Saturday, December 29, 2007
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
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
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
Friday, October 12, 2007
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
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Friday, September 28, 2007
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
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
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Friday, August 17, 2007
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
Monday, August 13, 2007
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
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
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
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
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
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
His right fore-foot twitches
"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"
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
He is so happy
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
How I wish you could be in that world forever!
Such is growing old
Such is life
Monday, May 28, 2007
Back into English! I'm done with tweaking!!
My months suddenly seem to be back in English, so that's a plus...
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
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
Thursday, May 10, 2007
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
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
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
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Monday, March 12, 2007
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Thursday, March 08, 2007
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 #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
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
Saturday, February 24, 2007
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
Saturday, February 10, 2007
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.