So, I have been thinking a lot over the last couple of days about what it means to be a criminal defense lawyer. About what our job is and what it should be. I came across this decription today: "we hold the line against police and government intrusions. Our job is to fight back". Well amen. What is the line between being courteous and a zealous advocate? Between being aggressive and following the rules? I find myself pondering these questions. When does a lawyer stand up and say "enough" in the face of a constitutional violation, regardless of the cost? I am not a politician. I am not on a committee. My job is not to please the State or the Court. I am supposed to call out injustice whenever I see it. Yes, I sometimes use intemperate language. I have been accused of being 'rash'. But who would you rather have as YOUR advocate? The lawyer concerned about pleasing the State or the lawyer who is prepared to fight as hard as he can for you? Public Defenders have a hard enough convincing many folks that we are "real lawyers". So I am so very, very glad that I work in an environment where I am encourged to be a zealous advocate and to call out injustice whereever it exists. I may annoy the police or the State or the Court but I hope that in the end they respect my zeal to protect my clients. And, despite the fact that many of you may not agree with what I say on this blog, I hope that each and every American supports my right to say it. Like I said, I've been thinking about what it means to be a lawyer and double checking that I am that type of lawyer. I must admit that I find myself in a crisis of conscience. So, for now, I have decided to stop talking about work or the law at all. I warn you because a blog about my kids or fishing is not the same thing. But it is necessary for now.

Comments

Anonymous said…
"If we concentrated on the really important things in life; we'd have a shortage of fishing poles....."
Marc Theiler said…
Ben,

That's why we love you! You know what's funny about those folks that express themselves exactly they way they are? They actually have enough respect for the audience's ability to handle someone for who they truly are. Unfortunately, too many people default to throw on the familiar face of the status quo - that is they'll create a diluted mixture of who they are, who they want to be, and who they are suppose to be - never all the way, only in various ratios. These folks sincerely do not wish to reveal the holistic/authentic self for fear of repercussion, which is understandably as the audience is found to be quite petty and can be prone to vengeance. The concepts of liberty and freedom of expression is almost losing all context - as the social institutions have all but made these concepts exceptionally relative and on a case by case basis. My liberty is your liberty. Unfortunately we may never get the numbers back on our side. Either way, I admire those that fight the good fight, and I know you do just that. What bugs me the most, is what these people who want to censor do not know. You are a bright guy, intelligent enough to know that you could dull yourself down and play patty cake like the rest of the child-adults, yet you simply choose to do the right thing, by expressing yourself in the most honest manner you know how, believing that your audience is adult enough to handle it. Like I said, the numbers just aren't with us, my friend.
Anonymous said…
sounds to me like the man told u to stop talkin legal jargon. this blog is boring, plz spice it up.
M. Ligons said…
I've been following your blog off and on for a few years now ever since I was thinking of appying for a PD position up there as a way to relocate. Sometimes I feel you over generalize and are too quick to assume that a judge that rules against you is a "pawn" of the state. As a judge, I often have to make a tough call between what is constitutionally permissable and what is not. In a dog fall, I always end up ruling to uphold the individual's rights and limiting government intrusion/intereference. But, that is not to say that I always agree with the defense. I do not wish to be categorized as a peson running roughshod over the constitution when I don't agree with the defense. I truly try to do my job correctly and hope that the judges you are in front of are doing the same. Assuming they are, you sound a little too eager to lump them into a group of enemies of citizens' rights. Just my two cents. I do enjoy following along and I still occassionally look into moving to Alaska - any jobs open there?
Marc said…
M.Ligons,

It's nice to hear a judge claim to uphold individual rights and limit government interference. It really should be the default all things being equal. I am somewhat involved with the legal field, in a limited fashion, yet I pay close attention and thoroughly understand the underpinnings and the intent of the judicial framework. To be completely honest, of all the variables within the equation, what surprises me the most is the quality of the judges. I would honestly assess that perhaps 5-10% of the entire lot are highly skilled, critical, objective, compassionate discerners; and I believe I am being overly optimistic with my measure. When you have egos, subjectivity and often politics involved in the discernment process, it all too often gets tainted. I see this so often, I believe it's the norm. I do not believe critical, objective, enlightened discernment to be the norm. It's really like any profession, no matter what degree of skill or education. It's the 20/80 rule, yet in this case it's more like the 5/95 rule. 5% quality discerners that thoroughly understand the intent of the law, the context at hand, and then have the ability to express broad-set compassion and empathy for all parties involved. The rest of the lot, varying degrees of competencies along with several black robe adorned egos wearing clown shoes. Yet, none of the judges would ever believe they are the lowest rung when confronted, who ever does?

And no the defense is not always right, and what's deemed right by law is merely a popularity contest, not an accurate gauge of critical, objective assessment. Was the defense wrong when they attempted to defend black men from being placed in jails for drinking out of the same water fountain?

