Friday, December 29, 2006

Letter to Potential Suitor

I've got a glass of red wine down the hatch and I'm working on the second. So while I've got this warm feeling that I'm no doubt mistaking for honesty and the desire to be happy just the way I am, I think this is what you need to know.

I did the online dating thing briefly, so I'm not interested in kicking up an acquaintanceship over the internet. I prefer that the majority of our significant interactions happen in person, because when I did the internet dating thing, I had the same conversations over and over again with different guys and every time after we met in person it didn't work out. When I did speed dating that one time, I hit it off with that one guy that I never thought I'd like on paper, but after a conversation something sparked, and flickered into flames (until he ousted me).

I'm not trying to blow you off, I just don't want to have the same getting to know you conversations only to find that we're not really a good fit in the end. I like the idea that our connection can be based on conversations we have in person, and things that we do together. That's how my best friendships have developed, and I think relationships probably work the same way.

I feel lonely more often than I'd like to, but I've also grown too accustomed to having all of my time as my own. I enjoy having the autonomy of singlehood - I don't need to check with anyone before I do something, if I'm feeling off-kilter then I can take a weekend and just shut out the world, I don't have to worry about whether I am keeping up my end of the bargain. Not being in a relationship also means never having to fret about whether you like me as much as I like you, never having to wonder why such an amazing person would be interested in little old me, never having to worry about not being pretty enough or girly enough or funny enough or just ENOUGH, enough to keep your attention and your affection and your interest. Enough, to give you enough and be available enough to you and attend to you when you need it.

I'm afraid of dating anyone that I know I'll have to see again. I won't date anyone at work, or anywhere that I go regularly. That means once I know you well enough to like you, it's going to be uncomfortable, because then suddenly I'm in a situation so if it doesn't work out, then my day changes without you in it, and I have some regularly scheduled reminder of yet another dating failure.

Despite those shortcomings, I think that for the right person, I'm looking forward to having a lot of fun in shared activities, whatever they may be, and I'm looking forward to being attentive and flirty and supportive and thoughtful and doting and adventurous and committed to someone other than myself.

Chances are, we won't make it past the second date. But it's not you, it's me.

Unless it's you.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

things are brighter

I've had friends tell me that I don't smile as much as I used to, that I don't seem to be having fun in life anymore, that I no longer seem inspired. It's true. I've wilted inside. I feel like I conduct my days on autopilot. I had a work nightmare on Christmas night. I do love my job, but more in theory than in practice. In practice I'm riddled with doubt and stress.

In the past, I've had a jobs working with at-risk youth, doing educational advising and mentoring. Recently an old boss got in touch with me and asked me to meet with a student who is currently in the program. We met today, and my whole world seems brighter. The jobs that I have loved most have been jobs where I've done advocacy work with juveniles in a non-courtroom setting. I recently saw a job posting that was actually a job description I had created, doing similar advocacy work with incarcerated juveniles, and it broke my heart to not jump on it. I feel like I have to be good at what I do now before I can move on. But you know what? It's a New Year, and my resolution is to work towards that job. That's what I want, that's what I love, and that one hour meeting with an inspiring and incredible young person made me realize that's what is missing from my life.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

opening up to the people

I have a few New Year's resolutions, a few aspirations, and a few holdovers from years past. But I thought that maybe some of you out there might have some insight so I'm asking, What should my New Year's resolutions and aspirations be? What are yours? What are some good ones to keep in mind?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

iTrain, iComplain

I've been doing the same workout for about 3 years now, and like all the fitness gurus tell you, it just starts to get old, and makes working out much more of a chore with much fewer results.  I've fallen off the workout bandwagon since I left law school.  I work out maybe 3 times a week, doing shorter workouts, and doing so reluctantly.  I've been looking for ways to jazz up my workout (usually via my music selection) but I just discovered something wonderful called iTrain.  It's a website where you can download workouts to your iPod, where someone coaches you through something you'd probably rather not do without someone bossing you around.
I tried it for the first time this morning and you know what?  It worked!  Well, it worked, until a little over halfway through it I started cursing Grace, the demon workout vixen.  Damn you with those inclines!!!  My heart felt like it was going to forcibly claw its way out of my chest so I cut out about halfway through.  As a plus, it's really motivated me to get back on the treadmill, which I've been avoiding in favor of the much easier elliptical for the past few months. 
So Grace, you saucy little bitch, I think we have a solid love-hate relationship in our future.  Looking forward to it!


Slate article on how conservative judges are activist-ly denying Seventh Amendment rights.
I bet you don't remember what the Seventh Amendment says, do you?  I'm not sure, to be honest, that I ever knew what it said before today.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


I think I've grown more as an attorney in the past week than I have in the past 3 months.
Whether the scheduling crunch is might fault or the court's, I cannot say.  But I had dozens of hearings and trials scheduled, and there is no mercy if the DA and the court are prepared to start.  For 72 straight hours, I spent every moment either in a hearing or starting a trial.  While I did one hearing after another, all I could think about was the trial.  For almost two weeks I was working 12 hour days and had to come in over the weekend.  I was only home to sleep.  That's the life of a public defender, I suppose but whew.  I was so exhausted by the time I was informed that there were no juries available this week that all I could feel was sweet relief, and then spent the rest of the week just trying to remain upright and muttering monosyllabic responses to people's questions.  For the past two days I've been counting down the minutes until I could go to bed and not wake up until Monday morning.
Now it's Saturday morning, and my body just can't let me sleep past 7:30 a.m.  Curses!
I'm going on vacation next Wednesday and not returning until after the New Year.  I'd be much more excited about the time off if I didn't have 4 motions due the day I got back.  That means work is coming on vacation with me.  Boo.
A lot of the cases I have currently are being litigated, as opposed to being resolved otherwise.  I can't figure out exactly why - maybe it's just the luck of the draw as far as cases go, or maybe I'm just getting better at calling BULLSHIT with the DA's offers, or maybe just more of my clients are out and able to fight their cases, as opposed to fighting from the inside.  But it is overwhelming to have a caseload so high if all of them require investigation and motions and hearings subpoenas and setting a trial date which means finding witnesses and maybe even prepping a few of them.  I'm still new at the trial stuff - it requires a different skill set than negotiating, and every time I prep a hearing or trial I realize how much I still don't know. 
This whole post is just a long way of saying, I'm really tired and suffering from my recurring case of, "If this type of work stresses me out this much does this mean that I was never meant for this job to begin with?  Am I just pretending to be a lawyer, when in reality I'm nothing but a hack?"
Maybe I was never meant to be a litigator.  Or maybe, litigators aren't born, they're made, and that being 'made' just comes with a lot of growing pains and an overwhelming caseload.

Friday, December 08, 2006


It's been a long time since I thought about you.  It took me a long time to stop thinking about you, at first.  Much too long.  Then day after day after month after month went by, and my day didn't include you or thoughts of you.  But then you insist on worming your way back in, sliding effortlessly back on the scene like you belonged here all along.  It was nice of you to think of me, when that came up, and to let me know about it.  A friendly hello, you might be interested to know... 
With the passing of time, seeing your name only brought up a small flutter inside, not the wild somersaults on my insides that you used to elicit.  I didn't think it caused more than a ripple in my day until I started dreaming.  The dream wasn't of you, per se, but it was reminiscent of you, because it was about the unique variety of feelings that I had about you.  I have the emotional hangover of those dreams today, which have again become the remnants of the feelings I had for you once, and maybe still, or maybe yet again.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Monday, December 04, 2006

Another round at the Supreme Court.

Dahlia Lithwick's Dispatches from the Supreme Court, from today's affirmative action cases.
It's interesting to me to think about other areas of law, now that I've promptly forgotten most of them.  I can't even remember the levels of scrutiny for 14th Amendment violations anymore.  I wonder now what the heck the Supreme Court is doing, again, with these race / school cases, again.  Another round with no real indication of what the right thing is to do.  My own suggestion, if we're looking at distributing, is to examine a redistribution based on socio-economic standing, which I suspect may be a much more important distinction when it comes to education.  And, it's not a protected class, so no 14th Amendment violations.  You can discriminate against poor or rich people all you want!
Ah, I yearn for the days when I listened to oral arguments as soon as they came out; sat by my computer waiting to read released court opinions; was up to date on all the latest blawgs.  There is no law in what I do, day to day.  I miss the critical thinking and analyzing the rules and making reasoned arguments.  Mostly, I just beg.
As an aside, I have decided that one of my most unattainable goals in life is to be on Slate - either as an author or as a subject (in a good way, not in like a Paris&Britney, OJ type way).  My God, I worship that webzine.

few and far between

Today I had a DA do something very favorable for my client, not because he had to, but because it was the RIGHT thing to do.  The DA agreed to give me the disposition I needed on the basis of what I believe to be a compelling social justice argument.  Since I spend most of my time railing against the fascist prosecutorial techniques of my adversaries, I think it's only appropriate to share with everyone when a DA does something really good for the sake of doing what's right, instead of going for what would have been a slam-dunk conviction.
Thank you, DA.  You have my utmost respect, and for this case, my deepest and most sincere appreciation.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

here I am!

