Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Today I took two pleas for clients who I believe were absolutely innocent and who were begging to take the pleas, and I took one plea for a client who was guilty and was indignant and enraged with the system about taking a significantly generous plea offered today only.
I don't like to fault my clients for not liking the legal process.  I don't particularly care for it either.  But I'm not a miracle worker.  I cannot get you out of jail just because you don't want to be there.  I cannot get your case dismissed just because you don't believe you should have been charged with a crime.  I cannot convince a judge to give you a 6th try at a program when you showed up once and failed to show up 4 subsequent times, despite repeated admonitions from all parties as to the ONE YEAR IN JAIL alternative.  I cannot beat your case at trial, which you so badly want me to do, if you never once return my phone call and skip every appointment I try to set up for us to prepare your defense.
One of the innocent clients had a case that I was sure was a slam-dunk acquittal.  He just didn't want to sit through a trial.  He wanted it over, Now Now Now, and took the plea that would have gotten him out instead of waiting a week to walk out an innocent man.  The other client I believed to be innocent had no way of winning at trial.  There was no doubt in my mind he would have been convicted.  The judge was giving him a really hard time about taking the plea.  We had to try it several times.  I was getting frustrated - my client could only allocute so much because he was innocent.  He couldn't say every detail because he just didn't know the details that he would have been expected to know, had he committed the crime.  I started to fear that my client would be forced to stand a trial he didn't want, to be convicted of a crime he didn't do, and experience and significantly harsher and longer penalty as a result.  In the end, it worked out.  But I didn't feel good about it.
I know I'm getting burnt out when I start minimizing my role in this crazy system.  (i.e., I am not a doctor, I am not an immigration attorney, I am not the person who decides your bail.)  I am completely overwhelmed by my caseload and the intense needs of handfuls of my clients. 

Monday, September 10, 2007

on being a public defender: Taking a punch and getting back up again.

I made the sign of the cross when I first came out of there, instinctively, the way my 2nd grade CDD teacher from Puerto Rico did it, with a kiss at the end right before the Amen.  I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the hallway.  On the wooden bench outside the courtrooms, in the hallway.  I was one of four attorneys.  Then one of three, then one of two.  Until I was the last one there on the bench, having handed over my one hope, the one thing that had convinced me that we could win.  I tried to read but couldn't.  I couldn't talk.  I was relentlessly thirsty.  My nerves were shredded.  Everyone else had left for the day some time ago.  I sat there, alone, on the wooden courthouse bench in the institutionally lit hallway.  I sat in the quiet courthouse, hearing the occasional echo of footsteps at the other end, nervous but confident that we would prevail.  There could be no other way.  Silence.  Anxiety.  Pacing.  More water. 
And when the news finally came, that things didn't go our way, that justice would not be done, I was there, alone, in silence.
I fled the deafening silence, reentering the rest of the world, the world I had forgotten existed because I had been so consumed by this.  I called the boss to report the defeat and confessed that my next move would be to curl up in a ball and weep softly.  By the time I got back to the office, just a few minutes later, I walked into an office with the boss and the three best trial attorneys one could ever want and they had another plan hatched for me.  A plan of action, not inaction.  A plan of attack, not retreat.  And long after the lights had been turned off elsewhere and the courthouse had emptied, the plan of action became action.  Then I turned off the lights and joined my people at the bar. 
Satisfied that I had done something, but still achingly disappointed, I joined my fellow PDs at the bar, where they circled their wagons around me.  They helped break that lonely, agonizing silence of the courthouse hallway by cracking open a few $2 PBRs, by aiming goldfish crackers across the table into mouths, and by offering that incredible support of people who know just the right way to help you move on.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Things I've been doing instead of posting

Traveling.  Not in the, Let's see the world! type of way, but more in the, I have a wedding / birthday / commitment / family gathering that I have to be at this weekend, last weekend, next weekend, and the weekend after that. 
Working.  Of course.  It never ends.  Current caseload: 120.
Playing skeeball and turning in my tickets for plastic rings and fake tattoos.
Getting in as much baseball as I can before the season ends.  Let's go Red Sox!
Creating a Facebook profile.  How embarrassing.
Trying to see if I'm capable of being "in a relationship."  The jury's still out on this one.
Getting in as much lobster and BBQing as I can before the season ends.  Yum, crustaceans. 
Edy's Butter Pecan ice cream. 
My Boys, 10 p.m., Mondays, TBS. 
Having a one-woman party on the first weekend evening I've actually been home in months, by unintentionally discovering that my CD player miraculously cured itself and started playing a mixed CD that was created 7 years ago, leading to dancing and singing and searching for other long-forgotten CDs, and in the process coming across pictures of happy memories that were good reminders of why we are all here and what it all means.
Things I have not been doing instead of posting:
Going to the gym.
Writing those motions.
Cleaning the house.
Doing laundry.