Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

our kids.

Baltimore Sun article on a 17 yr old who died after being restrained in a youth facility.
This makes me so sad.  Maryland has consistently had problems with their juvenile facilities, and frequently one of the issues that is highlighted is staff training.  Several years back, the DOJ intervened and wrote a scathing report that Maryland has been scrambling to clean up since then. 
A high school diploma is all that's required to work at these facilities, plus some training when hired.  I think what no one is willing to point out is that there are people in corrections who are just one conviction away from being just like the clients they serve.  They come from the same backgrounds and have similar behaviors and solve problems the same way - with violence.  Others are interested in a law enforcement career - cops on the make.  It never ceases to anger me, the utter lack of services or desire to provide services to incarcerated kids and adults. The U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration of any developed country, and in this country, society wants to see you convicted and / or incarcerated and doesn't want to see you again.  I have clients who do a year in jail at a time for possessing cocaine.  The past 20 years of their life have been spent like this, a revolving jail door.  The cops know them, and when they need an easy collar, they just roll up, pat them down, and throw them in the car.  (I've had several officers admit this to me.)  How has this helped society at all?  This hasn't made us safer, has it?  Can you believe how many taxpayer dollars are spent incarcerating people for being drug addicts?  Why don't we throw alcoholics in jail?  Why don't we incarcerate people for using too much gas in their SUVs or people who don't recycle?  Those choices are most certainly affecting the quality of our lives.
We should be making juvenile facilities in particular a career path for people who are trained in social services, who are dedicated to serving juveniles' educational and emotional needs.  These are our children.  There may juveniles in custody who are beyond these levels of care and who may need to be in custody just because they really are a danger to society, but sitting on them until they die is not a solution to the problem.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

prayers answered.

So I got a win.  It was a little baby victory, in the grand scheme of things, but a win that I really needed.  It made me feel competent.  It made me feel less overwhelmingly helpless.  It made me realize that maybe my job does matter, maybe I'm more than just a person who makes the judge and DA feel better about sending my client to jail.  Sometimes we actually win.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Best American essays

I'm digging into Best American Essays 2006 and came across this quote that I loved because it really does apply to all of life:
"I suppose the joy of finding an appreciative audience is better any day than some feeble notion of a destination."
- Poe Ballantine, 501 Minutes to Christ


It's that time again.  The time when I don't want to get out of bed, I can't stand to listen to my clients tell me one more bullshit story, I eat cheese and drink red wine like an addict consumes heroin, I won't answer phone calls because I don't have anything nice to say, and I'm pretty sure I haven't smiled in over a month.  If I did, it was fake.
I get along well with an attorney in my office who has an MSW (masters in social work) and since my undergrad degree is in social work, we talk about feelings, and debriefing, and our emotional investment in our jobs, etc.  Things that attorneys don't ever talk about, and that criminal defense attorneys should probably talk more about.  Today she told me two things that are very true. 
1. I expect too much from my clients. 
2. Good doctor, bad patient.  I can give help, and spend all of my time giving help to others, but you can't make me take help and I absolutely won't take it, damnit.
My clients, I think, have defeated me.  I have one client who was trying to snow me with some ridiculous story about why he was innocent, and I let him get about halfway through it before I told him it was disingenuous to try to claim innocence if he already signed a confession.  Why lie to your lawyer?  Why?  You spill your guts to the cops IN A HEARTBEAT.  And I'm not the one who beats you and arrests you and harasses you and instigates you with lewd, disgusting comments about what I'd do to your mother / daughter / sister.  If you tell me what happened, at least I know where the best defense will be.  If you try to come up with some alternate reality, then you don't have much of a defense, because you're the only person in the world who's singing that tune.  All the witnesses, the police officer, the DNA evidence, the medical records - those will flush you out.  The signed confession?  Yeah... you say it's not a confession because it only said that you were sorry, that you'd been arrested for it before, and that you might have done it this time but you'll never do it again... that, my friend, is a confession.  Don't let the police trick you into thinking you were making a "statement" or that they'd "put in a good word" for ya.  They were lying.  Because they want you in jail.  I want you out of jail.  Making up some fantasy world is not going to help that happen. 
I had one client who spent 10 minutes telling me what happened, that he hit the guy because the guy gave him a nasty look, so of course he was going to engage in a high speed car chase, that's doesn't make the resulting car accident his fault, and he concluded with, "That's why I'm innocent."  His story pretty much made out every element of the crime, and when he asked, "So how does my case look?" and I answered honestly, I immediately regretted not lying to him.  He insulted my legal abilities, yadda yadda, telling me that he's on his own, because people like me don't like to fight cases, yadda yadda, I'm a crock of shit, etc. 
Sending me on a wild goose chase all over this state and the neighboring states looking for witnesses who will tell me how much you're a liar will not help your case.
Assuring me repeatedly that you know all these people who were witnesses and will corroborate your story and you can get me their info, only to later tell my investigator that you don't know any of those people because they were just bystanders, and actually there really was only one, and he wasn't there when it happened, will not help you win your case.
So today, I did a hearing with a client claiming actual innocence, and after hearing the cop testify, I pretty much threw in the towel, mentally.  The judge even yelled at me for litigating a case that was so clearly a loser.  When I told the judge that it is not my decision whether to take a plea or go to trial, he yelled, "Well it's someone's decision!"  Yeah.  Still not mine though.  After the hearing, I spoke quite harshly with my client, and I regret that, because it's not my place to be angry.  It's my place to give legal advice and perform legal functions.  I have to stop expecting so much from my clients, it's true.  I have to stop expecting that they won't be able to stay out of jail, that they'll call me when they say they will, that they'll come to the office when they say they will, that they will see how hard I work for them, that they understand that it is not in my power to dismiss cases, that fighting cases means coming back to court, over and over again, regardless of whether you are in jail or not. 
I don't think that's necessarily what the attorney meant when she said I expect too much from clients, but to some extent it's true.  I have to expect that my clients will not trust me.  I have to expect that my clients, when frustrated with bullshit cases, will take their frustration out on me, because I am the one advocate they have in the system.  I have to expect that the truth is always somewhere in between. 
I had a former client stop me on my way into court.  He's a teenager and was on his way out of the courthouse.  He said, 'Hey!  I remember you!  You defended me once!  I recognize your face.'  I didn't recognize him, so I asked his name, and his name rang a bell, but I couldn't remember his case.  I greeted him, asked him how he was doing, and teasingly asked him how he ended up back in court?  He assured me he was staying out of trouble, he just came back to support a friend.  The court officers shooed us out of the doorway, so we parted ways, but something about that interaction made me feel good.  Today, I covered a case for a coworker, and the client thanked me for fighting so hard for him.  I really was just doing my job.  I didn't do anything over and above the call of duty.  I made arguments that I believed had legal merit, the judge disagreed, I made my record, made my demands, cited my law, and went on my way.  He thanked me for fighting so hard for him.  I thanked him for being so kind, and then wondered to myself how it is that the people who receive the bulk of my time and energy would never even know it, and would never care even if they did.