An updated on my previous post:  Thanks to Sanchovilla's excellent investigative advice and guidance, I uncovered some family information for my client, and they are going to try to make burial arrangements for him.  I was nervous about being the one to break the news to his family, but I was delighted that I was able to contact them.  It was a nice way to begin Thanksgiving.
I'm still going back and forth about the volunteer thing - I had made up my mind not to, but now I'm fully back in the "I'm going to do this" camp.  We'll see how it turns out.  I don't start until after the holidays. 
Going home for the holidays always leaves me feeling unsettled.  It's always great to see family and friends again.  But sometimes I feel like I'm knocked off-kilter.  I'm not sure what it is - I guess I get confused about where the right place is for me to be, and I can't be in both places.  I'm slowly getting accustomed to being in both places though - maintaining a life in my hometown with friends I've known for years, and maintaining a life in my new town (well, not so new... over a year now!) while developing as a grown-up in both.  What an awkward transitional phase, this whole growing-up thing.  I don't like the idea that some things can be outgrown.  I prefer that other aspects of my life would develop along with me, but if it means that I have to drag these things kicking and screaming, I wonder sometimes if it's the right thing to do.
No new men, alas.  No men at all, really.  The on-again, off-again guy is blowing ME off, for the first time in our one-year acquaintance, and it's driving me nuts.  I've always been here for his booty calls even when I didn't want to be a booty call, and now that I'm making the calls he's not answering.  That is SO UNFAIR.
I'm attending my first blog party over at Stay of Execution.  Are you going?

Monday, November 13, 2006


1. I find my life to be unfulfilling. Now what?

2. There are things I used to love being involved in and am trying to get back into. I have applied to volunteer in a hospital to read bedtime stories to kids and to do projects and play games with kids who cannot leave their beds. I was very excited about this position and had been looking forward to being involved in it for some time. Finally, this past week I had one of those state holidays that's not a holiday for anyone else in the private sector, and went in for an interview.

I knew the hospital was in an undesirable part of town, but nothing prepared me for the reality of it. The neighborhood is one of the most dangerous in the city, which makes it no doubt one of the most dangerous in the country. Making my way to the hospital in broad daylight felt rather unsafe. When I got to the hospital, I was put in a glorified storage closet and told to wait. I waited. and waited. When the volunteer coordinator arrived, she asked why I hadn't filled out the forms I was supposed to fill out and said, "Didn't you tell anyone you were here?" I was not only put off by the location of the hospital and the location of my wait, I was quite put off by the implication that I just decided to wander into the broom closet and was content to stay there without alerting anyone to my presence.

In the hour it took me to get to the hospital (much longer than I thought it would be, which is one strike against this), and in the additional 20 minutes I waited in the broom closet, I had pretty much decided that this wasn't going to be the opportunity for me. Once I sat down with the coordinator in her office, I started to soften a bit. There was a large library of books in great condition, and many of the books had several copies so we can give them to kids who particularly enjoy them. The programs seem to be very well coordinated, and there are many programs available just in the pediatric ward alone. Hmmm, I thought, too bad I don't think I'll ever make it back here without a gunshot wound.

Then the coordinator asked how I heard about the opportunity. When I told her that I heard about it from a volunteer website, she exclaimed, "Wow, that's great. You know, no one ever follows through with that website. We get hundreds of inquiries and some people even come in for interviews but no one ever ends up working here. No one ever follows through." My reaction, instead of being a rational "Why the hell don't you think people want to come out here?!?!" was to bristle defensively and become more steadfast in my desire to volunteer there. I almost felt like I had to prove that I really was interested in the work. I considered her statement a challenge, and I don't back down from challenges.

So now I'm signed up for an orientation and have some medical paperwork that I have to take to my own GP (which I do not have, I only go to a gyno, so now I have to find my own doctor in my own hospital and make an appointment). And now I can't decide what to do. Absolutely everyone has told me to steer clear and not to even think about wandering back and forth, via public transportation and walking, at night, by myself, to do this. I would never, ever, ever recommend that someone else do it either. Part of me wants to never go back to that hospital, and part of me invokes idealistic forgetfulness in order to consider going back. I'm conflicted about what I should do. Perhaps I'll just go back for the orientation and decide from there. Perhaps I'll start packin' a piece. (Just kidding. Hugs not guns.)

I just don't know what to do. I hate to walk away from this opportunity, particularly since I think these communities are precisely the ones that need good volunteers. On the other hand, I think there is a very good chance that I will be at least mugged repeatedly, if not raped / stabbed / shot. However, I REALLY don't like to admit fear or defeat in the face of socio-economically plagued communities. I like to delude myself into thinking that I'm somehow above that, that somehow my good spirit will protect me from harm.

3. I recently received a mysterious phone message from corrections. When I returned the call, the captain informed me that a client of mine, who I didn't have a lot of contact with but whom I remembered, died in custody. He was doing a jail bid on the plea he had taken while I represented him and died in jail. He was in his early to mid 40s. The cause of death was a brain aneurysm. He had no next of kin. I tapped my connections in programs that I knew he had been in to see if they had any info about family members. Nothing. He had no family, just a prior address of a homeless shelter. He will be disposed of, courtesy of the government, in some anonymous manner if no one comes forward in 6 weeks.

I've had clients die before, but I've never had clients die so anonymously. I'm trying to figure out what to do. I was thinking about making a food donation to the homeless shelter in his name, but the bureaucracy involved in this process seems prohibitive. I was thinking of trying to put flowers on his grave, but it seems that's not quite how things work when the government's responsible for your body. I would really like to do something to make sure that he doesn't just disappear, forgotten forever. My newest thought was to get a plant for my office and put a little planter stick in it, bearing his name. I'm sure no one would like to be remembered via a plant in a public defender's office, but there's nowhere to plant trees around here. Does anyone have any other suggestions?

4. Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it is a weekend dedicated solely to family (of origin, and of choice) and eating. Awesome.

this ain't the suburbs

Recently I was enduring my lengthy commute home, with a soundtrack courtesy of my iPod. A woman got on and sat in the seat next to me. There were a fair number of people, as it was on the later end of the rush hour. She looked like she was coming from work, as she appeared dressed for work and was carrying a work-related object with her.

Just a few minutes later, through my iPod, I hear this woman grumble loudly, "Where's the KKK when you need them?"

I looked around in alarm. Did she really say that? I must have been mistaken. She said nothing else. No one else was looking around or saying anything. There's no way she said that.

Further toward the back, a group of teenage girls (who happened to be African-American) were singing songs to pass the time. They were singing them loudly.

The woman plugs her ears dramatically and starts yelling, "Can I use your walkman? I need a walkman. Can I use yours? I need to move out of this fucking country. I can't stand this fucking country anymore. Too many blacks."

I continue to ignore her because I'm pretty sure she's about to get shivved, and I don't want to be stabbed as a potential supporter of this crazy woman. I am also now incredibly disgusted and angered by the fact that she probably did, indeed, say exactly what I thought she said earlier. Should I get up and walk away? Just a few more minutes home, and I have to climb over her to get out.

"Stop looking at me! Stop looking at me, you dirty Mexican! I don't date your kind! I only date whites!" she starts yelling to the harmless Latino guy minding his own business across the aisle. Another guy, who looks Latino, looks over at her and she says very politely, "No, I don't mean you. I'm talking to that guy. I need to get out of this country." He asks her, "What country are you from?" to which she responds, "I'm from Spain and Colombia. But everyone thinks I'm Puerto Rican," she snorted in disgust. [I seriously doubt that she's ever set foot in any of those countries, particularly since she has a pretty thick local accent.]

And then she continues. "Why do these black and Mexican guys always look at me? Is it because I'm ugly? Is that why the ugly guys stare at me and want to ask me out? Am I ugly?" The not-the-dirty-Mexican guy says very nicely back to her, "No. You're not ugly. You are very pretty." And by this time, I had vaulted out of my seat and got myself far, far away from this scene that everyone was listening to.

I still can't decide whether she was just a normal type of crazy - that is, a woman on her way home from work who is just fed up and can't deal with city living so she starts spewing her innermost racist beliefs... or if she was actually crazy, like schizophrenic and not racist.

