Tuesday, November 24, 2009

the future of this blog

Well, it's happened.  I have been discovered.  I think once the anonymity of the blog collides with real life, it's probably time to stop.  Maybe it was time anyway.  Not sure exactly what I'm going to do from here, but for now Woman of the Law is on pause, and maybe the next time you come here this blog will be gone.  We'll see.

Unfortunately we've seen the PD blogging community slowly disappear, so I hope a new generation of PDs finds a way to keep blogging, or be involved with one another, because it's been really great to have conversations with other PDs out in the world.  See y'all on the flip side!

Friday, November 20, 2009

where my pd peeps at?

Today was one of those days that I will look back upon, as being one of the most important days of my career.  I have a horrible, terrible case with an innocent client facing life in prison and it feels like I might not sleep for the next few years.  Only a real pd knows this misery.  Right now I need to huddle up with my public defender community, arms on shoulders, pull our heads together, talk it out, yell it out, scream it out, cry it out, march together, fight together, win together.  If I could invite all of you over, we would eat pizza and drink beer and wine and definitely something stronger, whiskey sounds good, and when it was all over I'd feel ok, I'd have a plan, I'd feel stronger having had you here to support me.

Friday, November 13, 2009

new book on why the system sucks

Has anyone read the book "Ordinary Injustice" by Amy Bach?  I'm uncertain whether I'd like to - I already hear enough of what a hack I am.  I'm not sure that I disagree with her premise - I guess I'd have to read the book to find out.  Any PDs out there going to wade through it?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

goings on

I won but not the way I should have or wanted to.  So I didn't feel good about the win, because it didn't feel right, although I think in the end I should have won for the right reasons.  There were many reasons I should have won, those just weren't the right ones.  How crappy is that?  I get a win and can't be happy about it, on principle.  But I suppose my opponent now knows a bit what it feels like to be a P.D. - to be on the losing side for the wrong reasons.

I am applying for jobs, more for geographical purposes than anything else.  This is a huge deal.  I do not feel ready for change, only because I'm scared.  I'm afraid that I'll end up without a job somehow, or that I'll feel as though I've made a terrible decision, or that I'm making decisions that bring me no closer to the right path.  I am totally and completely afraid.  Also, I am dismayed how many people want my law school transcripts or want me to write an essay about what life experiences I have that make me a good public defender.  Um, well, I am a public defender.  I've been a PD for 4 years.  I found that to be very good preparation for being a public defender.  I thought it would be easier to make a lateral move - but it's the exact same process, 4 yrs later.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

to those about to rock [1L year]

I noticed a spike in visitors, and noticed that there was a significant number of people searching for advice on being a 1L. 

I wrote this over 4 years ago for those entering law school [yikes!] and it's a good thing I wrote it then, because I don't remember what it felt like to be a law student as much anymore.

Good luck to all entering those hallowed halls.  Just remember, you're worthy.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

on being a public defender

I have exactly, precisely, $10.92 to last me the next 8 days.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dear ABA Law Journal

Thank you for your emails to me as a blawger.  It's nice of you to write me things of interest.  What I want you to know is that there is very little you do that is of interest to me.  Your monthly magazine, your website, all those things are about and geared towards a very specific subset of lawyers; namely, the big firm - corp counsel types.  Our profession is so much broader than that, and you perpetuate this narrowing of the profession that begins with law school.

So about this Rebel project you have going on?  Thanks for letting me know, I'll be sure to check on it, but I'm already disappointed.  Your rebel is a corp counsel who doesn't hire firms if they have a poor track record regarding diversity.  That's commendable.  It's not rebellious. 

Thanks for continuing to marginalize attorneys working in the public interest.  Neither you nor my clients see me as a real lawyer.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

even the annoying ones

I just noticed that he wore the same shirt on the past three court dates.

He drives me absolutely insane, but he wore his nice shirt.  Because he probably has only one.

He tap dances on my last nerve, but I'm so proud? humbled? pleased? to be his lawyer.  I'm glad that something pushed through the barrier of my annoyance and tapped me on the shoulder to remind me that yeah, he's a huge pain in the ass, but he's a human being who has a lot of life battles, and I'm so glad that I could stand by him.  Because the prosecutor with the shiny shoes and the judge with his season tickets and the detective with his nice suit and badge will come in, and I get to be the only one privileged enough to fight for the guy with only one nice shirt.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for letting me be your lawyer. 

I only have one nice suit.

Monday, August 10, 2009

for those who were PDs but then weren't

for those who left, or those who left and returned to the profession...

