Saturday, January 28, 2006

and I don't mean guns or towels

I recently covered a case for another attorney. When I looked at the file, I realized that I had actually covered the case on the last appearance as well. On the last appearance, in which he had been released from jail after clearing up some procedural things, he thanked me extensively. I told him that really I hadn't done anything, that it was virtually predetermined that he would walk out that day anyway, and that all I did was get up and smile for the judge. To which he responded, "And that's a very pretty smile, because I'm gettin' out."

After the second time I covered his case, he took me aside and asked if I'd come back again for the next court date. He wanted me to represent him from that time on, but that he would understand if I couldn't. I said thanks, but this is another attorney's case, so he'll continue representation. "I like your style," the client said.

I told the attorney this story later. "Your client asked me to come to court on his next appearance."
He said sharply, "No. I'm his attorney, I will handle his case."
"Yeah, I know. That's what I told him. Don't worry - I'm pretty sure that when he said he liked my style, he really meant that he liked my rack."

Friday, January 27, 2006

not funny.

Coulter jokes about killing John Paul Stevens
Yeah, that's a real knee-slapper.  Ha.  Don't try a comedy tour. 
I seem to remember reading something that said Stevens was actually a conservative appointee and that he, at least at the time of his appointment, was a Republican.  I think the same article argued that his opinions had not changed over the years but rather the court shifted so far right that he's now on the left. 

Thursday, January 26, 2006

so tired cannot be coherent

Scorpions can survive almost 15 months in plaster? Yuck. I like these types of internet stories. Like the one from earlier in the week about the US Navy capturing a pirate ship. Arrrrrrrgh matey. From this same part of my brain / heart, I love Magic Cookie's new template. Roawrr.

A while back I saw a friend who reminded me that the last time I saw him, I made out with his little brother. He told me that his little bro had been digging me all night, which flattered me because when was the last time anyone 'dug me'? He then went on to say that his little brother asked him at one point, "Is WomanoftheLaw crazy, or just really fun?" And he told him that I was just really fun. I was flattered to think that so many people thought I was such a bundle full of fun! And then a few days later I realized that when this can be confused for crazy, maybe it's not such a good thing.

Along the "is she fun or just fucking crazy?" line of thought, I had an hour to kill last night and didn't want to stay at work but didn't want to go all the way home either. I grabbed a bite to eat and started sending random text messages for company. Although I swore I would not email him until he emailed me, I sent him a text message. "Tell me a joke. To be fair, I'll go first." I typed out a cheezy second-grader joke and sent it to him. If he texted me back with something like, "I don't know any jokes" or "Huh?" it would be a deal-breaker. Also, the respondent joke itself could indicate whether this man is worthy of my crush.

He sent me back 4 text messages. The first one was the joke. The second one: "Wait for it..." The third one was the punch line. It was precisely as stupid and cheezy and second-grade as the joke I had sent him. Other friends to whom I made the same demand didn't even come close. The fourth text sealed the deal for me, it left me in a fit of giggles. "Ha!" it said. He laughed at his own joke. Via text message. If that doesn't mean that this is the man who should marry me, well then, you're dead to me.

Work has been overwhelmingly crazy this week and I have to work late tomorrow and I'm exhausted and coming down with a violent illness and would most definitely like to adopt a new tagline on my blog: "Would rather be sleeping."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

here, have a few links

Theo returns as Red Sox GM.  Oh thank heavens.  The Sox have bungled enough contracts in Theo's absence, please Theo, make it stop!
Interesting NY Times article about an excellent teacher at Riker's Island who apparently has been temporarily suspended for political bureaucratic reasons.  Some teachers sleep with their students - this one helps them get GEDs and college courses.  And this is his thanks.  I think I would like to teach in a juvenile facility as my next career.  If they try to fire me, I'll know that I'm being successful.
Sentence in death of Iraqi angers son - Speaking by telephone from Iraq, Mowhoush, 18, decried the military jury's sentencing this week of Chief Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer Jr. He emotionally recounted his own arrest and seeing his father shortly before he died in an interrogation room in northern Iraq.
Slate article from a few days back:  Can someone else pay your taxes?  Sure, if you pay taxes on the taxes.  That was one of the lessons I took away from my federal income tax class in law school.  The federal tax code is really somethin' else, man.  I wasn't particularly psyched about the class on a day to day basis, but it was interesting to learn about something that affects my paycheck every other week.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

on being a new attorney: hidden insecurities

I'm afraid that I suck.

