wanted trials. (No one pleads down DWIs in this state, so there really was nothing to lose.)

But this week, finally, I'm finally getting back on top of things. I've put my files in the cabinet, the papers in my files, which accumulated in the past couple of weeks while I'd been in court and trying to sort out my trials. Who knows, I may actually have a chance to return some phonecalls and get to the jail!

Another exciting thing (well, to me, anyway) was that I actually went to orchestra rehearsal Monday. One of the private attorneys has been bugging me for about 4 months to go, once he found out I used to play violin. I played since I was 9, and all through undergrad, but quit about 8 years ago. I started and stopped occasionally the past few years, but nothing serious. Anyway, rehearsal was a lot of fun, and I wasn't as horrible as I feared I might be. While not the best one there by any means, I also was definitely not the worst! We're playing some movie music stuff, but also the Overture to Barber of Seville. N (the guy that talked me into going) even got me over to another violinist's house this afternoon for a kind of group practice. That was also lots of fun, but it did remind me that my fingers are extremely out of shape and wimpy. 2 1/2 hours rehearsal Monday and another 2 1/2 hours today pretty much turned them into noodles. But they are callousing nicely...

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Such Is Life

I watch my doggie
He's sleeping
His right fore-foot twitches
He's dreaming
"Hmmph, hmmph," he barks in his sleep
His breathing increases
His eyelids flutter
All four feet are moving, chasing
His heart is racing
"Hmmph, hmph, hmf"
He's panting
There's a jack-rabbit running ahead of him
My doggie races through the tall grass of his dreams
He sees the ears of the rabbit zig-zagging ahead through his sleep
He's in pursuit
He's young again
Forward he goes
Chasing... running
He is so happy
Blessed Oblivion!
He sinks further into sleep
His feet stop moving
His breathing slows
Is he still dreaming?
Did he catch him?
Is he still carefree and wild?
He snorts and looks up at me
Something woke him
He struggles to his feet
My baby!
How I wish you could be in that world forever!
Young again
And free
Such is growing old
Such is life

Monday, May 28, 2007


Final Update:

Back into English! I'm done with tweaking!!

Another update:


An Update:

My months suddenly seem to be back in English, so that's a plus...

Original Post:

So, I've updated my lay-out a bit, so I can use this "click and drag" feature as advertized with the "new blogger." It doesn't seem to me any better, as they don't even have the old template fonts, meaning you still have to mess with the code even if you want to put it back the way it was in the first place. Furthermore, my archives mysteriously ended up with the months of the year in Spanish, for what reason, I haven't got a clue. Maybe I'll just take out the archives altogether and not worry about them being in Spanish. I'll continue with the tweaking, rather than doing what I'm supposed to be doing today.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Good News, Bad News

How about the good news first? The good news is that last week, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded my client's felony DWI conviction. They agreed with me that yes, the State must subpoena the lab technician who tested my client's blood to testify in person, regardless of the inconvenience of making him drive half-way across the state. The bad news is that the case is unpublished, and therefore, we will probably have to appeal several similar cases before the judges all get the point. Also, my client will probably opt to keep the conviction, rather than go to trial, as he has now served all his time and probation. (He got a pretty good plea deal). The good news is that it gives one a pretty good feeling to say, "I told you so," to a judge who is so convinced all my clients are guilty, and who likes to by-pass all "technicalities" of the constitution in order to efficiently convict them.

More bad news: My trial on Thursday was a complete disaster. The charge was child abuse, and the facts to support it were that my client was drunk in the vicinity of her 18-month-old child. You know it's a bad sign when the Judge politely informs you prior to trial that it would be the best thing for your client if the jury convicts her! The only good thing that happened all day was that the judge excluded my client's "prior bad acts" that the State wanted to use to show that she is a drunk. The judge had at least three grounds on which he should have granted a mistrial, including the officer "accidentally" saying that my client had been to prison, the State saying in closing that since the child was not crying, he was obviously familiar with this situation, and that the jurors had a responsibility to "break the cycle" of something, I'm not even sure what! Oh, the best part was that all of a sudden at trial the child was lying and crawling around on broken glass. I still am not sure where that came from, other than the officer took a picture of the alley this happened in on Monday, and there was glass in the picture. (Of course, since the incident occurred 9 months before the picture was taken, the judge should never have allowed the picture in, but that's life in the big city.) Oh well. Can you say "cumulative error"?!