Monday, October 30, 2006

on being a public defender: brinkmanship

I spend most of my day, every day, approximately half a second away from tackling a DA, screaming "Who's the tough guy now?  Huh?  How do you like that?  Still a tough guy with my knee pinning your chest cavity to the floor??" 
On paper?  Today was a good day.  In reality?  I spent every single moment seething.  Annoyance, frustration, intolerance was just seeping out of my pores. 
I spend a lot of days teetering on the brink of destruction.  It's not that the DAs always give rise to the most frustrating parts of the day.  Then there are the judges, the corrections officers, other attorneys, and a myriad of people who, when confronted with a livid WOTL who is desperately trying not to tackle and pin, pretend like it's not their job to help me.  It's always someone else's fault.  Mmmm, sorry I can't lower that offer.  Boss won't let me.  Sorry I can't lower that bail.  Sorry I can't suppress that evidence.  Sorry I can't help but call your client demeaning names in a way that I think makes me look hilarious / authoritative. 
Ok, so really, it's not even dealing with difficult individuals that makes this job hard. Working with people is the easy part.  Living with yourself is the hard part. The problem with being a public defender is that when you get a good result, you think it's inevitable.  Like, ok, yeah, that worked out well, but that's because it SHOULD have.  That's what was just, that was the right thing to do under the circumstances.  But when things go poorly, it's your fault or your responsibility to fix it.  And that's where the stress comes in.  How am I supposed to fix this?  How do I get this guy out of jail now that he's in on a crazy amount of bail?  How do I keep my client out of jail after he absconded from his mandated jail-alternative program?  How can I prevent my clients' lives from being permanently destroyed today? 
So it's not really the DAs, or the judges, or the officers.  It's really the burden of knowing that YOU HAVE TO FIX IT, and knowing that you probably won't be able to.  It's the burden of going to sleep with that client on your mind, trying to figure any way out, and waking up the next morning as though you never slept or left the office, still trying to figure out how to make it better.  It's the burden of seeing that flashing light on the phone, or the letters in the mailbox, or the email icon waiting to be answered, and feeling like you can't possibly bear to listen to the messages or read the mail because you just don't have the answers.
And when these things happen in a single day, every day, one day after the next, it's remarkable that I have yet to snap with a swift reactive tackle / throttle / pin, screaming "TELL ME I'M PRETTY!"  But a girl can dream.

Friday, October 27, 2006

there's still hope

Damn.  I had my money on the Tigers.  I thought it would be no contest.

Monday, October 23, 2006

I am so finished with men

Jerks.  Nice guys.  Boring guys.  Awkward guys.  Super sweet guys.  Slick guys.  Horny guys.  Uncouth guys.  Guys I work with. 
All of them.  I'm done with all of them.
I officially 100% throw in the towel.  I am dying alone.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

on being a public defender: killing me softly.

I'm struggling with the blogging lately.  I'm either too upset or too angry when I get home from work to write, or to write anything worth reading.  Or I'm too tired from being angry and upset to do anything more than zone out in front of the TV with a cup of tea.
Being a public defender is hard.  I never anticipated the toll this work would take.  I knew it was going to be difficult, and tiring, and demoralizing.  For a long time I was leaving work every day feeling unfulfilled, even bored.  It's not that I didn't have a lot of work to do, it's that I lost motivation for a little while somehow.  I felt like my day had become routine.  Go to court. Speak to clients.  Get yelled at by some of them. Take pleas on most of them.  Eat lunch.  Back to court or sit at desk and return phone calls.  Go home.  But then things got much better.  I rediscovered my zeal, my enjoyment, my reasons for making this my life's work.  However, there are other difficulties.
My supervisor and I don't get along.  I feared this would become a problem but tried very hard to keep in mind what compromises it would take on my part to ensure a smooth working relationship.  It's been a miserable failure.  About 2/3 of the time, we're ok; the other 1/3 of the time he makes me feel as though I'm a useless idiot.  I internalize it - the way he speaks to me, particularly in contrast to the way he speaks to the attorneys with whom he gets along well; I internalize how he says things ("I know you work hard" versus "I know you're a good attorney."  I will never hear the latter from him); I internalize his dismissiveness.  Today, I was recounting my single proudest moment thus far in my work as a public defender (nothing brilliant or innovative, just something that made me feel good) and when we got around to talking about the law of it, I made a comment about how incredibly sleazy the police were and he lit into me.  Like he has never lit into me before.  He screamed at me for about 15 seconds about how caselaw says otherwise, I always think I'm right but just because I don't agree with it doesn't mean it's the law, I should read up on my caselaw, I don't have to take his word for it since I clearly don't believe him.  I was completely dumbfounded.  All I could say on my way out of the office was, "I just wanted to tell you what happened, and how happy I am that things turned out the way they did."  I'm not sure what it was that triggered him.  I'm not sure if it was what I said, how I said it, or my failure to respond appropriately to something he said.  I can't figure it out.  What I do know is that it really put a damper on my proudest moment.  Things like this happen once or twice a month.  I spend two weeks avoiding him completely because I cannot even tolerate the way he makes me feel, and then just when I take a deep breath, straighten my shoulders, and try again, something happens that makes me recoil for another two weeks. 
Incidents like that just add to the already overwhelming stress that I'm a PD discussed some time ago.  Every day I'm afraid that I'm horrible at what I do.  Every day I have to fight off the sneaking suspicion that I cannot do this work the way it is supposed to be done, or that I look like an idiot, or that my clients / the judges / my supervisor have no confidence in my ability.  I'm blessed to have coworkers, court officers in courtrooms that I don't even practice in, private defense attorneys, and DAs come up to me and compliment me over the course of the year.  I would expect that would make me feel better.  But it's just the opposite.  When people say something unexpectedly complimentary, all I can do is smile uncomfortably and think, "But that's because you don't REALLY know how I am. If you really knew me as an attorney, you'd think I was a disgrace."
The anger and the anxiety and the sadness just build up inside until I randomly burst into tears.  I never know when it's going to happen or what exactly will trigger it, but I've been crying embarrassingly frequently.  At the bar after a few drinks, I cried uncontrollably for about half an hour.  Still not quite sure why.  I cry in my office at least once a week.  At least every other week, someone walks in on me sobbing.  I get so angry that at the end of the day I have to have several glasses of wine just to stop shaking.  My professional life leaves me so full of anger and frustration that it has decimated my personal life.  I can't leave work behind; I can't separate the resonating anger and sadness of work from my home, my friends, my weekends.
For these reasons and many others, this job has sucked the soul out of me.  And it's only been a year.
And yet, I can't imagine wanting to do anything else.
But let me take this little space right here to say, in regards to my proudest moment ever, with the biggest smile I can shine - I stuck it to The Man.  I stuck it to him good. 

violent stingrays!

Stingray attacks again!  This time, the sucker jumped into the boat and stabbed a guy in the boat. 
I think it's clear that we need to start embarking on a little bit of aquatic profiling.  All stingrays are bad and violent.  If you see one on the sidewalk, cross the street.  Stay away from predominantly stingray 'hoods, especially after dark.  Stingrays probably have algae or pointing tails on them at all times, so be sure to preemptively search, disarm, or kill them.
I think the death penalty will be an effective stingray violence deterrent.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


I've gone out the past 4 nights. Today, I'm coming down with a cold. I just drank tea, finished the Sunday paper, and watched a movie on my couch in my baggiest sweatpants. Oh, how I've been looking forward to going to bed with a book.

Seconds after I climbed into bed, a car alarm started up. It emulates the sound of water dripping into a pot full of water. (I know this because we have a leaky faucet, and I left a pot filled with soapy water in the sink).

Bink. Bink. Bink. Bink.

Dear God, make it stop.

Update: I never thought I'd look forward to the Jeep car alarm that goes off every 45 min or so for 3 minutes each time, every single night all through the night. But when it went off it was a nice distraction from this Bink. Bink. Bink. 45 minutes now.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

some more interesting queries.

"I'm a really bad person"
"dating when is it ok to call him"
"I need a pair of shoes."
"hells piercing"
"german shepherds deterring murderers"
"pocketbook and a full moon"
"damn the government"
"the benefits of being a public defender"
"I feel my co worker is attracted to me"
"law answers"
"pantyhose judo"  (seriously.  again?)
"forgot underwear"  (been there.)
"why does my girlfriend want to take a break and always we get back together 3 times now" (run.)
"does law pay"  (well crime doesn't, so law must.)

Monday, October 02, 2006

I'm THIS close...

... to changing baseball loyalties.

Happy New Supreme Court Term Day!

*Inspirational article:  From Inmate to Mentor

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

If you cannot afford an attorney... prove it.

A friend of mine sent along this link yesterday.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Happy National Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

you know you have a pathetic social life when

The highlight of my night last night was when I sat in David Ortiz's lap, he pulled me in close to him, snuggled into a hug, and said in that DR accent of his, "We're very good friends.  If not more." 
So what if it was just a dream?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


this job makes me SO. ANGRY.

today's news.

