Thursday, January 13, 2011

Prosecutors have it so easy...

There are many, obvious reasons why it's got to be easier to be a prosecutor than a public defender.  There's the fact that people assume that the prosecutor is always right.  There's the fact that you get to decide your own caseload (to a certain extent).  There's the fact that if you decide on the day of trial you have a crappy case, you can just dismiss it (I'd love to be able to do that!). 

However, there are a number of less obvious reasons why it's easier to be a prosecutor.  It's the less obvious reasons that make me resentful of prosecutors.  I expect that people will believe the prosecutor because they are the prosecutor.  The obvious reasons--I anticipate those things.   The less obvious reasons, the secret ones that you don't realize until you have to deal with them are the ones that make me wish that every prosecutor would be required to do a couple years as a public defender. 

So, what types of things am I talking about?  Some are bigger than others.  Here's a non-exhaustive list of things that I deal w/ every day that prosecutors don't: 

1. Hauling files around.  Prosecutors generally don't do this.  Sure, some city attorneys w/ offices located somewhere other than the courthouse might, but the county attorneys get to have their office right in the courthouse.  The furthest they have to haul their files is upstairs. They don't have to pack up a bag or a wheeled briefcase and haul it to their car, then unload it once they get to the courthouse and then haul it into the courthouse.  All while wearing heels. 

2. Dragging a wheeled briefcase through the snow/slush/puddles/over the ice patches.  This SUCKS.  Usually, if the wheeled bag had to be broken out, it means there's a LOT of files that day, which means this sumbitch is really heavy.  Now, drag this heavy beast through like 2 inches of snow or doesn't want to move and the wheels do nothing when you're dealing w/ that much weather-related obstacles.  So you basically just end up brute-force dragging the thing along, trying not to slip yourself.  All while wearing heels. 

3. Spending a ridiculous amount of the work day just driving to places.  This is stupid time-consuming.  For example, I work at one of the closest courthouses to my office.  In order for me to make it on time to my hearings, I have to leave my office 30 minutes before the hearing. Other courthouses take even longer.  

4. Having many hours of the day wasted waiting around.  This happens for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes it's because you get stuck in court waiting for your case to get called.  This is fairly common for basically any attorney.  However, if you are the prosecutors (again, the county attorneys who have their offices in the courthouse), you can just pop in to court, realize they are not on your case yet, and then head back to your office to continue being productive.  Then, the court clerks can just call from the courtroom down to your office and ask your secretary to send you up.  Contrast that with what a public defender gets to do while waiting.  I've probably got the giant wheeled bag, which means I didn't have any more arms or bags to bring along additional work.  So, I don't have anything else I can work on.  Or, if I do, I'm limited to just reading new files, since I don't exactly have Westlaw in my head to do research.  So, most of the time when I am stuck in court, I am playing "Bubble Defense" on my phone (super addicting) or reading The Superficial on my phone. 

5. Having your stuff stolen.  Like when my coat got swiped right off the coat rack outside the courtroom!  Super awesome! (Luckily, the bailiffs were amazing and were able to track it down.  Someone had taken it into the ladies' restroom, presumably to check the pockets for anything valuable, and then dumped it there).  There's no place for me to keep any of my items secure.  I get to either drag my coat, scarf, gloves, earmuffs, and boots around from one courtroom to the next, along w/ my purse and my bag or wheeled briefcase, or I get to hang them up on the coat rack and hope no one steals them (again). 

6. Having to always buy lunch.  This gets expensive very fast.  Generally, I can count on being in court at least 3 days of the week.  Usually, on 2 or 3 of those days, I am in court for both the morning and the afternoon.  Which, since my office is 30 minutes away (see #3 above), means I can't exactly head back to the office for my lunch.  And, since I have no place for me to keep any of my stuff secure (see #5 above), I have nowhere to stick a lunch where it won't get stolen or thrown away.  I also have no place to store anything that would have to be kept cold and I have no way to warm anything up or cook anything at all.  So, I have to either not eat or eat at a restaurant/fast food place.  At a minimum of $5 a pop, 2-3 times a week, we're talking $10-$15 every week.  That's $40-$60 a month!  That's a lot of money, especially when I've got perfectly good food to eat at my house which I would LOVE to be able to put in my very nice lunch box that I have specifically for that purpose.

7.  Not being able to check emails/phone messages for a day or more.  I have recently purchased a Blackberry specifically so that I could at least get my emails on my phone.  This is not a "work" phone--it's just my own personal cell phone.  But, before I got that, I'd be stuck in court all day for two full days, meaning if anyone had called me or emailed me, I had no idea.  So, if my client has called me to tell me he was in a car accident and can't make it to court that day, I don't know.  This problem used to occur quite often, where I don't know why my client isn't at court and the court orders a warrant, only to have me make it to my office 2 days later and find out they called me to say they were in the hospital or something.  And then I have to take the time to write the judge a letter explaining that they'd contacted me and asking to quash the warrant.  Finally, after this happening over and over again, I've just started to tell the court that I don't know where my client is, but I also haven't been to my office for 2+ days and if they'd called or something, I wouldn't know that, so I ask the court to stay the warrant for at least a day so I can check my messages.  It's immensely difficult to do a job that requires you to have access to your phone and your email when you don't have access to your phone or email. 

I'm sure there are more things that I will think of as I'm dealing with them and jealously glaring at my prosecutorial counterparts in the courthouse, with their warm feet that don't have to trek through the snow 5 times a day and their ability to bring their own lunches.  But that's all I have for now.  It's almost time for trivia!

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