Law school has done very little to prepare me for the practice of law. I went to a very good law school, I can recite criminal procedure jurisprudence on command, I read Supreme Court cases for fun (even the non-criminal ones, just so I can 'stay fresh' on things like federal jurisdiction and civil procedure). And yet, none of those things did one lick of good to prepare me for what I do day to day. I'm not sure that it should, necessarily - I think the only way to figure out how to work in the court is to actually work in the court - but I spend so much of my time trying to figure out what is happening and trying not to fuck it up that I'm just spent. I can't even hide in my office anymore because people keep finding me.

One day, after a previous long hard tiring day at work, I had to cover a case I knew nothing about in a courtroom I knew nothing about (it was just a silly administrative matter, really) and the judge just made me feel like an ass. The outcome was what I needed, but nevertheless, I walked out the courthouse doors sniffling and just decided to take a walk and cry, cry, cry. The most privacy I'm able to get these days is on the sidewalk in front of court. How sad. I finally walked to some cracked fountain where homeless people drink out of paper bags (there were some bottles lying about) that overlooks a small teeny triangle of grass and the highway. I cried for about 30 minutes and it felt so good. I cried because I feel so incompetent, I feel like people must think I'm such an idiot, I have no idea what's going on half the time and it is so tiring to be fumbling around every minute of my day. Sometimes I miss being able to know what I need to know - being able to look it up in a book, or debate an issue 'in theory' without anyone having to serve more jail time or lose their kids or be deported for it. Things happen so quickly, snap judgments need to be made, and then I always wonder if there's something else I should have done.

I hate that law feels so, I don't know, alpha male. The guys just act like they don't need the help, that they don't want anyone else helping them figure things out, they'll do it as they go. It's been frustrating, because it makes me feel like my anxiety is a personal flaw - that if I can't do this without getting so worked up or getting 4 people's opinions on it, if I feel like such an ass all the time, then it must be because I'm not a good attorney.

Then, as I was saying farewell to a court interpreter with whom I had not worked before, I heard the words I needed to hear.
"Are you new or did you transfer from somewhere else?" she asked.
"Oh no, I'm new. Just here a few months now."
"Really? I wouldn't have guessed it. I thought for sure you had worked somewhere else before. You're very good. You speak very confidently, and you really seem to know what you're doing."

I melted. I couldn't help but collapse in a heap of overwhelmed gratitude. It had been a long day, and I felt like it had been a good day, but it was so nice to hear someone tell me that I had done a good job.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

zealous vs fruitless vs useless advocacy

If your client does not appear for a court date and you don't have a good explanation, i.e., funeral / hospital / in jail, do you argue to stay a bench warrant?
In my mind, that seemed to be part of this job.  At least sometimes, there's an argument like, "My client has made all other scheduled appearances" or "My client just told me yesterday that she'd be here, it's possible that there was a last minute transportation / childcare / health problem and she's already left me a message, can you stay the warrant?" 
Because most of the attorneys in my office have so many years of experience, they've all developed their own work habits.  This is one of those habits - unless they have heard a good reason from their client, they don't argue to stay a warrant.  They also get annoyed when I choose to do things that they do not include in their routines.  I don't think they realize that when I choose to do something that may be fruitless but hey, why not try, they get snippy with questions like, "Why bother?  What's the point?"  It's true - most of what I do in court is a foregone conclusion.  But don't beat me down for trying.  I don't see what the problem is with just trying.  In some cases, I have no good argument - the client has every reason to flee the jurisdiction or not show up - and I don't try to argue against those.  I can't try and vouch for every client because then I lose my credibility before the court.  That's what attorneys say when they tell me not to argue at all.  But I don't think that's necessarily the case.  I don't think this is useless advocacy.  I don't think I need a foolproof reason to argue against issuance of a bench warrant.  Let me wear down on my own time - if I find that sort of practice habit doesn't work for me, let me eliminate it myself. 
How does arguing against a bench warrant differ from, say, filing a suppression motion?  You know that you will probably lose, but that doesn't stop you from making the argument.  And you never know, you might get a judge feeling particularly law-like that day, and just maybe they'll see your argument and just might agree with you.  It's not useless to file suppression motions - although it may be fruitless. 
For practitioners, students, observers, and citizens out there:  What do you think?  If you were sitting in the audience watching a courtroom or if you were a client or if this were your case, what would you say?  Do you try to argue against a warrant being issued for the client's arrest, or do you just chill until they're hauled back into court?  Does it matter whether you think the client will get thrown in on bail when they're brought before the court?

