Thursday, August 30, 2012

Well, that's a surprise

Recently, a handful of people I know have told me that I'm "easy to talk to."  Given that I have crushing social anxiety (which has eased significantly since I started taking anti-anxiety meds) and find it difficult to talk to people, this has been a surprising description.  I don't know that I would ever have described myself as easy to talk to.
So, what makes someone "easy to talk to?"  I decided to Google it to see what characteristics make someone easy to talk to.  And now I'm more confused...
Popular characteristics included:
-a good listener
-a good conversationalist
Looking at those, I am not sure how I fit with those descriptors. Maybe "a good listener," but only bc I'm usually to shy to say much, so the other person can run at the mouth and I will just politely nod bc then I don't have to talk. But all the other ones? I'm not sure about those. Especially the non-judgmental one.  I'm so good at being judgmental that I could win the gold medal at the Judgment Olympics.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Things Not to Say to Your Public Defender

Nftmonosyllabicers, I hope you are never in a position to need a public defender. If you are, that means you are 1) in trouble, whether you should be or not and 2) poor enough to qualify for a public defender. But, if you are ever in need of our services, please keep this list with you so you can easily access things you shouldn't say to your public defender.

1. "So, is this what you're doing until you get a real job?"  Last time I checked, I got a paycheck, benefits, and paid vacation, sick days, and holidays. Pretty sure this counts as a real job.

2. "So I know an attorney and when I talked to him, he told me to tell you that you should (file this motion, request this, do that)."  Oh really? That's fascinating. Go hire that guy, then.

3. "I'm going to have to get a lawyer for this/do I need to get a lawyer for this?"  When you filled out your application for a court-appointed lawyer, did you miss the part about the court appointing you a lawyer? What exactly do you think my role is? If you are confused about me being your lawyer, what do you think my job is?

4. "Marijuana should be legal." Maybe it should, maybe it shouldn't. But, it's not. So, just because you don't like the law doesn't mean that's going to get you out of the charges. Go talk to your legislators, get the law changed, and possess all the marijuana you want. In the meantime, it's still illegal.

5. "I know I did (whatever the charge is), but (someone else tangentially related to the case) did (crime), so why am I in trouble?"  Easy--you got caught.

6. "The cops didn't read me my rights, so this whole thing should be thrown out, right?" The caveat on this that while you should tell your public defender if the police didn't read you your rights, you should not finish that sentence with a assumption that that is an automatic get-out-of-jail-free card. That simply means whatever you said could be suppressed. That doesn't mean they don't have other evidence against you. It's not that easy.

7. "It's just a couple people saying I did that. They don't have any evidence. Let's go to trial." trial, when someone testifies, that counts as evidence. Evidence isn't just DNA and video and tangible things like that. So, when all 10 people testify that they saw you hit that guy with a bar stool, the State doesn't need to get surveillance camera footage from the bar.

8. "I need you to call me (this morning/this afternoon/today/before a certain time today/immediately/right away/before my court hearing today/etc.)."  Most public defenders are in court. A lot. Oftentimes, they are in court all day. If you call, it's extremely unlikely that you will get a phone call back the same day. If you know you won't be able to make it to court, don't call an hour before you're supposed to be there and expect your public defender to be in the office. They are already in court with other clients. When you call, just anticipate that it may take a few days to hear back and call ahead of your deadline.

9. "I have had (other public defender) before and they sucked!" Well, that may be true. But that's my co-worker who I probably get along with so I'm not going to bash them with you.

10. "You guys are bringing these charges against me/you're trying to say I violated probation/(any other statement that groups your public defender's purpose in with the state's or the court's purpose)."  Trust me, we're not connected. Yes  we are all parts of the justice system and yes, the government pays us our wages. But in Minnesota, the counties/cities pay the prosecutors and the state pays public defenders. We aren't working on their side. We don't share files (well the state technically gives us the contents of their files bc it's required by the discovery rules, but they don't share any notes or strategy with us). We aren't trying to get you.

11. "All public defenders are crap." Well, hi! It's nice to meet you too! That statement totally motivates me to work extra hard on your case...

12. "Are you a real attorney?" Yes. In what state is it not illegal to practice law without a law license (or in law school and being supervised by a licensed attorney)?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ever feel like pulling the covers over your head and going back to bed?

That's kind of how I feel all the time lately. Like I just want to crawl up into bed and sleep the rest of my life. Don't bother waking me up.

Friday, August 17, 2012


I just wrapped up my third trial this summer with the same client. I had one in June, one in July, and one in August. I don't honestly know how I have been doing it, but it's getting done. Although not much else is getting done... I have been in a constant state of catch-up this summer.  This is my Year of the Trial.  I'm starting to wonder if I will end up winning the "Most Jury Trials of 2012" award this year at our annual PD meeting.
At the rate I'm going, I'm either going to be a kick-ass, super experienced trial ninja or I'll be in a persistent vegetative state after my brain turns to complete mush.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The next time someone says we aren't "real" attorneys, I'll just remind them of this:

Two public defenders' work on a case ledto the shutdown of drug testing at a crime lab in St. Paul because of shoddy practices and lack of procedures to ensure integrity of evidence/results.  The lab had been operating for awhile without the huge, glaring problems coming to light until these two started asking questions. As a result of their work and the subsequent testimony elicited at a hearing questioning the evidence in their client's case, the lab's drug testing was shut down by the police chief. Moreover, three counties that used this lab are now offering favorable plea deals to drug defendants that focus on treatment and not on incarceration. These two public defenders managed to assist not only their client, but all defendants with pending and future cases in the affected counties and their work will impact the way this lab operates from now on, ensuring that the integrity of the evidence being used against people is preserved and that convictions are based on solid, reliable evidence.
How's that for being a "real" lawyer?
Way to go, Christine Funk and Lauri Traub!