Monday, January 22, 2007

except for the last line

I admit it, I am watching Shallow Hal.
The quote that fits me to a T:
I know what I am and I know what I'm not. I'm the girl who, you know, gets really good grades and who's not afraid to be funny. And I'm the girl who has a lot of friends who are boys and no boyfriends. I'm not beautiful, ok, and I never will be. And I'm fine with that.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

desperately thinking happy thoughts

just trying to hang on.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Lake Tahoe

I had the unimaginable delight of spending some time in Tahoe recently. I'm not an outdoorsy girl, although I love being outside - and I'm certainly not a winter person. I hate snow and I hate when it touches me. But Tahoe won me over. The skies were clear, the air was clean and invigorating, and I felt so renewed and peaceful.


It's truly, truly horrifying how much our government is extending and abusing its power.  I never thought I'd be a Libertarian, but no one else seems particularly concerned about the Bill of Rights, those silly technicalities.  So Libertarian Party, here I come.
(P.S.  Barack Obama, I love you.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

say it ain't so!

Turns out my client lied to me.
It was a valid defense - a critical one, actually.  This case is a slam dunk conviction that has mandatory jail time with it.  Since he's out on bail, a plea isn't really going to work, because the DA won't negotiate to another charge that isn't mandatory jail time. 
I spent an entire day hunting down some witnesses - one was moderately helpful and the other one totally blew my client's case out of the water.  Blew it out of the water, in that it became clear that my client was FULL OF SHIT.  And not only that, but he almost got some innocent bystanders in felony-level trouble. 
This client is not an ideal client.  He couldn't care less.  He never returns my phone calls, he sleeps in court, and when I ask him to step outside the courtroom with me he gets up, stretches, takes his time, yawns, steps outside, walks ever so slowly over to me, and just stares at me with this bored, "Why are you wasting my naptime?" look on his face. 
I swore I would never be the type of attorney who would yell at her clients, but since I broke that resolution about, oh, three months into the job, I think this guy is getting an earful from me.  I just wasted an entire day searching the ends of the Earth just to find someone (objective witnesses, nonetheless) who told me that my client made the whole thing up.  That's one less day I get to spend on trying to legitimately resolve his case, or any of my other client's cases, for that matter.
On the plus side, if my client doesn't care, maybe I can stop being so nervous and frantic and all "torch the ends of the earth" about this case.  I mean, think of all the uninterrupted sleep he can get in jail.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Love your Public Defender

*I received 'runner up' status in the Best Writing category (2 votes?).  I'm flattered.
Congrats, winners and runners up!   PD Stuff did a great job, taking on responsibility for creating and administering the awards.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

we have a resolution!

In 2007, I will drink less.
(Not less as in fewer times a week - less as in, if you're giggly drunk after one bottle of wine, 4 pints of Stella is probably just going to hurt in the morning.)