Monday, January 16, 2006

file under: lines I will use daily, henceforth

An argument developed between two females on the street. As the argument escalated, one girl turned to her friend and said, "Bitch, hold my hoops" and handed over her considerably large hoop earrings.

Bitch, hold my hoops.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

random stuff

I decided not to email him at all. I waited the standard 2 day period, but by that point, I had finally come to terms with the truth: he is not interested in dating me, and I don't want to convince him otherwise. Additionally, my free time between now and the end of Feb has filled up quickly, so I don't have the time to email him or the time to go to this function. That's that. He'll call or email if he wants to talk.

Sometimes I can't believe that I'm really an attorney. Today I felt like a real attorney. Despite the fact that I was not in my office this morning, the supervisor found me AGAIN. I think this is day 10. He's like a heat-seeking missile. And then he said, "Are you avoiding me?" which made me smirk. I actually had been running around on a case this morning that ANOTHER supervisor, out of the office at that time, called me on to cover. So now I have two supervisors who seem to have identified me as a good little worker monkey. Anyway, today ended up being busy, in a good way. I felt like a real attorney.

This week, I have broken my office coffeepot and a beautiful ornate desktop clock that I got as a gift for leaving my social work job. I have horrid peripheral vision - it's not a vision problem, but rather a perception problem. My brain doesn't really seem to care about what's going on in the three feet of space around me. Thus, I often kick, elbow, hit, and bump things and people. Sadly I had two casualties this week. Three if you count that cute thing with hinges that sits on my desk and no longer quite closes all the way after a nasty tumble.

I've recently had people inquire about my dating experiences. I think I'm an excellent storyteller. I think I'm pretty amusing, I get pretty dramatic, and I know which details to highlight. (I'm not sure how funny these dating stories would be if I wrote them out for you. But I promise I will try.) On each of the occasions when I've recounted an example of a recent unsuccessful date, I've done so without the storytelling effects. No drama. No slant. A mere objective recountenance. And yet, each time I've given the straightforward example with no entertainment intentions, my audience was rolling with laughter. That, my friends, is a sad state of affairs.

calls for VT judge to resign

A judge in VT is experiencing some public outcry over his 60 day sentence for sex abuse that occurred over the course of 4 years.

"The solution to these concerns requires quick and effective treatment," the judge wrote. He also noted that Hulett tested at a borderline intelligence level, has the emotional maturity of a 12- to 14-year-old and did not understand why others were so upset by his actions.

Republican Gov. James Douglas said Thursday the judge should consider resigning. He condemned the 60-day sentence as insensitive to the victim and her family.

"When a grown man rapes a small child, justice is only served when the criminal is behind bars — for a long time — paying for his inexcusable crime," the governor said.

on being an attorney: why you should be a solo practitioner

I am in the process of applying for a loan repayment grant.  The grant requires a letter from my employer verifying my job description (to make sure it is indeed a legal, public interest job), my starting date, and my salary.  I asked my supervisor, he said to ask the head office administrator.  I asked the head office administrator, she told me to call a woman in HR.  I called and emailed the woman in HR, she's been out sick.  I call another HR number.  Finally someone calls me back and I tell them what I need.  He tells me that they need something in writing to release my start date and salary.  To release this letter to me, you need my written permission, I ask?  Yes, he says.  Also, the job description is a problem.  He needs to call me back.  I come back to my office at the end of the day and find a message telling me that they don't need my written permission (I had already given it to him) and will give me a letter with my salary and start date but that they cannot give me a job description.  I need to get that from my supervisor or office administrator. 
So the only thing standing in the way of me getting this loan repayment grant is the crap paying job I took that qualifies me for said grant in the first place.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

on being a new attorney: should I really be allowed to do this?

Gosh I'm tired. Someone must have sent out a memo indicating my boredom, because it came in from all sides today. Suddenly I'm the most popular worker monkey. "Do you want to help me on this?" "Want to work on this trial with me?" "Can you cover this case for me?" "Can you cover this case for me?" "Can you cover this case for me?"

Resolution: Not to be seen in my own office anymore. Ever.

The supervisor makes the rounds and I don't know where he's coming from, but somehow I'm always in his direct line of vision or the first attorney he sees. I need to get better at ducking him. Today, he asked me to do something really cool, so naturally I assumed another attorney would be helping me with it. That was not the case. Also, it did not take just a few minutes. It lasted about 5 hours past the end of my workday. Thanks boss! Let me stop. It doesn't bother me that he asks, because let's be honest, if anyone should be doing more work, it should be me, the one doing not much of anything. I'm happy to do it.