I am sorry, I'll say it again and again, the state is the state is the state. When you have an environment that lacks serious and substantial accountability and competition, you get muck and mediocrity at best.
Judge: I don't think that everytime I lose, the Judge is a pawn of the State. I am a criminal defense lawyer. I expect to lose sometimes. I just want to lose for the right reasons. Just a fair shake is all I ask. I know the system is stacked against my clients. I am pleased to hear of your position. What kind of work are you looking for?
M. Ligons said…
nothing w/ the PD...the pay is too shitty and I prefer to work with better lawyers.
First, that last comment was unlikely to be from a judge. Second, I wanted to say that my comments are ALWAYS of a general nature. I have NEVER commented on a local judge or a ruling. That would be inappropriate. My comments are always general, or directed to SCOTUS, which I feel is fair game. That is an appropriate distinction I ask you to keep in mind.
Marc said…
Ben,

As you well know, folks don't read with objectivity and with an authentic regard to perceive from the author/artists framework, they usually pick and choose pieces that will augment and strengthen their current framework/point of view; only to use such expression to mount both offensive and defensive attacks. Very rarely do they wish to sincerely comprehend where you are coming from and what you are attempting to express.
m said…
Marc:

Clown shoes? Is that why I keep tripping all the time? I'm going to have to look into this. The only problem is I have trouble seeing my feet because my cloak of mediocrity keeps getting in the way.

Ben:

You are correct in that I certainly did not make that previous disparaging post. I have done a little bit of everything since I passed the bar: hung my shingle as a sole practitioner when I got out of law school and did civil and criminal stuff. Did a four year term as an elected prosecutor (which was part-time here in rural Missouri and so I maintained my civil office as well). Now I'm starting my second four year term as a judge (again, elected). I took a pay cut to take the bench but it allowed me to vest a retirement plan (since the wife and I are terrible savers, I needed this). When, if, I relocate to Alaska I would be more than happy to work in public defense, assuming the finances would work out. I truly miss trial work. But, we've taken in a little girl to raise and we have decided that we need to stay put for another year or so as she needs the stability right now.

Anyway, I do enjoy your blog and did not mean to be overly critical - just wanted to make sure you were lumping me in with some of the "bad guys"!
Marc said…
No such thing as "bad guys", bad guys are the creation of the Baby Boomers and other relics.
To these folks, we have always needed a bad guy. Take a close look at the entertainment of
the time. That's why Americans love war movies, and sports movies, and action movies - gotta make sure those drug dealers get their "comeupence". Think Charles Bronson, Death Wish. These old timers created a War on Terror, a War on Drugs, a War on Communism, and so on. Always need a bad guy, makes it easier to define the good guys. It's a bunch of delusion. No bad or good, only accountable decisions, with each poor decision usually directly bounded to its own ill-reward. The need for a bad guy is again, misplaced fear of those confused persons, with unfortunate periods of power.

And as for clown shoes, yes, there are many judges out there that should simply take off their pressed and cleaned black robes and trade them in for a big bright foam red nose, a rather oversized striped zippered up one piece suite, and a giant pair of big floppy red shoes. They are jokes, bad jokes for individual liberty, critical assessment, and for the community at large. Are you one of them? That's not for me to determine. I don't know you from Adam. what I do know is that no professional of such account as a judge thinks they are poor discerners. Poor self-awareness tends to plague the human condition, judges even with exalted expectations thrown at them, are not immune. And yes, mediocrity is the norm, now matter how much you or anyone makes light of it. Sorry, one of the greatest contributors to psychological misjudgment is the over-estimation of ones self-deemed assessment. Most = mediocrity, perhaps that is you, perhaps not.
M Ligons said…
Marc:

Your posts are completely opinion and as such are hard to refute. Given examples of facts supporting your opinion I might be able to better argue against it - if I were so inclined.

I will tell you that most of the judges I know try very hard to get it right. However, it is true that the level of ability is widely varied. I think your judgment is too harsh. In support of that I will point out that it is difficult to balance the legislative laws, the constitutions ( state and federal ) and justice. And no matter which way the judge decides, someone is ready to point out all of the reasons that the judge should have ruled the other way.

There are bad guys. There are truely bad people in the world. And then there are people who are grouped together unfairly and deemed to be "bad guys" by some people who believe they are morally superior. If the latter does not refer to what you are doing to 95 percent of judges then my choice of the term was incorrect.

And you are wrong about one thing: I never wear a robe.
Marc said…
M. L.

Now we're talking; that sounds hot, no robe! Wonderful. How sexy would that be, a confident beautiful middle age woman presiding over the court, robeless. Now that's America!

M.L. I waste enough time on these sort of pursuits, so I'll refrain from my rambling. I'll just say, I've been damn near everywhere in this world. I've been with hardcore gangbangers, drug dealers, high level executives, southern rednecks, pretenious West coast hippies, Eastern Europeans, Western Europeans, Hindus, Muslims and the list goes on. No matter where I have been or who I've hung out with, there population of "bad" people are .00001th of the population. Those truly self-centered, hellbent on malice and deceit are such a minute portion of our populous. I find more "bad" "evil" people in the ranks of those self-deemed "good guys" such as police officers, prosecutors, and other "do-gooders" with their good guy badges; those are the people that tend to be the most self-centered, and boy they are in love with their own selective judgments and pseudo-morality. Like I've said a million times over, I'd rather live next door to a known murder, than a do-gooder. Nothing on this earth worst than the petty, hypocritical, do-gooder.

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