From the Washington Post:

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Baltimore Sun article on the death penalty in the Baltimore area.

Friday, September 01, 2006


So, Perplexing #2 and I had another go-round.  It started off well enough - didn't end too well.  Like a good lapsed Catholic, I'm having a huge guilt attack.  I'm kind of ashamed of my behavior.  I flirted with lots of other people.  (one of whom seemed to think that it's ok for friends to kiss on the lips?  I went in for the cheek and he derailed me!) That was just one little guilt nugget.  Anyway:
Coworker Jack:  "Damn.  You totally Big-Leagued him."
Me:  "Big-Leagued?  Is that good or bad?  Oh God.  I feel terrible.  I should go find him in court today and apologize."
Jack:  "Nooooooo.  No no no.  Just buy him a drink the next time you see him at the bar.  Us guys get over things like that pretty quickly if we think we have a shot of getting laid.  It's just who we are."

Thursday, August 31, 2006


Did anyone catch that new show Justice last night?

It was so fake that I'm not sure I can stand to watch it. But I'll
definitely have to watch at least a few more episodes... you know,
just to see if I like it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Perplexing: 3 & 4, of 4

I was working a full day in court.  I had been spending a lot of time in that courtroom, so I became buddy buddy with the court staff that week.  There was one officer in particular that I rely on to change my clients from the "not ready to see the judge" to "ready to see the judge" status.  Essentially, I rely on him so heavily to make my job happen that he could REALLY make or break my day. 
He and I get along well.  I am not in any way attracted to him, but he makes me laugh, and he definitely makes work more enjoyable.  He's middle-aged, married, children.  This court officer had mentioned that we should lunch together.  I always lunch with my coworkers, because it's valuable time to pick their brains and benefit from their years of experience.  I didn't think much of it, because it's not uncommon for court officers and attorneys to lunch together. 
But something changed... he was doing a lot of, um, TOUCHING me.  Rubbing my arm, my back, petting my hair, etc.  To make a short story long, I started avoiding him and he kept getting more passive aggressive with me.  It made me nervous, that I rely so heavily on him in order to get my work done, and he was clearly not pleased with me.  Things were awkward, until we had a confrontation. 
"I don't see what the problem is," he hissed several days later, as I passed him in court.  The way the officer reacted made me believe that I made the right decision.  There was definitely something weird. I was being super friendly to him, because I could tell that he was not happy with me.  "I just wanted to have lunch, that's all.  I don't like eating lunch with all those other people.  It could have been just the two of us."  When I left court that day, I think we were ok.  He asked me for a kiss on the cheek, and I reluctantly complied.
Coworker Jack snorted in disgust when I told him about it afterwards.  "You don't want to hang out with him but then you stick your tongue down his throat?  No wonder you're having creepy guy problems.  I don't feel bad for you."
Way back in February, one night at a bar, I was hard-core macking on a guy that I thought was totally hot.  We chatted for a good part of the night, on and off.  I was really, really hitting on him.  It was messy.  I was messy.  Anyway, several times, he patted me on the head.  Yes that's right.  He PATTED MY HEAD.  How patronizing!
I saw him again recently and mentioned to a friend that I thought he was hot.  My friend, on a later date and unbeknownst to me, told him that I thought he was hot.  What does he say?  "Whose your friend?  Her?  Yeah, I'm single. Tell her to come up and talk to me sometime."
I saw him shortly thereafter, and then my friend disclosed the aforementioned conversation.  So I caught this guy looking at me a few times, but I just walked out in disgust.  Yeah, you're hot.  But you know what?  I hit on you once and you PATTED MY HEAD.  I'm so over it.
One commenter asks, What's the big deal?  Well, there's isn't really a big deal.  I'm just sort of annoyed.  I've had a pretty good summer, once I went through the withdrawal of dating anxiety.  At some point, I guess I came to rely on having men drama in my life.  On Memorial Day, I finally resolved to just STOP.  Just take a break.  Get all the bad vibes out of my system.  Get my head on straight.  Reach some sort of emotional equilibrium.  Enjoy myself.  And you know what?  It worked.  I had a fun summer.  I hung out with friends.  I went to baseball games.  I took some time off.  I read books.  I watched movies.  I hung out with my roommate and the dog.  I spent a lot of time outdoors.  And I really, really enjoyed it.
Perplexing #s 1-4 all happened in the SAME WEEK.  I started wondering, is it me?  Is it something I did?  Did I somehow do something that makes people think I'm in love with them?  What am I doing that's so inappropriate?  Am I doomed to lead a life of awkward interactions like these?  And what about #2?  Was I wrong?  Or was he actually interested in me?  Why didn't he come back?  Did something come up, or did he never give it a second thought?  What the fuck is #4's problem?  Is this change of heart a mere ploy to get some action?  How could it be anything more than that?  There can't be any genuine interest.  What am I supposed to do next time I see #1? 
The only reason I wrote about all of these things is because I was annoyed.  I managed to have a good couple of months and straighten myself out, without any of this weird anxiety.  Suddenly four people interfered with my chaos- and anxiety-free emotional state.  It was uninvited.  And suddenly I found myself doing exactly what made me take a break to begin with - I began analyzing, fretting, worrying, examining, thinking.  I was knocked off my wagon of emotional peace and contentment, and I don't like it one bit.

fever pitch, indeed.

The Red Sox are all banged up.

Monday, August 28, 2006

from fake to nonexistent

There's a new trend now.  Clients and other ignorant folk used to be hatin' on the PDs by insinuating that we were not real attorneys (um, if I'm a fake attorney, are my law school loans and bar review loans fake too?  Because that would totally ROCK... no more payments on those 'fake' loans!  haha!) 
Recently, however, I've encountered a new development.  It's happened enough that I just have to rant.  The conversation goes something like this.
Fake attorney [me]:  I see you have an open case.  That was pretty recent.  Who represents you on that case?
Client:  No one.
Me:  Well, someone represented you.
Client:  No, I didn't have a lawyer.
Me:  Yes you did.
Client:  No, I didn't.
Me:  Yes you did.
Client:  No, I didn't have no attorney, I'm telling you!
Me:  Ok.  So let me get this straight.  On the last court date, you were in this courtroom, right?
Client:  Yeah.
Me:  And you went out in front of the judge, right?
Client:  Yeah.
Me:  You saw the judge, yes?
Client:  Yeah.
Me:  And when you saw the judge, there was someone standing next to you, right?
Client.  Yeah.
Me:  And that was the same person who was speaking to you in your cell just like I am now, right?
Client:  Yeah, yeah.  But that wasn't a lawyer, that was a public defender.
So I've gone from being not a 'real' lawyer to not being a lawyer at all.  Didn't have a lawyer?  YOU DIDN'T HAVE A LAWYER?  Who do you think got you out of jail just in time for you to get your ass arrested again?
Didn't have a lawyer.  Hmph. 

Friday, August 25, 2006

Perplexing: 2 of 4

The night before my awkward incident with Nick, I was at the same bar with all of my coworkers.  We were all enjoying a much-needed night out.  I went up to the bar to get myself another drink and had to delicately wedge myself between the bar, a chair, and another person.  That other person was a familiar face from around the area in which I work, but I didn't say anything.
His back was facing me when I approached the bar, but he turned to me as I was waiting to get the bartender's attention.  I saw him look at me for a moment and then he said, "The bartender's name is Rich."  [This was a different bartender from the one that asked me out.]  I was startled, and sort of stammered, because I knew the bartender, the bartender knew me, and I certainly frequented that bar more than this guy.  I can say that because I'm there often enough to know that he is not.
Rich looked over at me and called out, "Hey WOTL!  Another round?"  Indeed.
The guy at the bar told me I looked familiar, where did he know me from?  And at that moment I realized...  Ohhhhhhhhh.  Yes.  This is how these things start, right?  He was kind of sizing me up, wasn't he?  Turns out we sort of work together, remotely, in that he works in the courthouse and I work in the courthouse.  We struck up a conversation and chatted while I tried to look vivacious and fetching.  Not someone I'd seek out, but he seems relatively normal.  Looks like a regular good guy.  Not manicured, not flashy or fancy, just wearing sneakers and jeans and a decent shirt.  The conversation came easily and was enough to keep me interested.  Which left me with no other option than to leave.  [Right?  I've heard that hard-to-get is the most successful tactic.]
I wrapped up the conversation and returned to my table, where it had not escaped my coworkers notice that I was engaged in conversation with a male.  I shrugged, and played indifferent, but I was wondering, is he interested?  Is he single?  Would he take me out on a nice, normal date?  Will he come over and talk to me?
I walked over later when I realized he wasn't going to infiltrate the ranks of my office to talk to me.  We chatted again, again it was pleasant, and again I realized that I guess I should play it cool.  I spent the rest of the evening with my coworkers, this time trying to position myself in a way that would permit him to approach me if he wanted to, in a way that hopefully wouldn't make him uncomfortable or require him to be brazen.  Seeing that he wasn't going to come by again, I went over to let him know that I'd be leaving, and to say goodbye.
Then he asked me the question that made me really believe that he had some hint of interest in me.  "Will you be coming back next week?"  I said yeah, probably, at least for a little while. 
One week passes.  I go back to the bar, despite the fact that I have a bad cold, have gotten no sleep all week, and have to be at work early for a long day the next day.  I wear a cute outfit, I accessorize, I'm having a good hair day.  The only reason I went is because he asked me if I'd be there, and if he was going to show up, I wanted to make sure I was there.
He never showed.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Perplexing: 1 of 4.

