Thursday, April 29, 2010

dear judges,

I know that you don't like it when I file motions to reconsider. So, I have a suggestion to help you do away with these pesky documents:


I know it's hard to believe, but it truly is that easy. If you would refrain from changing my clients' sentences at review hearings when no new charges or probation violations are filed, I promise to stop filing motions requesting you that you fix your *large and glaring* mistakes.

Because we all know that you are just going to deny my motions, causing me to habe your asses. This is work I don't want to have to make time for. I will, however, because you piss me off. Plus, I love it when another judge makes you do what I want (which, consequently, was the right thing to do anyway!!). And yes, that look I give you after is one of "I told you so."

Which sometimes makes all the extra work worth it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

a public defender's best friend

One of my least favorite things is that I can't bring my coffee into court in the morning. So, in the past, I would prepare a steaming cup of delicious goodness and only get to drink a little of it on my drive to court each morning. I would go inside, leaving my brew in the car. Then, after handling however many cases I had, I would walk back to my car looking for a little jolt, a little friendliness . . . only to find what was once awesome and spirit-lifting to be cold and unappealing. An almost full cup of coffee wasted each morning.

Along comes my new favorite mug--the Thermos Element 5. It can keep coffee (or whatever) hot for up to 8 hours. Who knew that vacuum-sealing could be so important. Now, no matter how bad things have gone in court that day, I can walk back to my car and look forward to the coffee that is just waiting to console me as I drive back to my office.

It is a beautiful thing. A small, somewhat insignificant thing perhaps. But I would venture a guess that it made my life about 5% happier, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

side effects of being clean

As many of my colleagues do, I keep hand sanitizer in my car and use it after leaving the jail or prison. I don't have a huge car or much storage in my vehicle, so I only have a small container.

And I don't just have the Purell variety. I like the girly smelling ones from places like Bath & Body Works. I currently have a vanilla-scented one purchased during the Christmas season. It makes me happy.

My fiance, of course, doesn't go into the jails and prisons with me, but every time we ride in my vehicle, he has to use the hand sanitizer. Recently, right before walking into a Costco, he applied some to his hands--the smelly vanilla kind. We then walked into the store and began browsing when he turned to me and whispered,

"Wow. Some people really like to spray themselves down with perfume."

Not having smelled heavy fragrance, I cocked my head and looked at him confused (you know, like you're dog does when you try to explain discovery rules to her). Then it dawned on me, and I smiled as I said,

"Really? Why don't you smell you hands and then say that again?"

Upon smelling his hands, he realized that he was the offender, not the sweet older woman who walked by. That'll teach him to use up all my hand sanitizer. :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

unfortunate misconception

Client: I think I forgot to show up for my court date last year.

Receptionist: Do you remember who your attorney was? I can transfer you to them to help you get that figured out.

Client: I was hoping you could just check to see if my bench warrant had expired yet.

Love it!!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

difficulties ahead

I just published a draft post below that I wrote about a month ago about how I am trying to leave my job as a public defender. I hadn't decided to post it until today. I wrote it thinking that I would get things off my chest and feel better. Then, I thought I would feel better and not need to post it.

I was wrong.

I still feel that way. Taking stock of my life on the traditional day that we do so in this country (and around the world), I still want a new job. A few years ago, on New Year's Eve, I spent the evening with 2 girlfriends being snowed in in one of the smallest towns in the country. So small that we went out to the town green at midnight with all our dogs, wished the town a happy new year each with our own bottle of champagne, and no one else was around. I was so peaceful . . . and snowy. It was beautiful.

My favorite part of the evening, however, was when we reflected on the past year month by month. A bit arbitrary to split things by month, but it was mostly about themes and larger events. I was able to remember what I was going through each month and see whether I'd learned anything from the experience (sometimes yes, sometimes no).

Tonight, I wanted to renew that tradition with myself, but I can't remember anything from the past year except:
1) I've worked every vacation I've tried to take this year.
2) I've worked to the point where all my hobbies have faded.
3) I can see nothing but stress.
4) I can't watch movies that are sadder than Disney movies anymore because I get too much "real" life in my career.

This is not how I envisioned my life. When I mentioned my decision to leave criminal defense work to a good friend, he couldn't have been happier for me. I've known this person for a decade, and he commented that he has never seen me more miserable than I have been in the past year. It's too bad he didn't have a crystal ball before I took a job at the public defender's so he could warn me. Would I have listened? Probably not, I suppose.

So, what can I learn from this? I don't really know yet. I do know that I don't want to swear off criminal work entirely, but I am ready for a new challenge.

If I could just find some way to get over the terrible legal job market . . .


I recently decided that I cannot continue to be a public defender. The job is not a legal one, but one designed more for social work--social work without any resources to actually help people. I cannot tell you then number of times I wake up disappointed that I have to live through another day, being over-worked and accomplishing nothing. I feel frustrated and angry at myself that I can't do this job. I really wanted to do this and do it well. But I won't do it at the expense of the rest of my life.

Yes, I could change the way I practice. I could cut most of the social work out of what I do. I could attempt to humanize my clients less with the prosecutors and judges. I could deal strictly with legal issues that come up in my cases. I've reflected on that and determined that this would not make things any better. I've done the social work aspect of this job. I've seen the good things that can come from it, like getting a no-time misdemeanor plea out of a felony charge that comes with a minimum sentence of a year in jail. If things like that are possible, shouldn't I attempt to do that for all my clients? If I don't, am I not partially playing judge? Yes, this client deserves my time and attention, but that one over there doesn't. I am so far from being able to do that. One person should not be more deserving of my time than another.

I've heard that over time you begin to see which cases really deserve your time and attention and which ones don't. But I've had cases that looked impossible and pointless that turned out to be different than they first appeared because I did the extra social work. I never expect to be good enough to develop any e.s.p in this area.

So there it is. I haven't resigned yet, but I dream about it every day. Every day I make new contacts and work towards my next job.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

*danger ahead*

Be afraid asserting constitutional rights. Be very afraid.

Today, I was yelled at by a judge for asserting my client's right to confront witnesses guaranteed by both the state and federal constitutions. There was an emergency hearing today to take my client away from his family and send him to jail two days before Christmas. The State had no witnesses to back up its charges. I was just doing my job putting things on the record (the judge only glared at me and took no notes as I made my arguments, so I realized I was speaking only for the record). I couldn't even get through my sentence before the Judge told me I was being disingenuous and blamed the lack of State's witness on me. Somehow it was my fault that the witness couldn't come to the emergency hearing which had practically no advance notice.

It's too bad I didn't learn my lesson and plan to continue to assert my client's rights in this judge's courtroom in the future.

It's also too bad that I had to cry with a boy and his family split right before the holidays.