Friday, May 25, 2007


One brightly-colored, springy, fluffy, made-all-by-myself sock! (Ha, ha, ha.)
It actually didn't turn out too badly, for a first attempt. (I had a couple of visible errors while getting used to dealing with the two circular needles, and I had never "grafted" before. By the time I got the hang of that, I was nearly done with it.) I was so proud of it, I had to wear it around the office today, even though it doesn't have a match yet. (No court today.) I finished it while listening to a client's rantings. Incidentally, they were the same rantings he had yesterday, and the day before, and the day before... My sock is surprisingly comfy, too. I was concerned that it might feel scratchy or lumpy or something. But it really doesn't. When I got it home, I washed it, and blocked it, and it's drying in the picture.
My knitting buddies have decided to all knit what I've been calling "tandem socks." You knit both socks of a pair simultaneously on two circular needles. The directions looked complicated, but after having knit one sock on two circular needles, and spending a great deal of time trying to figure out how it works by myself before learning that there is a very good book on this subject, I think I understand how the two socks are supposed to work. So, we will be all knitting tandem-socks in tandem.
I still haven't figured out which yarn I want to use from my pair of "tandem socks," though. There's this really pretty self-striping yarn I found on the internet that's treated with herbal oils. (Softens hands while you do knitting, apparently.) They say it won't feel greasy, but I'm not sure I trust it without touching it. I also am not sure how I feel about spending 18 bucks on one ball of yarn! (I did comparison shop, too, and that's the cheapest I found it for.) Additionally, I still have one more sock to do of my pair, and I'm almost finished with another sweater I started, and I bought a ball of this gorgeous yarn to do a pretty lacy scarf which will probably be a Christmas present for someone (I'm not sure who yet, so quit guessing, you guys!)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Forray into the World of Socks

So, it seems to be spring now, and I'm growing bored of knitting big, poufy sweaters. So, I thought I would try my hand at socks! I like to wear them, so I figured I would see if it was fun to knit them. So far, so good!

On Tragedy

One of the problems with blogging about a job like this in a town this small, is that there are some times when you can't write about what you want to. I'm semi-anonymous, meaning select people know who I am, but the general public does not. And I would prefer it to remain that way. For example, I'm not thrilled with the idea of someone at the local newspaper finding my blog, and linking it to me. (They haven't, yet). I figured you all deserve an explanation about why I haven't blogged much in the past few months.

It's mainly because what I really wanted to write about was a certain (quite serious) case that had been ongoing for over a year, and that is now finished. (Caveat: I'm not divulging confidences, this is all public record and most of it was in the paper.) The whole situation is immensely tragic. The original charge was an "open" count of murder, meaning the state could file for the death penalty. My client had stabbed a girl upwards of 30 times with a steak-knife and then shot her with a composite bow and arrow. She had been my client's best friend's girlfriend. They were to be married. She had a 3-month-old baby, who saw the whole thing.

My client had been released less than a week before this from a mental health hospital, in a town far from his home, with no money, no transportation, and his prescriptions. Not the actual meds, just prescriptions on pieces of paper for his anti-psychotic medications. He had begged them not to discharge him, he was afraid he would hurt someone. They discharged him anyway.

His hope for the outcome of all this was to be sent to the State mental health hospital forever, so this would never happen again. He was extremely remorseful, and initially wanted to receive the death penalty. The only way to get him to the mental hospital would have been to have the judge find him incompetent to stand trial and dangerous. However, by the time the competency evaluation took place, he had been stabilized and was competent.

Ultimately, he pled to second degree murder and tampering with evidence, and was sentenced to 26 years in prison. He absolutely did not want to put the victim's family through a trial, even though he had a viable insanity defense.

The sentencing hearing was gut-wrenching. Ten of the victim's family members spoke. I have never sat through a longer, more difficult hearing in my life. The most tragic part of this whole thing is that all of this could have been prevented. One life was extinguished, another destroyed, and innumerable lives were changed forever. All the result of the lack of proper mental health care.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Response to Futility

I'm not sure what it is, but lately, so many people around me are acting as though everything is futile. Maybe it's the job we do. Or maybe it's got something to do with a 23-year-old kid gunning down over 30 people for no reason anyone can comprehend. But over and over again, I keep hearing that there's no point to working up a trial (for example) because we're just going to lose anyway. Or why should we get involved in anything, because no one is going to listen.