I've been on a hiatus from dating since Memorial Day weekend.  I decided I need to stop and just shake off whatever vibes I had that were attracting troublesome men.  I have to say, it's been a pretty enjoyable summer without the stress of dating.  I got to July 4th and realized, wow, it's been a while, why not go all the way to Labor Day?  And with Labor Day approaching, it seems that I've almost made it.
I am at a loss to explain how it is, then, that I have attracted the attention of (almost) all the wrong men in the past two weeks. 
It started with my favorite bartender.  I love him.  I adore him.  Sometimes I stop in just to say hi.  He is a very bouncy, affable, friendly guy.  He has always remembered my name and what I drink.  I occassionally give him a hug, recently a kiss on the cheek.  My intentions were always platonic, since he's older and I assumed he was married.  I stopped by the bar to say hello to some coworkers but wanted to spend the afternoon shopping outside since it was so nice.  Nick offered me my regular drink, I declined.  Then he insisted on buying me a drink and offered all sorts of delicious frozen concoctions and, remembering my 'drinks with umbrellas' goal, I accepted.  I had two cocktails that tasted like pure magic and got me good and buzzed.  So I gave him a big hug and kiss on the cheek and thanked him for taking such good care of me.
He joked, "When are we going on a date, WOTL?" and I chuckled.  Realizing that he was looking at me for an answer, I hurriedly answered, "Sure Nick, we'll hang out sometime."  Then, attempting to change the subject, I said, "What are you up to this weekend, Nick?  Any big plans?"  Anyone else in their right mind would realize that this is the ABSOLUTE LAST THING you should ask as a follow-up question.  But I still thought he was joking.  He turned around and handed me a napkin.  Oh yes.  It was his phone number.  Shit.
My coworker Jack, who is my partner in crime at the office, just rolled his eyes when I went back to my seat, all flustered.  "You press your boobs right up against the man's chest and expect that he's not going to try to get some?  Maybe you should STOP MAKING OUT WITH HIM if you don't want him to hit on you."  True that.  Note to self.  Stop being friendly and affectionate to men, even in a platonic way.
Installments 2-4 to follow.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I am a real attorney.

I'm still new enough that some of the usual occupational hazards really get to me.  Like, the "public defender vs. REAL attorney" illusion.
I have a very difficult client.  He is young, with a level of teenage recklessness and disregard that would lead me to tackle him rather than take the stand in his own defense.  (I know, I know, it's his choice, I can't prohibit him from it, yes yes, blah blah blah, but all you PDs out there know that you secretly desire to glue some clients to the seat rather than let him/her take the stand).  This case was on the trial track and was transferred to me.  Ick. 
So, I have to prep this case.  Is it a good trial case?  Do I beg / plead / cajole the DA into making an acceptable offer?  Do I have everything I need in this file?  I try 3 times to meet my client.  He stands me up every time except the third time, when he waltzed into my office FOUR HOURS LATE with no phone call, explanation, anything.  Luckily, I was in the office that day and had the time to meet with him.  We sat together for over an hour, analyzing and discussing his case.  I think the police were pretty rotten to him.  I think they used excessive force.  I also, however, think the case is a loser for my client.  I think there is a very good chance of conviction, as the only witnesses in this case are two police officers. 
I discuss the current plea deal with my client and recommend he take it.  It's not bad, but not great.  He was supposed to call me and talk to me about it.  I call the DA and wrangle out a better deal.  Excellent.  Now I feel better about my legal opinion as to what course of action my client should take.  I think this is a very good plea offer, although I still think the cops are jerks.
Today I show up and tell my client what the new offer is.  I also tell my client that I called him and was disappointed that he did not return my call to discuss his case.  Then he tells me the news I love to hear on the day of trial after exerting this level of energy - he's waiting for his attorney to show up.  His parents decided to hire an attorney instead.  His attorney, he tells me, told him that I would be more than happy to give up his case because I don't have enough time to take care of my cases.
My jaw hit the floor.
It's one thing for a client to want to hire an attorney because they believe that.  I'm fine with that - you're right, I have a lot of cases, and if you can pay for an attorney, then you should.  However, I believe that the defense bar should be a little more respectful of my work ethic and professionalism.  To tell a client that I'm screwing him because I'm too busy with other things is not something I would ever expect from another attorney. 

Saturday, August 12, 2006

...but am I a good PD?

I'm A PD wrote a post that leveled me. Her post made me realize exactly what it was about my job that made me feel so anxious. I've been feeling so insecure and always struggling with the belief that maybe deep down I'm not good at this job, or good for my clients, and I think I'm a PD hit the nail on the head here. There's no way to tell. There is no objective measure, or list of characteristics that make someone a good public defender. Which means that people like me, who have always received good grades and tested well and been on honor roll, etc. are left to flounder in our grey area of evaluating our performance.

I think her words say it best for me:
there's no objective way of measuring whether you are 'good' at doing your work. You expect to lose cases; you expect your clients to hate you and do an unreasonable amount of time; you expect judges to yell at you; you expect polite society to suspect that you are a naive enabler of evil in the world. What you don't expect is the sinking and persistent feeling that you are actually bad at what you do.

Friday, August 11, 2006

too much info.

I'm sure it's only a matter of time before this experience becomes my own.  Nevertheless, I think that these mothers' desire to know more about the sperm donor than they already do is just creepy.  I think it's ridiculous to call for regulations or for policies that share more extensive information about sperm donors.  Here's the deal.  If you want to know who your donor is, what his family is like, what he's like, what the medical issues are... then FIND HIM AND MARRY HIM.  Or at least, FIND HIM AND LET HIM IMPREGNATE YOU.  It seems silly to me to expect so much information from a venue such as a sperm bank.  Furthermore, there's never any way to tell whether your child is going to be perfect or not.  Whether your child's biological father is your husband, or ex, or a some guy you met at a costume party, or some guy you picked out of a catalog... conception is not risk-free.  Even if you pay good money for it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

today's news

 "[T]he ABA voted to declare that it ``opposes, as contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers, the misuse of presidential signing statements by claiming the authority . . . to disregard or decline to enforce all or part of a law the president has signed, or to interpret such a law in a manner inconsistent with the clear intent of Congress."

The ABA also urged Congress to pass legislation giving courts greater jurisdiction to review signing statements in which a president asserts that some parts of a bill unconstitutionally infringe on his executive powers and need not be obeyed. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, has already filed such a bill."

Maurice Clarett, the only athlete an antitrust attorney could ever name, was arrested again, this time with guns, while wearing a bulletproof vest.  Alas, how far he has fallen from the sterile spotlight of my antitrust textbook.

All your internet searches really are being scrutinized.


Friday, August 04, 2006

who's the reactionary?

