"Lawyer: An individual whose principal role is to protect his clients from others of his profession."-Anonymous

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Born on Sunday...Not Yesterday

Well, here it is this is me, not exactly what I expected it to be three years out of law school. But then again, life has never been what I expected.

But This is ME
I have three degrees in addition to my law license, I also have a current teaching license which is set to expire June 2007 , a six-figure debt, an expansive client case-load and a single parent to an increasingly inquisitive daughter.

To put it in simpler terms, too much education/educational debt + with not enough experience+ non-profit work = financial ruin ...for lack of a better term.
Now, I'm not an overly pessimistic person, quite the opposite actually. It's gloomy outside today perhaps... I have a touch of the Blues.
I work in the non-profit realm of Criminal Defense...meaning that my paycheck has not quite reached the prestige of a Public Defender (and I say that tongue in check...for those who ought to know better)

Don't get me wrong, I love my job, my co-workers, are for the most part phenomenal people. My one and only complaint is the lack of money. I am one of just a few Attorneys at a small criminal defense firm. I'm the only female attorney
Having served three plus years as an Educator prior to law school in the same community that I currently practice in, I've become familiar with the clientele. For the most part, the names and faces change but their life stories and especially the stories told through their eyes do not.

Just last week I was outside court and was stopped by a former student of mine, of which for the life of me I vaguely recognized...she was a student when I was doing one of two student teaching stints. She stopped me in mid-step as I was hurrying off to yet another court room for another hearing... "Hey didn't you use to teach at blah, blah middle school?" She was sitting there with her mother, as an expectant mother in juvenile court. It's been four plus years since I taught at that school so I'm gauging she had to be at least 16 if not 17 years old. "I remember, you, you sure didn't take anything from us. I think you called my house a couple of times. " It was odd, I wanted to spend time asking more questions...but all I could bring myself to say, was is everything okay? She smiled and said yes, we exchange "small talk" she's expecting a girl.
I'm really hoping everything was okay.

What Sealed the Deal
The first case of significant meaning for me was one that I inherited barely two months in the job. I had been assigned a juvenile case Felony, first degree Arson. The kid, who was 14 at the time...(and I tend to use kid/client interchangeably) was already in placement at a long term juvenile correctional placement on previous charge of which he had been adjudicated. He'd already served four months of his nine to 10 month commitment when the Arson charges were filed.
Situation was this...as apart of the Juvenile residential "treatment program", all of the juveniles were to participate in counseling/group therapy and part of that component used to entail an assignment asking the kids to take into account their actions of their criminal behavior and more specifically how their family members would feel if they knew of their criminal activity-and here's the kicker...."include all crimes even the ones you've not been adjudicated." (um, 5th amendment...hello?)

Of course my client, wanting to cooperate with the treatment portion of the program so he could graduate to the next elevation, unfortunately complied. The State than subsequently CHARGED him with it along with the more than $75,00 in restitution that would be hanging over this kid's head.

The State maintained that my client allegedly (and I do love that word) confessed (as the assignment directed him) to once starting a fire in an abandoned "crack house" on the same block where he lived at the time.

I found out later that my client apparently provided too much detail in his assignment, and had he not been so forth coming he wouldn't have been charged, at least so they say.
To make a long story short we had an evidentiary hearing and I argued that his assignment/confession should be suppressed. The state relied heavily on a Supreme Court case which essentially held that there no inherent threat requiring a probationer in this instance to be truthful.

I argued that this was a case of first impression in my jurisdiction and that the court should look to an Ohio Court of Appeals ruling as persuasive that case being more closely related to the facts in my client's situation.
To make an already long story shorter, the trial judge agreed and suppressed his assignment/statement and from what I've been told the juvenile residential treatment center was to change its policy... I guess that will have to remain to be seen.

Just an update the last probation report that I received the kid is doing well no violations...no new offenses, and that is what seals the deal.