Thursday, January 04, 2007


2007 really will be different.  Now the OC's been cancelled?  What's happening to my 'social' life?  Next you're gonna tell me that American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance are no longer.  [Actually, my favorite new show of all time is My Boys on TBS.  I was at a holiday party, discussing the Red Sox's decision to pay $51 mill just to negotiate with Matsuzaka with some friends.  A friend interrupted and said, You know who you remind me of?  That girl in My Boys.  So I started watching it and WHOA.  Way hooked.  It rocks.]
As for my own life... When did I become so passive?  So timid?  So afraid?  So risk-averse?
I've always been strong, forward-looking, assertive, and goal-oriented.  This is just such a weird stage, where I'm stuck between where I once was and where I want to be.  And where I want to be - is not where I want to be YET.  I want to be married, with kids, and a yard, and pets... I guess that's what's NEXT.  But that's not like getting a degree or entering the workforce.  It's not like I can just send out resumes or starting taking the GREs for that.  Besides, I want to travel and party and grow as a person before that next step.
I'm in the job that I want, but not exactly where I want to be personally, and it's hard to figure out how to change that.  I've joined social organizations, I've volunteered, nothing's really sticking.  Maybe there's nothing to be done, other than accepting the slower pace and having faith that these things will develop.
So, I never hid in my bed, despite the overwhelming desire to do so.  And despite the job uncertainty right now (am I staying or going?) my job is what keeps me grounded, and focused, and motivated.  Being back at work is good for my spirit.  I'm working, I'm going to the gym, I'm happy.  For today.
I'm also happy that the Pats are gonna wallop the Jets on Sunday.  Look for me - I'll be the rowdy girl with the pitcher of Bud Light and buffalo sauce on her face.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

we're off to a great start

Today was a very, very bad day.
I'm desperately hoping that this is one of those 'bad dress rehearsal makes for an excellent opening night' things, because otherwise, you and I are going to have some serious problems, 2007. 
When I woke up this morning, I had no idea I was going to have such a monumental day.  When I woke up, I thought I was going to work, writing a motion, seeing some clients, having lunch, returning phone calls, and then coming home.  But an opportunity came up - I didn't even have to seek it out.  It was offered.  So I may be going to a different office.  My professional life was never the problem, although it's stressful - my problem was always my personal life.  But this change I think will be related to making positive changes in my personal life (it will cut one hour off my commute each way - that's 2 more hours a day I will have freed up) but the consequences of making the change could also be disastrous.  It's not certain that this change will happen.  Now I just have to wait and see where my life is taking me next.
I may not be getting out of bed tomorrow.

Monday, January 01, 2007

this is going to hurt.

I've spent some time thinking about what I want 2007 to be, who I want to be and what I want to do in 2007. Until today, I never really thought about what 2006 was.

Looking back on 2006, I think, "Ooof. That kind of hurt." I recall 2006 being a mostly difficult year. I think for a good part of the year I was depressed. The type of depressed where you spend an entire weekend in bed and when you interact with other people you manage to get through the whole interaction without ever feeling anything. I think for that reason, not a whole lot about 2006 comes to mind. I was wrestling with a lot of self-doubt about my professional competency. I felt lonely a lot. I really struggled to figure out my own path.

What I thought 2006 would be about is exploration, adventure, new and exciting experiences. I didn't know exactly what it would hold but I knew that it would be bright, and strong, and that the things I did in that year would be things that would lay the path for my future. Looking back today on 2006, I don't think it was any of those things. I wanted 2006 to be like that, and it wasn't, and I was disappointed that I couldn't figure out how to make it what I wanted it to be.

One weekend in 2006, my mother came to visit. Her visit made me want to crawl under the covers and not get up again. It wasn't my mom that was the problem - it was me. When she arrived, I shut down. It took me about a day to figure it out, but I realized that I hadn't quite accepted that this was my life. I hadn't quite dealt with the idea that this is really where I live, this is really where I work, this is where I sociaize. I had been coping with my anxiety about my own life by distancing myself from it, trying to pretend like it wasn't mine, or it wasn't significant, as though the whole thing would be over in a few months. But once I had to accomodate someone who insisted on seeing my life, and someone who was overwhelmingly excited about the life that I couldn't even tolerate acknowledging as reality, that's when I realized what I had been doing. And I thought to myself, That's fucked up. And as I write this now, it's still so upsetting to me that I think maybe I still haven't quite worked through it.

There were some really nice moments. There were some wonderful weddings. There were some fun weekends with friends. I was fortunate to develop some deeper friendships. I keep a journal, which I write it about once a month, and usually only when I'm forlorn. Unfortunately, that means a lot of the brighter moments get eclipsed. The baseball games, the drinks after work, the girls nights out, the long talks over coffee, the good days at work, the great days at work, the good moments with that one guy who is probably the worst guy that's ever happened to me, painting my room, cooking more, and every time that I got together in this city with my dearest friends from law school. There were some really good moments.

So if I had to categorize it, 2006 would go into the 'yeah, it sucked, glad that's over' category. What do I think 2007 will be? What do I want it to be? Well, if I knew the answers to those questions, I would've written that post instead of this one. I have no idea what 2007 will be like. I have no expectations for 2007 like I did for 2006. I'm ok with that.