This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course if you go into a thing believing it will fail, you aren't going to put all you can into it. Therefore, it probably will fail. If you speak out on something believing no one will listen to you, they won't. Why should they, if you don't believe what you say is important enough to be listened to?

I can't tell you how many trials I've won that I thought I was going to lose. I also cannot tell you how many clients I've had who lost their trials and thanked me profusely for trying for them, even though it didn't work. I've also had clients who wrote me letters while juries were deliberating, that said, in different words, "no matter how it comes out, thank you for helping me." I've had clients that took plea bargains, rather than going to trial, and ended up in prison who still wrote me letters about how they appreciated what I'd done for them.

I know it's an over-used cliche, but life really is a journey. It's not only about results. Don't get me wrong, results are great. I'm happy about good results and upset about bad ones. (It's the perfectionist in me, I think.) But that's not all there is to either this job, or to life. When I'm on my death-bed and I'm thinking about the life I've led, I'm not going to say, "I wish I'd won that trial," or "I wish I'd made more money." I'm (probably) going to say, "I wish I'd been kinder to more people," or "I wish I'd tried harder to help them." I don't know if you all have noticed, but the people around you notice when you try to help them. Especially if there haven't been many people who've tried to help them in the past. And isn't that what this job, and this life, are about?

When put in this context, how can anyone say something is futile? We have no way of knowing what the "results" will be of our actions, or how our actions will affect those around us. Our purpose is simply to try. To help. To show kindness.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Procrastinators of the World, Unite!

Ok, so I've always been something of a procrastinator. I studied for exams the night before, I wrote papers the night before. It took me until two weeks before the bar exam to start studying for it! I've tried to be better about this. I try to prep my trials earlier and pay my taxes before April 15. Nevertheless, I still am reviewing my jury panels the day before trials, and I just now finished filing my taxes. A whole day early! Of course, that could have something to do with the fact that I thought tonight was the deadline, rather than tomorrow...

Maybe this is just the way I'm wired. When cramming for a trial, I come up with some of my best stuff at 10 or 11 the night before. On the rare occasions when I actually start writing a docketing statement (like a statement of issues for the Appeals Court) prior to the day before it is due, I can't get myself to focus on it. I find myself staring into space or not having a clue how to begin. Maybe I was just built to do everything at the last possible moment. (Although I wouldn't recommend it for paying one's power bill. It tends to result in a dark house and extra fees.) And anyway, what's so wrong with procrastination? As long as the thing gets done eventually...

Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Good Week

Well, it's been a while since I've posted, but I didn't really have that much to say before. Now I do! Wednesday, I finished my second knitting project! It's a bag to hold my knitting. (Yes, those are knitting needles at the top.)

I should have probably done that before, because it was getting annoying to carry around my sweater in a big gym bag. But that's done and I can now move on to something more exciting. I finished the bag in about a week, mainly because I was in a hurry to move on to something else. It was incredibly boring rectangles. And this Cousins woman cannot even manage to measure rectangles accurately. (7 1/2 + 7 1/2 + 11 does not equal 32). In any case, I am going to the knitting store today to get yarn to start something more fun. Something with cables, probably, and a pattern by someone besides Suss Cousins!

In other exciting news, I won my trial on Thursday! It may not seem exciting, since it was just a drug possession, but as it's been since September 11 that I've won a trial, it was exciting to me. I felt kind of out of practice, to tell the truth. That was the first trial I'd had since mid-December, and that trial was quite boring. My guy's defense in that case was he wasn't that drunk (never mind the .22 breath score). My Thursday trial was the strangest drug trial I've ever seen. To begin with, the State didn't have their drugs. The drugs were at the independent laboratory where we had sent them for re-testing, and the judge inexplicably wouldn't continue the trial. It was the prosecutor's first ever drug trial, so she had a hard time laying the foundation for the drug test results without the actual drugs. In other words, she kept forgetting that you have to show that the things the lab tested were the same things the cops had seized from my client's car. She had to re-call both cops to the stand after she had already excused them. Additionally, the cops' testimony was quite confusing, as they had searched numerous bags and boxes in my client's car, pursuant to a search warrant, and couldn't keep straight exactly what items came out of what containers. They mixed up what they had taken from where when they were packaging their evidence initially. This turned out to be important, as my client testified on the stand that three of the bags (it turns out the three bags containing paraphernalia and the stuff that tested positive for meth) were a friend's. My client was keeping the friend's stuff in her car because the friend was moving out of her boyfriend's place and didn't have anywhere to keep her stuff. All in all, a very good result, but a very convoluted trial!
And now, I will celebrate my happy week by buying more knitting supplies!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

My Accomplishment

Well, I am all stitched and weaved-in, and lo and behold! My sweater looks more or less as it should!

