Wednesday, April 28, 2010

no hollow promise that life would reward you

Not Guilty posted a letter written to her from a colleague.  It's a letter of tough love.  Toughen up, it advises.  Being a public defender isn't gracious, doesn't earn anyone's respect.  To continue to do this job and be good at it, you can't want other people's respect and admiration.

These things are true, and it's what I struggle with most as a public defender.  You don't have to like me, or what I do.  But I want respect, and acknowledgment.  I'm struggling with one particular case right now where the entire courtroom is so far against my client that my voice is like a dog whistle.  The court reporter is typing my words but no one hears them or pays them any mind.  The entire case is riddled with reversible error, as every single one of my meritable claims has been just flagrantly dismissed without consideration.  I am one ignored word away from being held in contempt or filing a flurry of, I don't even know.  Writs of mandamus?  I am a smart, personable attorney.  I work hard to be good at what I do, and I will advocate vigorously for my clients, to the boundaries of the law.  Is it so hard to acknowledge that I have a place in this courtroom?  That I have a voice?  That I submit and argue well-thought-out legal arguments?  You must ignore me because I'm right and you don't want me to be.  Otherwise, you're just being an ass.

I feel that the practice in my jurisdiction is completely disgraceful.  I am dismayed by how few judges I have any respect for.  I am angered by how unprofessional and unethically uncivil the prosecutors in my jurisdiction are.  I am not asking to win every case, I'm not asking that you tell me I'm pretty every day.  All I ask is that you listen when I speak, that you respond thoughtfully while demonstrating a grasp of basic legal principles, and conduct yourself in a professional manner.  I do the same for you.

I love being a public defender but I hate what that is on an hour-by-hour basis.  I am self-aware enough that I can admit that I need to feel respected by the people I work with.  I need to feel smart (not smarter, just smart).  I expected my clients wouldn't like me, and that judges would get angry, and that prosecutors would give me a hard time.  But I never thought I'd be like this.  It's all so yucky.

I think I can finally admit that I am not cut out for this, at least as it is here in my jurisdiction.  Maybe a different jurisdiction would be better for me.  Or maybe it's just that I don't have that thick skin required to do this job, anywhere, and do it well.