However, is it really a good idea that no one else is here to let me know whether I'm fucking this up? No seriously. You're going to let me do this? I've never even had a trial, shouldn't this be going to someone who has done a trial before? Because I don't even know all the possible ways that I could fuck this up. Do you realize that a citizen's liberty is on the line here? Maybe our clients are onto something when they ask for a real lawyer.

The worst part of all of this is not the apprehension or anxiety or looking like a fool. I'm getting past that. I learn a lot more and get much more done if I embrace and announce my ignorance. I'm lucky that there are plenty of people - court officers, attorneys, judges, cops - who are willing to work with me when I smile sweetly and exclaim, "Why, I do declare, my pretty little head wouldn't know a thing about that!" Ok, I don't really say that, but the sweeter and more helpless I look, the better outcome I get. Ignorance really is bliss, for now anyway.

The worst part is how I feel afterwards. I'm always convinced that there's something I did wrong. I probably should have done something else. I probably fucked up something royally. What did I miss? What was I supposed to do? It's so hard to shake that feeling. In most cases, there is probably something I could have done differently, but that doesn't necessarily make it wrong. And inevitably I could have done something wrong, but that doesn't make it fatal or irreversible. And if I did something wrong and fatal and irreversible, well then I shouldn't have been sent to do it in the first place.

It takes me a long time to shake off that feeling. Every day I go to court, every time I have a particular assignment, every time I'm doing something that is real lawyer work, I have at least a solid hour of dread afterwards. I'm always waiting for someone to tell me how much I suck or fucked up. It hasn't happened yet, and I know that I'm more competent than I feel, but I can't stop panicking after everything I do. It's a sucky way to get through a week. Thank the sweet Higher Power for cabernet and Oreos.

only funny to me.

This headline cracks me up: Israel suspends contact with Pat Robertson.

It makes Pat Robertson sound like a country. Or Israel like a girlfriend.

I: Why you gotta be callin' here all the time?
PR: I done told you I already sent the baby's check. Imma mess you up next time I see you.
I: This is SO OVER.

Is there a restraining order?

EDIT: Pat Robertson apologizes to Israel. Or, "Baby, come back. I promise it'll be better this time, boo."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

how can I tell if I'm That Girl?

I'm panicked because I just had one of those terrible realizations that I might be one of those people that he's nice to, just because he's so nice. He's the one that is nice to the most incredibly annoying people I know, people that I tolerate on occasion and consider myself a saint for doing so. He's nice to them and will never say a bad word about them. I don't like to speak badly of other people, but when they're objectively annoying, it's not being mean. It's just the truth.

He emailed me, after not responding to several emails and text messages. It was a cordial email. He's willing to go to this other thing I want to go to. But holyfuckinglord, maybe he's just trying to be nice. He didn't seem excited about it in the email. I think it might be true. Can it possibly be true that this whole time I've just been the charitable acquaintance? No. It hasn't always been like this. Just since that lunch in October. Before that, I thought there was a shot. Now... now I'm just sad, and tired. Why am I wasting so much time and energy, when I keep swearing that I'll stop? I need to stop.

But I do need to email him back tomorrow...

but how am I supposed to tell if I'm That Girl? I told him last time, if he can't make it, I can find someone else. He seemed hurt when I insinuated that last time, but when I said it he finally committed. That wasn't my intention - I just wanted to go to the comedy show, and wanted to make sure I could find someone to go, and if not him, then I needed to know enough in advance to find someone else. What do I say this time? "Hey, I realized that you're super nice to XYZ even though you don't seem genuinely stoked to hang out with XYZ, so I just want to put out there - don't come if I'm XYZ. I can find someone else." That's what I want to say. I also want to say, "Hey. I like you a lot. And if you aren't thinking about me in a way that makes you determined to kiss me softly on the lips at the end of the evening the next time we see each other, then don't come. I can find someone else."

That's probably not true either though.


today's news

Baltimore's finest - busted for drugs, porn, rape
Five teens freed after DA drops rape charges 

Graham's lawyer, James Corbo, contrasted what happened to his client to the fate of five former Milton Academy students accused of statutory rape after an oral sex session with a 15-year-old sophomore girl in a school locker room about two months after the Bromley-Heath incident.

In a deal with prosecutors that could spare them any jail time and clear their records, the Milton Academy teens agreed last June to undergo counseling, complete community service, and serve at least two years of probation.

''The difference is that in Milton the students walked into the court with their ties on and got probation," Corbo said. ''And these five African-American kids sat in custody for 13 months on extremely high bails."