As compared with:

There seem to be a few bobbles here and there, but it is able to be worn in public! Not bad for a first effort, if I do say so myself. Well, a first effort in 23 years or so. It's so much fun to start something and actually be able to finish it! And since I have two skeins of yarn left, I think I may do a matching scarf or something. I realize it's a little backward to do a sweater as a first project and then a scarf after, but that's just sort of what happened. Yay, me!

Yay, Team!

Sometimes, it is true, I become frustrated about how things are done at my office. However, yesterday I realized exactly how lucky I am to be in the office I'm in and to have the boss and co-workers I have. One of our magistrates had been looking for a reason to hold one of us in contempt for quite some time, now. She has been threatening to do this for ages. Primarily because she believes that we should be representing everyone who doesn't hire an attorney, regardless whether they have applied for a public defender, qualified for a public defender, or even want a public defender. Let's just say that the issue came to a head yesterday. The upshot was that my boss went to jail so that my co-worker wouldn't have to. Now, that's a good boss! He has always backed us up when we needed him to, whether it was in front of judges, DAs, or the state big-wigs. We know that we can stand our ground and do our jobs to the best of our ability, without worrying about being hung out to dry. And I hope he knows that any one of us would do the same for him. It's really great to be part of an office like this.

Monday, March 12, 2007

This Job is Hard

I never realized how hard it would be to plead a client out to second degree murder. Losing big trials is hard, watching your clients get sent to prison for long periods of time is hard. It never occurred to me how hard it would be to have your client take a plea like this. Should I have pushed him harder to go to trial? What if I really could have gotten a jury down to manslaughter? What if I could have gotten him acquitted altogether? What if? What if? What if? I will never know whether I really helped him or really screwed him over. He thinks I helped him, and thanks me every time I see him. I am not so sure...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spring Has Sprung!

Or, at least it is in the process of springing. Yesterday got up to 70 and was bright and sunny, so we had lunch outside and I got my first sunburn of the year. It would have been the perfect day to watch for baby prairie-dogs in the field behind the office, but there may be a delay with that. You see there were workmen last week digging a trench through the prairie-dog town with a backhoe, and yesterday they were laying some kind of line. Like a phone line or T1 or something. It was hard to tell what exactly. But the good news is that I didn't see any sign that any prairie dogs were hurt or killed. They probably just moved to the part of their town in the field across the fence when they heard the noise. (They had expanded their town considerably last summer, and there were lots of holes quite a distance from where the workmen were digging.) Nonetheless, I do miss watching the little fuzzy heads popping up from the holes. And it's just the right weather to watch for babies, too. But there are baby sheep and goats in a field on my way to work, and I think in another couple weeks they'll put horses and cows back in the field by the office. With any luck, there will be baby ones to observe frolicking about. Today's not as pretty as yesterday. Clouds are gathering and it feels like it may rain. Yet another sign of spring! Although I'm not a big fan of rain. I can't wait until summer! Endless sunny and warm days where I can leave my windows open all day! Until then, I think I'll work more on my sweater so I can wear it at least once this season. All my parts are dry, so I can finish stitching the sleeves together and figure out the neck part.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Moment of Truth... near!

Ok, so this is not going to be an exciting post about a hotly-contested, long jury trial and a verdict that takes forever. What it is about is that I finished knitting all my sweater-parts! A back, and a front, and 2 sleeves.

Sleeve #1:

Sleeve #2: (The picture is at a weird angle, but the sleeve looks just like the other one...)

