Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Big day at the Supreme Court today

two hot button cases - can defendants sue when prosecutors intentionally hide evidence for the purpose of securing a conviction against an innocent man? and what limits does the First Amendment place on these horrid people from Kansas who protest at military funerals?
Wish I were still in law school and could watch some liveblogging.  But I'll be in court doing a crossword waiting for my case and watching the wheels of justice turn ever so slowly.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

can't do a love song like the way it's meant to be

I took a long break, but I think I'm interested in dating again. Only, I'm not really interested in dating itself. I have a renewed interest in just going about my life merrily and bam! meeting the love of my life in some wonderful happenstance. Since that's happened all of never times in my life I recognize how completely unrealistic such an idea is.

I recently met an amazing couple who have been married for several years. I enjoyed speaking to both of them very much. I asked how they met, and they told me they met via internet dating, and while it wasn't love at first sight, it was like at first sight. I hate internet dating. I did it years ago and it was a complete failure. I don't think there's any way to figure out via internet whether this person is someone you would like in real life. I met a guy who liked baseball and the same TV shows as me and being in the same room with him was painful. I met another guy who was in med school and was really nice and yet there was nothing about him that made me want to ask a follow-up question.

After speaking with this wonderful couple I met, I went onto the internet service they used and put up a profile. A picture, some basic facts. I got one note from a potential suitor and when I read it, my mind immediately fast-forwarded to the boring and disappointing personal interaction we were destined to have. It started just like all the others. I know this place. I've been here before. I didn't respond and instead immediately cancelled my account without responding. I just can't do it again. I have dating PTDD. post-traumatic dating disappointment.

A friend encouraged me to 'just get out there' and meet people. I do tend to be a homebody, so going out more than once a week is remarkable for me. But as my friend said, "This is a numbers game" and he's right. I've tried that approach before though, just dating anyone who asked or who was willing, and that's how I ended up going on a string of completely unsuccessful and unrewarding dates arranged via internet. The problem as I see it, is that there is no built-in social network to meet new interesting people at my age. Maybe years ago, this social network was "The Bar" but come on now, that's for young'uns. see also, I'm kind of a homebody, id. I've met many friends of my own friends, and they are all coupled up already. I long for the days of dating excitement, when going to the movies in groups was the height of the dating & social scene. In youth there are endless opportunities. The territory is uncharted - the trails of hand-holding and kissing and lengthy making out with all your clothes on were trails yet to blazed. I'm in my early 30s - those trails done been blazed already. Now it's like walking a worn path through the grass - go out, make small talk, perhaps disinterestedly permit kissing to occur, then go home and wish I had spent the night in my pjs watching Inspector Gadget episodes on Netflix Instant Play [this is truth - check it out!] OR - go out, get a little tipsy, make out with either 1. random guy at the bar or 2. guy you are friends with and are only making out with because y'all are drunk and in the same place and no one else is available. In either situation it turns into dodging the inevitable persistent guy attempts to get you to home, either his or yours, and trying to duck all that pawing and unwanted approach towards ahem, the final frontier, and then you just wish you had stayed home in your pjs watching Fraggle Rock on Netflix [also true]. Sigh.

It's all so tiring.

I long for that interest in someone - an interest that garnered excitement at seeing them or talking to them again. I think the excitement departed somewhere back there along with the hope. I rarely meet or start speaking to a guy and think, 'Now this is someone I want to talk to again' - or even better, 'I would really like him to just kiss me once, right now, and then go back to talking about all these wonderful things we have to talk about.' I rarely meet guys, period, without concurrently meeting their female companions. I wonder where all that excitement went. Is it that our social patterns have developed in a way that have left us devoid of anything interesting to talk about? Are we too worn down by work or general life responsibilities to have that inner shining light that attracts people to us? I don't feel that inner light anymore. I do think that's really what the whole "you can't love someone else until you love yourself" thing is getting at - if you are happy and interesting, then that will attract happy and interesting people. But um, we're all pretty boring, aren't we? This is the first thing I'm trying to work on - remember what I loved about life before the job became my life. To crib from Fever Pitch, I may love the job but has the job ever loved me back? I need something other than just being a public defender to make me a whole and happy person. I'm still working on figuring out what that might be. Most of my free time is spent doing solitary activities - watching shows on Netflix, cooking, reluctantly getting to the gym occasionally. I can't really think of a way that I would enjoy translating those things into social activities on a regular basis. But anyway, I think the key to future relationship happiness might be to stop being so lost. I've tried that for about a decade and it hasn't worked out but I'll keep working on it.

I did once have the perfect date. Only it wasn't a date. I had a boyfriend and he was a womanizer. That evening is worth its own post, but I look back fondly on that event often and think, "That's how it's supposed to happen." I saw him once about a year after that, in a group setting, and I was hoping he'd come up to me and recall that night, or want to pick up where that left off. Not only did we not acknowledge each other, but I don't even think he remembered me, and I think he may have had a girlfriend there. So tragic. In the most appropriate words of Dire Straits, when you gonna realize it was just that the time was wrong?

So I'm trying to find that hope inside to extend. For now, just hope that there will be a date that is fun and interesting. And maybe there's something even better than that out there, eventually.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


i'll talk to that guy who wheels around that upright bass in the soft case, listening to his iPod.  I want to know where he's coming from and what he does, whether the bass is his living or his love, or both, and how.

