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