I received the following comment from an adoring and loyal reader:
hey dumb ass, guess what, we have removed over 500 WMD's from Iraq. Have you been there? of course not.. you just want to run your liberal mouth, and put down everything about this country, while marines like me, fight and die, so that you have the freedom to do it. THANK GOD, BUSH HAS THE BALLS TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
I feel compelled to respond.  I don't know what post this is in response to, because I just get them on my email, but I find the comment deliciously trite. 
Dumb ass.  That's "overeducated Dumb Ass, Esq." to you, buddy.
We have removed over 500 WMD's from Iraq.  Have you?  To be honest, I was unaware.  What do they look like?  What are they capable of doing?  I think it's fair to say that the US government might have made more of a deal about actually recovering the things they said they were going to find and never did.  Unless, by WMD's, you mean "guns."  In which case I can assure you that the streets of this country are a veritable war zone.
Have you been there?  of course not... you just want to run your liberal mouth  If the choice is a) go to Iraq and b) run my liberal mouth, then I'll choose B.  You apparently chose to do both.  Or maybe just the running the mouth bit - you're unclear as to whether you've been in Iraq either.  I support your right to choose, or not choose, as the case may be.
Furthermore, while I have never been in the service, I am a proud member of a family of military members.  You are my brother, my uncle, my father, my grandfather.  I've never been ashamed of my family's service to this country.  My family is in the conflict fighting overseas right next to you.  There is a difference between supporting my nation's decision to embark on such a significantly lethal path and supporting the troops.  I don't oppose you as a human being (well, I didn't before you were so rude - ) but I do believe that I'd rather our soldiers be somewhere else.
and put down everything about this country, while marines like me, fight and die so you have the freedom to do it    It's easy to walk around, screaming and twitching about people who put down everything about this country. "Put down everything about this country"?  You say that because I disagree with you, and I challenge you to identify examples of this assertion.  I don't believe that my country is perfect, but that does not mean I do not love my country.  I do not have to refrain from advocating changes in my country, my government, my society, or my community in order to love it.  That is where people like you become confused.  I gush on and on about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, how I love them, how if I could fill my bathtub up with law and criminal procedure and swim in it, I would... come now.  I love this country.  I fight for it every single day.  You fight for this country with guns and force.  That's your thing.  I fight for this country by protecting people from the chaos and corruption and error in the legal system.  I fight for this country by making sure that the country does not tear from its citizens the cloak of freedom and civil liberty guaranteed by our founding fathers. 
Everyone has their own way of participating in their society, and the beautiful thing about our democracy is that we often exercise our rights without even noticing.  Everyone has a different way of defending freedom, and I defend freedom by literally keeping people free.  I've represented several dozen individuals who have either already fought for their country or are trying to enter the service but cannot because of their pending criminal case.  You know, all those poor and uneducated kids that the Army likes to recruit - I fight every day for their right to enter the Army and fight for their country.
THANK GOD BUSH HAS THE BALLS TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT  God has nothing to do with this war, but as a Bush supporter, that distinction would be lost on you.  As for Bush's balls, well, I'd suggest removing them from your mouth and advise you to get back to work, soldier.  The war is far from over.  There's a lot of work left to be done.  I wish you good health and your safe return from Iraq.  Or Nebraska.  Wherever you are. 

Monday, July 31, 2006

Are you afraid of my Guatemala-ness?

In the course of my work, I come across some real chatters.  The first time I meet a client, it's because they've been locked up, and I'm trying to get them released pending the rest of their case.  The chatters seem to enjoy recounting every irrelevant detail from the time of their conception to the moment of their arrest.  I recently had an entire day of chatters, which made it nearly impossible to move as quickly as I hoped.
There was one client I had who just would not let me end the conversation.  I was starting to get stressed that the conversation was taking too long, and I was getting annoyed that I wasn't getting to more clients.  I remembered some advice one of my mentors gave me recently - this job is like kung fu.  Don't meet force with force - accept the force and redirect it.  Go with it, don't fight it.
So as I resigned myself to listening to this very chatty, very animated gentleman recount how he got arrested, I tried to figure out who he reminded me of, when it hit me:  He spoke JUST LIKE Agador Spartacus from The Birdcage.  I was desperately trying to hold back giggles, so much that my stomach hurt.  The rest of the conversation was a pleasure.


Blogging is light.  My internet is still down, so I have to lurk off to somewhere I can get free WiFi and try to compose something before my internet crashes.  It's a pain.
I cannot believe that tomorrow is August.  How did I lose my entire summer?  What do I have to show for it?  I don't think I once ordered a drink that came with an umbrella in it.  I didn't once drunkenly make out with a stranger on a blanket in a park somewhere.  I didn't attend a BBQ and end the night with a cowboy hat on, singing Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen at the top of my lungs before passing out fully clothed on my bed.  NOT. ONCE.
Who can live like this?
Somehow, strangely, despite the court's aversion to scheduling ANYTHING in the month of August, I happen to have many hearings and several trials scheduled.  I intend to do none of them if I can avoid it.  I need to make up for lost time and have myself a summer.  If you see some girl clutching a drink umbrella, a stranger, and a cowboy hat, humming refrains of "Livin on a Prayer," you might want to give wide berth. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

writing on the wall

Good luck, bar exam takers!!

Monday, July 17, 2006

another battle scar

I cried at work.  Again.  I started crying before I made it out of the courtroom - but the only people who could see me cry were whoever was sitting in the last two rows.  I managed to get that far, at least.  The only thing worse than getting caught crying at work is getting caught crying while trying to HIDE - I crawled under my desk and pulled the chair in so no one could see me and of course, no less than 6 attorneys came by and found me hiding under my desk sobbing.  How embarrassing. 
I was so angry at the way the court was humiliating and needling my client, unnecessarily, and without provocation.  The judge then ordered me to do something that I told the judge I could not do.  I objected, and said I couldn't.  The court ordered again.
A few hours later, everything was resolved, and things worked out the way they should have.  But that's another one of those things that should be considered a 'victory,'  I guess, because the client got what he wanted in the end - but that sure didn't feel like a victory.  It felt like the court was trying to do everything it could to make my client fail, to obstruct whatever I was trying to accomplish - but all the while making it look like it was my client's fault.  It was so frustrating.
Then I had another client this week who was so convinced that what he had to tell the judge was important for the judge to know, that he would not be quiet.  He kept trying to talk to the judge and I kept asking him to stop, don't say anything, otherwise the judge is not going to release you and the prosecutor is definitely going to use it against you.  Ah, no.  My client insisted on talking.  The judge directed my client to speak to me.  Finally, client turned to me, told me exactly what I said not to say to the judge, and I finally said, "My client would like the court to know that he is concerned that xyz will happen as a result of this court's order."  And the judge told him exactly what he thought about that, about 4 times louder than I've ever heard him address anyone, and (ahem) admonished my client so loudly and thoroughly and extensively that I'm pretty sure he'll shut up when I tell him to shut up next time. 
Why, defendants, why, do you take the Fifth Amendment protections that I work tirelessly to protect, and throw it away with both hands, and stomp on it?  I told you the judge did not want to hear that.  And you didn't believe me, did you?
Oooh!  The highlight of my month was when about two weeks ago, for the very first time, I received this question from a client who just got out of jail on a prior case, with about 40 convictions for drug possession who asked me after I told him that he would not be released or sentenced to community service:
C: "Is it true that you work with them?"  Ah yes.  THE question.
Me: "Who?"  I figured I'd play dumb.  I mean, maybe if I can figure out what my client THINKS we all do, I can do a better job of correcting it.
C: "You know, them?"
Me: [deciding to stop playing games] "You mean, do I work with the DA and the judge to keep you locked up?"
C: "Yeah."
Me: "No, it's not true.  I'm here to defend you, which also means telling you what I think is going to happen.  Now, I can tell you what you want to hear, or I can tell you what I know the judge is going to do.  If I really wanted to see you locked up, if I really wanted to work 'with' them, then I'd be a DA instead, because they make a lot more money and they don't have to sit here in the pens with a bunch of people cursing them out.  And if I really wanted to see you locked up, I wouldn't even really need to talk to you about it beforehand, right?"
You know, it would be one thing if I had a curious client who was unfamiliar with the system ask me that question.  I would be ok with answering it.  But it's really disingenuous to ask that question when your rap sheet needs its own forklift. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Victory, to a defense attorney, can have varied meanings.  Getting a max misdemeanor sentence to avoid a felony conviction and felony time can be a victory.  Getting a conviction without jail can be a victory.  Not getting deported is a victory.  Sometimes only an acquittal or dismissal is a victory.
This week, I had some victories.  I didn't win.  But in the end, the law prevailed. 

Kansas v. Marsh

Slate is running another dialogue between Dahlia Lithwick and Walter Dellinger regarding the Supreme Court.  They've been discussing Kansas v. Marsh, in which the Supreme Court found that it is not unconstitutional to execute someone if the mitigators equal the aggravators. 
I've had the pleasure of reading this opinion (please refer to previous post) and reading it along with the Breakfast Table discussion on Slate.  It's rather interesting.  Each concurring / dissenting opinion sets forth a different approach by which to examine this question.
One thing that struck me was a footnote in the dissenting opinion of Justice Stevens, in which he mentions that perhaps the Supreme Court should have taken into account WHO was appealing when granting cert.  It was the State of Kansas, not the defendant, who appealed the ruling of the Kansas Supreme Court (striking down the death penalty statute as unconstitutional).  If the 8th and 14th Amendments are designed to protect individuals, is that "interest entirely absent when the State is the petitioner", as Stevens claims?  Interesting way to look at it.  I don't think that avoids the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court, not the Kansas Supreme Court, is the final arbiter of federal Constitutional claims.  Otherwise, states could start claiming that the 4th Amendment requires that all warrants must be executed by clowns...  but aside from clown hypos, I find something compelling about Stevens's argument.  Emotionally or intellectually or legally compelling?  Not sure which.  But compelling nonetheless.