Friday, June 25, 2010

keeping a straight face

[nota bene: legal analysis is oversimplified for the purposes of this story]
In the jurisdictions in which I practice, there are loitering statutes that are very stringently enforced.  I think it's a broken-window type thing, where they don't want riff-raff hanging around in "high-crime areas", being up to no good, but it also gives the police a reason to search and arrest people who are literally doing nothing - suddenly doing nothing is not only reasonable suspicion, but also a crime.  Often people have a valid explanation for their presence which results in inadvertent burden-shifting - defendant has to prove that in fact he was not committing a crime because he was [talking with a friend he ran into outside the store, waiting for a ride, etc].  Generally on these types of cases, we as defense attorneys try to elicit and verify as many of these facts as possible.
As I was going over one of these cases recently with a client, I was reading to him the 3 different [quite amusing, but not to be divulged here] reasons he provided to the police when they stopped him. 
Client:  Naw, that's not what I said.
WOTL:  Ok, so what were you doing at about that time on that date?
Client:  I was meeting a guy to haul trash for him.  They were doing some construction in the building and he was going to give me a few bucks to clear out the basement.
WOTL:  This guy lives in the building?
Client:  Yeah.
WOTL:  Apartment number?  Floor?
Client:  Uhhhhh, 5 East.
WOTL:  5 East?  You're sure?
Client:  yeah.
WOTL:  The police said you told them 4 North first, then 3 West.
Client:  No, no, no.  It's 5 East.  I'm positive.
WOTL:  Okay, what's the guy's name?
Client:  Um, Donovan.  Donovan McNabb.
WOTL: ................ [slowly] the guy you were doing work for is... Donovan... McNabb?
Client:  [exasperated by his attorney's sheer stupidity]  I told you, he asked me to haul the trash out!  That's why I was there!
Do you:
1.  Share this with on the record in an attempt to show the judge how clearly misguided and false the allegations are against your client, while trying not to giggle?
2.  Send out an investigator to immediately find this witness, assuming that there must be many, many Donovan McNabbs in the world and that the name is mere coincidence, and not a bold-faced lie?
3.  Gently suggest that perhaps community service would be the quickest way to put this case to rest?
And of course, if you're a public defender, the answer is:  all of the above.  Yeah, I sent my investigator out, and yeah, couldn't find Donovan McNabb, and yeah, I fought on the record for my client with mostly-feigned righteous indignation while sharing that story and yeah, no one believed it for a second and yeah, my client resolved the case with community service. 
Judges can get really fired up when you argue these things on the record, and then they start cross-examining you as though YOU were the one who came up with that brilliant nugget.  I love that part of my job is standing there defending this with a straight face.  Yup.  Donovan McNabb.  That's my story.  Stickin' to it.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


I am going to start by saying: I voted third party in the last election, and will probably continue to do so as I do not feel particularly strongly affiliated with the current political parties.  So I was disgruntled before it was cool to be disgruntled.  I exude a pretty sincere form of surly, and my attitude towards politics is consistent with that.

Now you know.  And now I opine the following:

Obama is not a socialist.  And unless I'm missing a huge piece of this legislation wherein the government announced it is taking my paycheck and instead paying me in labor credits, the health care bill is not an indication of socialism.  At least, it's not any more socialist than TANF or Social Security or Medicare.  I feel compelled to announce my opinion on this matter because I recently had a conversation with young, very smart, incredibly well-educated people who announced that Obama is a socialist, and gave the health care bill as an example.  I thought this was an accusation lobbed mostly by sensationalist political media folks, because that's what they do.  But when I discovered that people I regard as smart, good people were saying such things, well, it somehow validated this as an opinion that real people hold, and I felt compelled to respond, because I have an opinion too. 

Stating that someone is a socialist puts a label on a person that just makes everything categorically BAD, therefore making it impossible to argue any actual merit.  I wonder how we came to accept such firmly entrenched notions that socialism and communism are bad.  You cannot be a government employee if you are a Communist.  CANNOT.  PROHIBITED.  I am neither a socialist nor a communist; I have pretty strong libertarian leanings - but I balk at the categorization of other people's political beliefs as being "bad" or "prohibited."  So by labeling this bill, or the President's support for it, as a "socialist" act, all that gets us is a label that it is "bad," without ever getting to what about the bill makes it bad.  Or socialist.  If the health care bill nationalized health care, in the sense that all medical providers were now declared government employees, and all hospitals became federally owned, etc... well that sounds like socialism, at least as I understand socialism. 

But ok, there are different forms of socialism, and maybe what we don't like is the manner in which government has regulated health care now, and maybe that's socialist.  I can almost accept that belief, except that government regulates a lot of industries.  So what about this health care bill crosses the line from regulation, which Congress is doing every day in many areas of commerce, into socialism?

I actually care very little about the answers to these questions.  My point is, the fact that you disagree with the health care bill does not = socialism.  It's just name-calling.  Name-calling avoids intelligent discussions about potential valid disagreements.  I like intelligent discussions about valid disagreements because I have learned the most from them, and also have found them to be persuasive.  When I hear a person whom I respect opine in a way that sounds logical, that challenges me to opine in an equally logical manner, and it challenges me to think about why I disagree with such logic, and whether I should.  So what I hope and expect from my smart and well-educated peers is just that you can tell me why you disagree with the health care bill, and not just throw around bad names for it.  Especially since I think it's a silly (as in unintelligent) premise that "socialist" is an insult.

up next:  why BP is not "Obama's Katrina."  [I started writing on this, but the Glee season finale is coming on soon.  so maybe tomorrow I'll finish that thought...]

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.