Supreme Court to hear DNA death row case

Alito is no Roberts - Dahlia Lithwick

Thursday, January 05, 2006

customer service my ass

I had to call a financial services company to look into organizing my retirement accounts.  I was given a toll free number to call, so I called it.  I don't currently have an account with this particular company, but since I know people who work for the company, I figured why not them?  When I called the toll free number, it prompted me for my social, to access my account.  Knowing very well that I don't have an account, I dialed 0#.  It told me that it didn't recognize it, then lectured me on why it was important to punch in my number so a rep could better assist me.  After trying to make the lecture end (unsuccessfully) I finally just punched in my number, then #.  Then it told me it didn't recognize my number, so I tried again.  It still didn't recognize my number, and refused to acknowledge anything else I tried to press or yell into the phone.  I was perplexed.  How can I call them to open an account if I need an account to call them?  So I found another phone number on the website and called that, then had to wait FOREVER to be transferred.  The wait itself didn't bother me, but then when I was advised 1. by the person who did answer and 2. the person to whom I was transferred to call THAT 1(800) number from now on, I told them what I did and how I tried. 
WOTL:  So if I have questions about this paperwork, which number do I call then?
Rep:  Call [number].
WOTL:  I tried that earlier, and it asked for my social, and then didn't recognize it, because I don't have an account.
Rep:  Ohhhh, ok.  Well yeah, go ahead and dial 0#.
WOTL:  I tried that too.  It still wouldn't let me talk to a person.  Then it lectured me.
Rep:  Yeahhhhhhh, well, you can go ahead and call that number again, and just keep trying until you get through.
WOTL:  Yeah, but I tried calling, it wouldn't let me talk to someone, and I don't have a number that will get the machine to give me a person!
Rep:  Yes, well, you can just keep trying to call that number, and keep trying until you talk to someone.  Just go ahead and dial 0#.
WOTL:  !!!!!!!
Let me get this straight - you're telling me to just sit here and punch numbers into a phone while the automated voice admonishes me about the importance of putting in the right number so it can pull up my account to better assist me?  And just keep doing that?  Over and over?  And this will solve my problem HOW?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


It seems that I'm not the only one harboring this unhappy feeling of despair. You all had some nice emails and comments to share. I've also had friends disclose the same feelings to me, without me even mentioning how I was feeling. It took me by surprise how many other people felt this way. Sorry kids - but it makes me feel a lot better. Misery loves company!

I had another unfulfilling day today and then came home to find a bad letter from one of my lenders. A letter that gave me some cryptic form-letter reason that my loan was not locked into the 2.77% rate and that instead I'd have to reapply at the %4.7 rate. So, like any reasonable woman with a sad life and an overdrawn checking account until the next paycheck would do, I started sniffling and tearing up at the idea that I'd be bent over for EVEN MORE INTEREST to repay, therefore cementing my belief that my diplomas will heretofore be hung on the side of the shopping cart out of which I will be living.

Several things then occurred that actually made my day better than when it started. The first two things were the customer service reps at two respective lenders. They were actually so nice, and so insistent on finding the right answer for me, and were so kind and patient, that I have no choice but to send gushing letters to their respective bosses. They were the nicest people I've spoken to all day. [refer above to 'sad life.'] The third thing that happened to me, that led me here to eat treats and drink tea and curl up on the couch with the laptop while I shriek happily and unabashedly along with Kelly Clarkson (that's right! I said UNABASHEDLY and KELLY CLARKSON) is that I received a genuinely funny email from a fellow blogger that made me genuinely laugh, and for the entire past 30 minutes, I have been in a genuinely good mood. That's something notable.

This was going to be a post about resolutions, but I'm not ready to do those yet. I know what they are (they're the same as last year's for the most part), and when I share them, like I said to NotGuilty and Sanchovilla, I expect you'll help keep me to them. Mmmmmk?


This article on Slate discusses why it's both economic and compassionate to pull the plug on a ventilator because the dying patient couldn't pay her medical bills.  It's an odd thing to think about, and I get angry sometimes when I read articles defending otherwise very sad and disheartening commentaries on the state of the world by using an economic analysis.  It's sad enough to think about people losing their homes or their children because they can't afford to make ends meet.  But to think that people are too poor to stay alive - and that decisions are made like that - stuns me.  What angers me most is the juxtaposition with the Schiavo case.  The state and federal government were trying to COMPEL a woman in Florida to stay alive against what it appeared her wishes were - all while permitting the death of a woman in Texas because she was poor.  Shocking.