What do you think?  What made you leave?  How do you feel now that you left?  Did it change the role that work plays in your life?  And for those who came back... why?  And how do you feel about your return?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

reflecting on envy

Sherry at Rhubarb Pie recently wrote about how it felt to learn that someone that you knew once and were in the same place as once is doing something 'important' or 'prestigious', leaving you to wonder, well, what about me?  Read her blog entry, I feel as though I'm not properly summarizing her thoughts and am projecting my own a bit.
The exact same thing happened to me last week.  I found out that an acquaintance I knew once, who was on the same place as me once, is doing Big Things or at least has a Big Title.  It sounds smart, and prestigious, and important.  And it made me think, why not me?  People around me have said, You could do the same thing!  But that is not true.  I'm not sure why.  And I envy his title of importance, and the respect it commands.  I want it.
There are a few things this makes me consider.  What is it that I feel as though stands between me and a Big Title?  Aside from the fact that I probably don't want it - why do I feel as though I couldn't have it?  I can't answer that question, but that's an important question, and I think I need a few good answers.  Do I feel as though my socio-economic class (prior and current) limits me?  Do I feel as though I'm not in fact as smart as I've led other people to believe I am?
I'm self-aware enough to know that it's important to me that other people think I'm smart.  I don't want to be smartER than everyone else.  I just want a room full of smart people to think that I'm smart and interesting, too.  I'm not athletic or artistic.  I think other people find me generally pretty funny but I'm not always very social.  My thing has always been grades, and getting good grades.  (maybe less so in law school, the great equalizer).  There are no grades now.  So who am I and what do I use to evaluate myself?  Who am I?  What am I?  Now I'm not smart or important and I regularly wonder in my day to day job, "I went to law school for THIS?"
Now, let's turn back to the fact that most jobs with Big Titles are not jobs that interest me.  On paper, the job I have now is the job I want.  But there are these wispy intangible things that makes this job not completely fulfilling to me.  I don't really want any other job, I just want this job to make me happier.  I'm not sure how to do that.  I also wonder if perhaps I'm putting too much importance on my job being 100% fulfilling, and that maybe I should be more focused on making my personal life more fulfilling and stop expecting my profession to dictate my life.  That goes back to wanting to be smart, I suppose. 
My envy has me thinking about these things.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrested for yelling in his home

The ability of police to escalate situations is just downright commendable.  There wasn't a crime committed until the police were present.  I'm still unclear what exactly the crime was that occurred when the police arrived.  (Certainly the observation, "This is what happens to black men in America", referring to the fact that the police entered Gates's home because they thought he was breaking in TO HIS OWN HOME, is not illegal). 
How do I know the police are lying?
1.  The second officer doesn't corroborate the first officer's account.
2.  No one ever yells, "I'll talk to yo' mama outside!" 

Sunday, July 05, 2009

just got dumped

which may be fodder for renewed posting.  Still trying to figure it all out.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

on being a public defender: you should also be something else

I've been working hard at trying to value myself through something other than my job.  I'm working hard trying not to rely on my job for deriving my sole source of pride or accomplishment.  The reason for that is because this job sucks.  I am a smart, hard-working, personable attorney.  However, no matter how much time or favorable law or civility or hard work I bring to the job, the outcome feels so predestined.  I often feel that I could accomplish the same results by caring less, working less, using the law less, being less prepared, and having nothing more than a high school diploma.
My work environment is part of the problem.  Because the volume tends to be high in my jurisdiction, there are a lot of prosecutors, a lot of lawyers, a high turnover rate for judges and prosecutors and defense attorneys.  I take my professional reputation very seriously, and it's important to me that the people who interact with me can at least respect me if they don't like me.  I'd rather they didn't like me, actually, but just respected me.  Recently, I've been offended by some judges because I expected that they saw how hard I worked, that I had integrity, that I afforded the court and the proceedings appropriate deference and respect, and that therefore when I needed some leeway (more time to find witnesses, or file a motion, or when I didn't appear on my own cases one day because oh, I WAS OUT SICK ONE DAY THIS ENTIRE YEAR) that this leeway would be granted. Not being the type of attorney to abuse these things, I thought I was owed at least that.  Apparently I hold no such regard in the eyes of others.
The law is not often on my side, so when it is, I expect you not to do disingenuous legal gymnastics to avoid ruling in my favor.  You can so easily rule against me within the bounds of the law, every single day.  Why thwart the law unnecessarily?
I've known this before, but I recently have had to remind myself of this constantly: this job cannot be my life.  A job this abusive and demoralizing and sad and illogical cannot be what I base my happiness and self-worth upon.  I've invested so much of my life in social justice and social causes that I'm not sure what else I enjoy.  I'm reading a lot more now, which is great, and I'm trying to make exercise a non-waivable priority, and I'm getting into music a lot more than I have been in recent years.  I've been to two museums, one choral concert, and one play in the past 6 weeks or so.  I cook a lot more.
The other thing I can't quite explain is that I would rather that other people in the courthouse didn't know who I really am.  With these social networking sites, or just being within close living and working proximity to my adversaries and to judges, I've suddenly realized that I don't want these people anywhere near the real, complete me.  I don't go to the bar when I know everyone else is going to be there anymore.  I thought at first that maybe knowing each other better would be good, but I don't trust it.  I don't trust that these people wouldn't use it to their advantage, or take the opportunity to further estrange us.  (Ever had a prosecutor sidle up alongside you and be all, "But you know your clients are all guilty right?"  Awesome.)  I'm jealously guarding parts of myself from the courthouse, and hoping that doing so will let these parts flourish instead of stomping them out, the way the courthouse has managed to stomp out any incentives for me to be a good lawyer.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