Front and back:
I am currently engaged in the excruciating process of waiting for the various parts to dry after blocking them. Only then will I be able to sew the sleeves to the front and back and see if they fit together properly. Only then will I know for sure whether I will come out with an actual article of clothing able to be worn in public or a fuzzy, oddly-shaped, small type of blanket. I did do all the stuff I'm supposed to: I measured lots, looked at the schematics (which included fewer than optimal details), patted, prodded, matched things up, and more. So I am fairly confident that it will come out right, in spite of the poor directions. In addition to some simple printing errors where measurements are concerned, the schematics were not very detailed and left out some important dimensions. Such as, it says how wide the front and back are supposed to be at the bottom, but not how wide at the widest point. Nevertheless, I, the eternal optimist, am looking forward to having the collar well along this weekend, and I may even get to wear it a couple times before the weather changes to actual spring. In the meantime, I shall patiently (or not so patiently) wait for my parts to dry, and imagine it all fitting together perfectly! Supplemented, of course, by frequent visits to test whether they are any dryer than they were 5 minutes ago.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Latest

Well, I haven't been posting about work lately. I guess partly because I've been distracted by non-work related things, and partly because the interesting things that are happening at work I can't really post about. Here's what I can post about:

Nearly everyone in the office is sick. We've been passing this cold around all winter. Everyone gets it about once every 3-4 weeks. Unfortunately, now it's mutating into pneumonia and bronchitis. (At least 2 of my co-workers have those lovely illnesses.) Those of us who are not deathly ill have been rushing around covering for the ones who are. I guess it promotes teamwork, or something, but I'd much prefer everyone being healthy.

We got our performance reviews Friday, and (yay!) my boss is apparently not going to fire me.

I've caught up on nearly all my random paperwork, and am now spending my non-court time actually writing substantive legal motions. This is much more fun (and fulfilling) than sorting random papers into their appropriate files and filing motions for furloughs. (All I want for Christmas is a real secretary who can do this for me!)

One interesting case I have that's going to trial (most likely) is kind of on hold while we attempt to hire an investigator. Our prior investigator (who was great) quit a couple weeks ago, and I'm holding out for his replacement so someone who knows what they are doing can get into this. The case involves title loans, and I don't know much about that kind of thing.

The jail actually transported my client to my office on Friday, as the judge ordered, so he was able to watch a video-tape pertinent to his case. We had tried to arrange this a month ago, but the jail either lost the judge's order or never received it, so it didn't happen. It's amazing how co-operative the jail can be when they receive an order to show cause why they didn't obey the judge's previous transport order! Anyway, my guy has now decided what he wants to do. The whole situation's really sad, and with what he's decided, he's probably going to prison for a long time. He's such a sweet guy, too, now that he's been on his meds for a while. I really wish I could do more for him. It almost made me feel worse when he thanked me...

Thursday, March 01, 2007


I'm home sick today, and so I thought I would use some of my down time trying to figure out where I went wrong with my knitting. I picked this particular sweater to try because it looks relatively fool-proof, and like I could finish it before the turn of the century. Of course, this only works if the instructions are correct! Not so much... This Suss Cousins person may be hot stuff in Hollywood, but if she spent a little less time name-dropping and a little more time measuring her patterns, this would all be much easier! Granted, I'm pretty new at this, but it stands to reason that if your gauge is correct (4 stitches to an inch, exactly!), then the measurements for the entire thing should be correct. Again, not so much. I just hope it comes out in the wash, as my mother says... Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

My Trip to Treatment Court

Also called "mental health courts," treatment courts have been popping up throughout the country in an attempt to deal with mentally ill individuals who become involved with the criminal justice system, but really don't belong in it. I've had some experience dealing with mentally ill individuals in the context of my job within the criminal justice system, and I am in complete agreement that the courts, jails, and prisons are unable to either help the mentally ill people that come afoul of the law or protect the community. My personal feeling is that if there were some way to help the mentally ill become stabilized over the long-term and integrated into society, society would then be protected from them, and there would be no need to warehouse these people as is currently being done to a greater or lesser extent.

My view of this seems to be shared by our newest district judge, the chief deputy district attorney and our court administrator. As a result, we have been meeting to discuss creating a treatment court here. As part of our investigation into the viability of this, we took a trip to a treatment court in another jurisdiction yesterday. It was exciting to see the participants complying with their medications, and thereby complying with their probation, stabilized, and happy. The program we observed appears to be helping the people in the community, and I commend them for doing such a good job with it in such a short time. (The program is only about 6 months old.)