Friday, June 23, 2006

extra crispy.

I'm trying to follow the adage of, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."  No one wants to hear other people whine.  You will note that my blog has been a little quieter over the past two months or so. 
I read a post at Audacity that moved me to share with you how I'm feeling right now. 
I am really, truly, actually, matter-of-factly burnt out.  Not busy; burnt out.  I yell.  I have zero patience.  I am annoyed.  I wake up in the morning and I'm no longer excited about going to work.  My anxiety level goes through the roof when I see that I have voicemails waiting for me in the morning. 
It took me a little bit to figure out that I was burnt out.  Once I accepted that, I started to wonder why.  I think there are several reasons.  First, I took this job because I wanted to advocate for people who would not otherwise have their voices heard.  Second, I thought I was going to be making extensive use of my trial skills.  Third, I thought I was going to be absorbing, receiving, debating, firing off law and criminal procedure from day to day.
The reality of my days? 
- No trials.  No hearings.  I spend every day begging and charming.  There is no law involved in resolving the overwhelming majority of my cases.  I smile, I kiss ass when it needs to be kissed, I beg, I plead, I cajole, I negotiate.  No 4th, 5th, 6th Amendment.  Just smiles and begging.  Please reduce the charge.  Please give him probation.  Please let her do a program instead of jail time.  No caselaw.  No statutory interpretation.  Just... begging.
- Please give me the discovery you didn't give me before.  Please give me the rest of the discovery.  Nope, really, I still want all that discovery that I know you have and aren't handing over.  Please stop pretending like it's ok to hand over that stuff (and still!  not even all of it) the minute before a hearing / trial when the court set a date over a month ago for final discovery.  Judge, please hold the prosecutor accountable for this.  No?  Ok thanks. 
- I am overwhelmed by the number of cases in which I see police misconduct.  The 4th, 5th, 6th Amendments, the exclusionary rule, giving truthful testimony under oath - I'm not so sure I've seen a lot of it in the courthouse or on the streets.  It exists in textbooks, and as far as I can see, nowhere else.
- Plus all the stories that I'd love to share but don't for fear of recognition / retribution.  There are plenty.
I am not fighting the system that crushes the lives of my clients.  I just help it run smoothly.
I feel like every day has become an exercise in futility. 
As a social worker, I felt helpless - like I had the insight and the access to create change, but not the authority to do so.  I left social work and went to law because I believed in the awe-inspiring and benevolent power of the law to create change in people's lives.  I have such great reverence for The Law - for the Bill of Rights, for Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure.  There's something so powerful about these concepts and their evolution.  It was the intersection of sociology and the law drove me to do indigent defense.  I love my job because I get to work with actual human beings whose lives are real and important, and in theory, through advocacy, I can help protect the importance of their lives and liberty with the powerful tools of law. 
I feel like I've been wholly unsuccessful.  That may not be true, completely.  But right now, I feel like I haven't been able to really humanize my clients.  I haven't been able to really make their individual voice heard.  I really have not been able to use the law the way it should be used to protect the rights of individuals against invasive government intrusion.  I feel helpless and overwhelmed.  What can I do?  What is it that I, as one single, new, underfunded attorney, can do?
I've been so burnt out that I've withdrawn socially as well.  I don't blame my job for my social withdrawal - to be honest, I think it's my dissatisfaction with my social life that is hurting my job, and not vice versa.  But I was so overwhelmed and so distant and distracted.  I was just not present.  And it got so bad that I finally realized I was missing out on a lot of what was going on in other people's lives.  My best friend's wedding.  The pregnancies of two other friends.  Things that I want to be involved in, in which I want to play an active role, and yet I could not scrape up the energy to participate in the way I really want to.  I realized that I couldn't look back with regret on all of these things that I value so much.  So I took a time out.
I don't have the Ultimate Answer, but after a lot of consideration, I have finally identified several things I could try to do in order to reconnect with my life, both personally and professionally:
  • I want to start volunteering with kids again.  I did it for years.  I love children, I love the trappings of childhood, and I have enough free time to dedicate myself to doing something, other than work, that is personally fulfilling to me.  I think I am going to start by reading bedtime stories to children in the hospital.
  • I am going to stop being so stingy with my time.  When my caseload numbers suddenly shot up and when the cases themselves got complex, I started doing a lot of prioritizing, because I had to.  Now, I am going to let the client whose case has already been dismissed, but who keeps insisting on coming in to say hi, come in and say hi.  I will start calling clients I have not spoken to in a while, just to check in.  I will acknowledge that even the small cases are big cases.  I anticipate that a frustrating number of my clients won't have accurate contact information, and won't call me back, but this is my job, I get paid to deal with the frustration of this system, and they don't.  I can at least try. 
  • I will resume reading US Supreme Court cases and state Supreme Court cases regularly, because I like to.
  • I'm going to take more weekend trips to visit people who are near and dear to me. 
  • I'm going to take more weekend trips to be outside and to be present in nature, in the world around me.  I'm going to get out of the city and make my way to the woods and just breathe.

I hope that these things will get me in touch with what's important to me and what brought me here.  I might not get around to reaching all of the goals on this list, but just identifying concrete steps I can take to rejuvenate myself is a good way to stop feeling helpless and hopeless.  I want to give my clients the best attorney that money could never buy.  And I want to make sure that my life, too, is fulfilling and rewarding, and that I am a good friend, sister, daughter, confidante, citizen, community member to others.

Monday, June 12, 2006

does it come with a pay raise and a fancy chair?

Over the past two months or so, I've developed a truly unbelievable caseload.  I bet all public defenders say that.  But I have the most bizarre assortment of headache-inducing, logic-defying, clients-who-I-no-longer-even-represent timesucks.  Where does the time go in a day?  I'm afraid to answer my phone or check my messages, because I'm over a week behind in returning phone calls.  I'm doing triage, putting out fires, for former and current clients, and it's hard to do when I have 20 cases scheduled per day in court.  Every case presents a new and bizarre twist, and juggling so many of them, I can hardly keep them straight.
I've been bemoaning my fate to all who will listen, and by listen I mean, not run away when they see me coming.  When consulting a colleague on a case that involved a former client of his, I weakly cracked an exasperated joke about the defense of absolute innocence that all of my clients seem to be invoking lately.  You know, the "every single person made up every single detail of that story," type of defense.
He responded cheerfully, "Don't fret.  You're going to promoted to the Innocent Defendant's Bureau soon!"
Ha.  The Innocent Defendant's Bureau.  I like it.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Urban lingo

It seems that we associate a certain language to crime, and I wonder how much of it is accurate. For instance, the Baltimore Sun ran several articles that made mention of how John Mohammed referred to Malvo as "son" in his cross examination. The article pointed this out as an example of how Mohammed was a father figure to Malvo and manipulated him. I don't doubt that Malvo was manipulated by a man that he considered a father figure. I disagree, however, that the term 'son' is illustrative of that fact. I find that African-American men refer to one another as such quite often - regardless of age or role.

The New York Times has been covering a trial in New York City that has been charged as a hate crime based on the use of a word: you know, the N word. The crux of the case seems to be this: is it a slang term used in a ghetto-fabulous way, or was the attack solely racially based? That is, can people of different races assault one another without it being a hate crime? If so, does the N word change that? In all cases? How can you tell?

I think that's the tricky part with hate crimes. It's hard to tell what someone's motivation is. And, if in New York City, the only evidence is the use of the N word, is that sufficient? Perhaps the jury will let us know.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

vacation reflections

I am still unsettled.  It took me days into the vacation to relax, and even at that, my vacation was more about searching for quiet and stillness.  When sharing a beach house with other young adults, sometimes that can be a struggle.

Spending time around couples who are young, fun, in love, and leading the life I thought I wanted to be leading right now is difficult.  Seeing them together is uplifting and inspiring.  I admire them for the relationships they've cultivated.  And then when I go to bed by myself, I am emotionally tired and very much alone.

I finally realized that I still feel powerless over my own life.  I have accomplished the things that I want to accomplish, for now, as far as concrete goals go.  I went to a palm reader for fun a few weeks back and left in shock.  You had everything all planned out, she said.  You've always had life planned out.  First this, then that.  But now, the things that you planned aren't working out.  One commenter in the last post wasn't so far off.  I do want to get married, get a house, get pets.  Have kids.  That's what I had planned to be working on right now.  But right now, it's not even on the radar, and I'm at a loss as to what to do now.