if you don't have anything nice to say

don't say anything at all.
I'll be back.

Monday, January 19, 2009


I was writing another PD-related post but had to stop and say something else. 
I'm watching a special on Dr. King right now in light of the holiday.  Dr. King is so incredibly captivating. His voice, his energy, his quiet power is just so incredible - and this is just from watching old video.  I can only imagine what it would have been like to be in his presence. 
Watching him motivate crowds of young African-American children, young African-American adults, watching these crowds fight for education and racial / economic equality, watching the police attack these crowds of black youth - these images leave me so conflicted.  I can't help but think that my job is a symptom of what we've still failed to accomplish of Dr. King's cause.  I know how frustrated urban youth are with the police.  And yet where is their fight?  I feel frustrated that there is no bigger movement to fight this fight.  I feel overwhelmed by the burden of fighting this fight as one person, trying to fight it one case at a time.  It's like trying to stick fingers and toes in the cracks of a dam.  I want my clients to feel empowered to do something about how they are treated by the criminal system.  I want my clients to feel empowered to do something about socio-economic stratification that is so glaringly apparent in urban areas.  I'm fighting this fight as best I can, both in my job and in my personal life.  But why am I fighting?  Who am I fighting for?  I feel like I'm fighting for a good number of people who want me to fight for them, but aren't interested in fighting for themselves.  Occasionally when my clients or their families voice complaints about rampant police lies and misconduct, or racial disparity in criminal consequences, I encourage them to be pro-active, to engage their communities and their political representatives.  I tell them that they know better than anyone else who is being victimized and how.  I want them to feel like this is something they are capable of changing, to work on changing the dynamic instead of just reacting to it.
I can take a look around a courtroom filled with 100-200 people, and see maybe one white face.  I want to take a look at those faces and see a movement like Dr. King did.  I fear that the same room of people would be so much more likely to take today and go see the movie Notorious, and who would rather fight for the opportunity to live a lifestyle of a rap star, or of gang violence, or drug money.  I fear that rap stars play too prevalent a role as leaders for the communities in which my clients live.  It's demoralizing to me, and I want to know where Dr. King's fight went.  I want to know what it would take to bring it back.  Have we been so successful in creating racial and socio-economic apartheid in our country that we've taken the fight out of those who we oppress?  We've been so successful in marginalizing the marginalized? 
Tomorrow, our first African-American president will be sworn in.  And I hope that in this historic event, where young people are flooding the inauguration just to be a part of President Obama, to just be part of his movement, to be in his presence and to be inspired by him, that this reinvigorates Dr. King's fight.  President Obama can empower these communities in a national, cohesive way that no one else has in some time.  I'm just a lawyer, I'm not inspiring anyone to action.  I'm so excited to see a leader who is capable of empowering communities, to inspire them to action.  There can be no better way to follow the celebration of Dr. King's life and legacy than by the inauguration of such an inspiring leader.  For racial and socio-economic justice - finally, a leader.  

Saturday, January 10, 2009

It's been two months already?

I am shocked, SHOCKED, to discover that I haven't written an entry is more than two months.  Has it been that long? 
I don't have much to write about specifically, right this second, except I'd like to point out that either the PD blog community is dwindling or I'm not doing a very good job of following it.  When I was in law school, and maybe just a baby attorney, I was reading so many PD blogs and one at a time these blogs are going defunct.  It makes me feel sad.  It felt like a good community to be a part of, even if only virtually. 
I guess I'm not really doing such a good job of keeping the community going myself, but I hope to fix that soon enough.