However, the more we spoke with the judge in charge of the program, the more frustrated I became with the lack of resources we have here. The program I observed would never have got off the ground if the treatment providers in the community hadn't backed the program immediately and enthusiastically. Virtually all the services in the area were on board and doing what they could to help, and that's great. But here we have almost no services at all. There is one program that provides caseworkers to help the mentally ill find residences, get on disability, etc., but they are so under-funded and overworked that the turnover is astronomical and the staff is poorly trained. I believe we have 2 therapists in the private sector, and it takes months to get an appointment, even if you can pay them or have insurance. I don't even know whether they take medicaid or medicare, but I doubt it.

Another concern I have is that the treatment court I observed is a part of probation. This means that the participant must have (at some point) been competent to stand trial or plead guilty to a crime. That's all fine, and everything. But the clients that I have had that I'm most concerned about aren't competent to stand trial or plead guilty, even when they are taking their medications. When they are taking their medications, they are no longer dangerous, so they don't have to be locked up. But when this occurrs, their criminal cases are dismissed, and there is no one to monitor whether they continue with their medications or not. So, as soon as they're off their medications, they get in trouble with the law again. The clients I have that are competent when they're on their meds are placed on probation (usually) and they're monitored by their probation officer. Some times this works and some times this doesn't, but at least they're not completely on their own, like those whose cases are dismissed.

What would be more helpful, I think, is a program in which someone whose case is pending is monitored by a treatment court, and then their charges are dismissed when they successfully complete it. It would be an alternative to them being found incompetent while sitting in jail for months and then going to the state mental hospital. The mental hospital would appreciate it, since they're always short of beds; and the client would appreciate it, since they wouldn't have to sit in jail waiting for a competency evaluation to be completed. I think there's a treatment court like that in a different town in the state, so I'm going to push to observe that next time our little team meets.

But our trip was a good learning experience!

Sunday, February 11, 2007


So, it's gray and rainy and about 50 degrees outside today. One of those days where you want to curl up with some hot tea, jazz music, and a good book. Or maybe my knitting. It makes me think that it's almost spring-time, but I know not to get my hopes up. After all, we haven't had the Saint Patrick's Day blizzard yet. (It always seems to snow here in the middle of March, even if there have been a couple of days in the 70's or even 80's in February.) Normally gray days make me sleepy and depressed. Why else would I live in the middle of the desert, the land of perpetual sunshine? But today, the gray-ness makes me feel oddly good. Quiet, serene, and somewhat introspective. In a word: Cozy.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Appreciation Unlooked-for

Every year (mostly) the local bar association holds a dinner-dance party thing for all the lawyers in the county. It's usually kind of fun, since you get to talk to other lawyers who you don't necessarily see regularly, and you get to watch the older generation loosen up a bit. We younger-generation public defenders don't really frequent the same social circles as the older, more established attorneys do. There's usually a cocktail party thing prior to the actual dinner, and last night, a bunch of us went back to the cocktail party after the dinner to kind of hang out for a while.

Anyway, when we were heading out and saying our good-byes and thank-yous, an attorney I don't talk to very much began a conversation with me. I mean I know him to say hi to, but that's about it. He started out by informing me that civil practice isn't about chasing money. His practice has made him very comfortable, don't get me wrong. But nothing compared to what our host had, at least judging by the house we were in and the vehicles in the driveway! I honestly think that the lawyer I was speaking with really enjoys doing what he does, and would do it even if he wasn't going to have his father's practice handed over to him in a few years. Then, kind of abruptly, this attorney holds out his hand over the bar for me to shake it (he was acting bar-tender at the moment) and thanks me for doing what I do. I must have appeared a little confused, because he then tells me of a guy who called him this week needing an attorney to represent him in a criminal case, and it took him all of 2 minutes to realize that there was no way this guy could pay him. So the attorney informs the guy of this, tells him to get a public defender, and then hangs up the phone. I don't believe this was out of greed or anything, this attorney does take his fair share of pro bono cases. The attorney then reaches out his hand for me to shake it again, and tells me that he really appreciates what I do, and he thanks me again.

The first thing that entered my head in response to this conversation was that I don't do this for him, I do it for the guy on the phone. But then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe I do do it for him, in a way. I really am glad that he can practice the type of law he enjoys without feeling obliged to take this guy's case when he has no desire to do so. I'm also happy that he can refer this guy to our office without worrying whether he will receive good representation. I realized then that I not only do this to assist our clients, I do this to assist the community by fulfilling a societal need that most people would prefer to ignore altogether.