I think that I've convinced myself that I'm in the right location because I have the job I want, I work with people I like, I am around close friends who are also single and are in similar positions.  Being away from my new home for a while has made me realize that I don't have much interest in going back.  If I'm going to be lonely, I might as well be lonely in a quieter and more peaceful place.  I want to have a backyard and an old pickup truck and a quiet neighborhood.  I want to be near the people I know and love, but I'm not sure I can stay where I am.  I miss seeing trees and the ocean - the actual ocean, not just a commercial harbor - I miss swimming in green lakes ringed with pine trees, where fish will nibble your toes.  I miss burying my toes in the cool green grass and the wet dirt underneath it.  I miss setting up my lawn chair and grill and making drinks and drinking beers in the sunshine.  Living in a city has its attributes, no doubt, but the things that this particular city has to offer are mostly things I do not value deeply. 
Maybe it's time for me to move my life in a direction that feels less lonely.  Or maybe, at this stage in life, that's not really how things go.

A friend asked me how I ended up where I am now.  I thought I had the answer. 

Thursday, May 25, 2006

the real world sucks.

And I don't mean the MTV show.  I mean the real world.  Lowercase t, lowercase r, lowercase w. 
I left work at a reasonable hour and I took tomorrow off.  I have the whole night to myself.  What to do?  Hmmm.  I did a little window shopping, came home and ate dinner, made a batch of hummus [really disappointing, I have never found a good recipe], had a beer, checked the blogs, and now here it is.  7:30 pm.  I'm watching the first episode of Friends and guess what?  Aniston TOTALLY got a nose job somewhere along the way. 
So what am I supposed to do the rest of the night?  I could clear out the laundry room.  That's a task and a half.  I could finish unpacking my room and prep it for this weekend's painting.  I could watch TV all night, again. 
I'm bored, and lonely.  I get up in the morning, go to the gym, go to work, come home, make dinner, watch TV, go to bed.  Every once in a while, some weekend plans turn up.  I mostly feel like I'm going through the motions, the routine, but I have no purpose.  This is not as much fun as my mid-twenties were supposed to be.
How am I supposed to occupy my time for the next, oh, 30 years?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

locked down

1,000 Incarcerated Per Week 04-05

From the article:
"The jail population is increasingly unconvicted," Beck said. "Judges are perhaps more reluctant to release people pretrial."
The report by the Justice Department agency found that 62 percent of people in jails have not been convicted, meaning many of them are awaiting trial.
The racial makeup of inmates changed little in recent years, Beck said. In the 25-29 age group, an estimated 11.9 percent of black men were in prison or jails, compared with 3.9 percent of Hispanic males and 1.7 percent of white males.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

false confession

The New York Times has an article on an inmate who is being freed after DNA tests concluded that he falsely confessed to the crime.
It is interesting to note that all courts denied the defendant's applications for DNA testing.  The reasoning was that the defendant knew too much about the details of the crime to be innocent.  Even though the DA opposed the testing, the DA then ran the tests on their own and discovered that indeed, the defendant was not the killer.
How could someone who knew so much be innocent?  Mr. Warney says that the cops fed him the information as they interrogated him.  I can't believe anyone is surprised.  Mr. Warney knew all the details because the cops gave it to him.  That's what convicted him, and that's what kept him behind bars, wrongfully, for years.  And that's why the courts continuously denied Mr. Warney's application for relief.  And if the DA hadn't had some change of heart (or a confession by another person) then Mr. Warney would continue to be a wrongfully convicted killer.  Mr Warney was expected to die in jail because of his fragile health.  Thank goodness something happened before the legal system killed him.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

falling off the wagon

After weeks of struggling to maintain my dignity, and somewhat succeeding, I had what I thought was a moment of strength and I emailed The Ouster. It was just small talk - i heard a song by his favorite group, which I hadn't heard before, and was totally caught off guard by it. I wrote the email, made small talk about music and other things, and sent it with a sense of finality. Now I'll know, I thought. He won't respond, and no more strings.

Except he responded.

And then I responded. ("WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT EMAIL HIM BACK" this same friend told me. I told her that she and I both knew I was going to ignore her very wise advice.)

And then he emailed back and asked me if I wanted to get together this Saturday.

Of course, I really want to see him again. I also still have very strong reservations about embarking on date #3 that looks a lot like dates #1 and #2. That is, a date that looks like drunkenly making out at the bar and / or getting booted after he's decided he's had his fun. I won't be able to see him this weekend because I already had something [really lame] to do and couldn't break plans. Not that I would for him anyway. So when I emailed him back, I let him know that this weekend was bad but asked him about next weekend. He hasn't bothered to respond. Now I have to wait.

I also caved and met up with Tenacious D last night. It was immediately disappointing and mostly a mistake. He's a good person, but still hasn't actually taken me out on a date despite all my pleading, and when I try to talk to him about why it's disappointing that he hasn't so much as asked me out in the past two months, he tells me it's because I'm always busy and out with other people. I don't like being told that it's my fault, but I can see that he must feel that he's giving me space that he wishes he didn't have to give me. Last night was awkward and I couldn't even stand to kiss him because I realized that it was really and truly done.

I was doing so well for a while there! 3 or 4 whole weeks... then, crash! kapow! Back to the same bad habits.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Monday, May 01, 2006


on being a public defender: to plead or not to plead?

It's not an uncommon dilemma.  Nonetheless, it haunts and perplexes your typical public defender.  What should you advise your client to do?  Take the plea or not?
I have two cases that are troubling me.  In one case I have been actively pursuing an alternate sentence.  My client has been in on bail for two months.  It is his first offense.  At first, the district attorney's 'offer' was a guilty plea and 6 months jail.  Then it was a guilty plea and 8 months jail.  It is clear from the nature of the charge that my client needs rehab.  I tussled with the DA over whether it should be residential and finally the DA and the court agreed (for logistical reasons) that an intensive outpatient program would be fine.  So my office has been working to get some community resources together to help my client get his life back on track - with employment, housing, treatment, and continued support.  Once this program is in place, my client can plead guilty and get out of jail, with the agreed sentence being whatever program is put together.  This case has taken a lot of time and energy, and I was well on my way to resolving this case when an attorney asked me harshly, "Why are you giving him a criminal conviction on a first arrest?" 
I don't know if I have a good answer.  I had asked the DA to consider an alternate disposition to try to avoid giving my client a criminal record, but my request was flatly refused.  That was back when we were looking at months in jail.  Suddenly I wonder if I'm wrong, and I've been working the case in the wrong direction the whole time.  Maybe he should go to trial instead - even if convicted after trial, the sentence would either be a similar drug program or jail time that my client would probably have already completed by that point.  But it would certainly mean that he wouldn't be getting out for another few months, at least.  And the facts / evidence pretty much points to "conviction."
My other case is also a first arrest.  If she agrees to pay restitution, she will avoid a conviction.  It's a good deal.  My client insists that she didn't do anything, and is angry that she was even arrested in the first place.  She believes that this is a vengeance issue, but after I did some investigation and advised her that she doesn't really have a good defense, and that the District Attorney seems to have a pretty solid case, she said "If that's what I have to do then I'll do it."  Should I tell her to just pay the money and be done with it?  Pay it, get no conviction, move on with your life?  If she really didn't do anything and this was just vengeance, then this won't be the end of the issues, I can imagine.  I just don't know what to tell her.

Friday, April 28, 2006

despite the fact that my 2nd iPod just crapped out

iTunes does not have the Local H version of "Toxic," which I love. I don't want to have to get online to listen to it when I need my fix.

Who can help me out?

thank you and good night.

Thanks for your kind words on my last post.  I should close comments on posts like that because it actually makes me feel crappy when people write and say, "Cheer up!" or "You're great!" or "You're so pretty!"  I don't want people to think I'm fishing for compliments.  I just occasionally write something to share with you what goes on in my head.  Now you know.  As an aside, I don't think any of those things I reported below are unique to me.  I think lots and lots of smart, attractive, confident, fun, capable young women feel this way.  Some days are better than others.
This week has been an interesting week.  At least half a dozen times this week I've thought, "I can't believe I get paid to do this!"  I am deliriously happy in this job.  There are good days and there are bad days.  But I know I'm in the right job when I'm thankful to get a paycheck for it, because I'd do it without a paycheck if I had to.  (You know, if I were independently wealthy and jobs like this didn't pay... then yeah, I'd totally do it anyway).  I have a few really interesting cases with interesting legal issues and interesting clients.  And I LOVE that this is all mine.  The clients are mine, the motions are mine, the strategy is mine.  I marvel at the fact that I get money in my bank account twice a MONTH instead of twice a YEAR and I DON'T EVEN HAVE TO PAY IT BACK!
This job rocks.  I hope you love your job as much as I love mine.
There will be an end to my navel-gazing at some point.  I'll write something substantive one day.
(But ooooh, I must look good today, because I've had two marriage proposals from strangers.  It's been a while!)