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...