Hard Times

President Obama is doing all these infrastructure improvements so at least we’ll have plenty of beautiful bridges to jump off of.

—an unemployed person being interviewed on WBEZ’s 848

Thank thank thank soon

Still here, just busy. I’ve been having a little fun helping out at PD Stuff here and here, while also applying for jobs, searching for jobs, trying to network, oh, and don’t forget getting ready for company. And “testing” my new iPhone. Wow.

Oh, and trying to figure out what to do with this blog. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be under construction in the next few weeks, not that it should matter to most readers (the two of you) — I will try not to break the RSS feed. The rough idea is to try to integrate the tumbroglio with the imbroglio, so that everything in my flickr,, twitter, and Google Reader shared items will all appear here seamlessly. No more “bits” in the right column, no more separate place for tweets, just a regular flow of whatever I’m posting wherever it may be. That’s the idea, anyway. Who knows if it’s possible, or rather, if I’m capable of making it so. We’ll see.

But first, it’s gluttony week! Perfect for a nation whose economy is in the toilet because of too much credit, too much borrowing, and basically overconsumption. But that’s a crap way to look at it. Forget I said that and if I don’t get back for a bit, Happy Turkey!

Tii-i-i-me is on my side. No it’s not!

Jason Kottke’s musing about timeline twins and the subsequent comments is some fun mind candy for a Sunday morning. As one of the comments says, “The fact that it’s been 32 years since I first heard The Ramones is mind-blowing to me.” It’s only been 22 years for me, but still. Wow.

Several comments (here and here) discuss whether “we” (meaning thirty- or forty-somethings and younger) have changed the way we relate to popular culture compared to our parents. “Imagine still listening to the music of your youth?” one writes. “These days we evolve and move on. And are in fact terrified of hanging on for too long to any one moment in history.”

That is both a fascinating and terrifying possibility. The first thought that springs to mind is that “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.” I think it’s true that we have become much more of a transient culture than that of previous generations; we do live through the moment, then move on to the next w/little thought about what has come before. How else could we get into the current financial crisis other than by paying no attention to the long-term, to the lessons of the past, and living only in the now?

The thing is, I find myself looking back constantly. Sometimes the urge is stronger than at others, but I have two big boxes of cassettes — yeah, cassettes — that I keep because they have music I don’t have in any other format and which I don’t want to forget. I dream of digitizing all (or most) of these cassettes so that I can listen again whenever I want and with ease to the music of my youth. Does that make me a weirdo? Am I out of touch w/”my generation”? Hmph.

It’s all fun to think about, though. I love this one: “Mathew Broderick lip synching The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” (1964) in the parade in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) would be like someone lip synching Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” in a movie in 2008.”


Magic 8-Ball Says: Are you freaking insane!?

One of the “benefits” of being a member of the ABA (I’m pretty sure my membership has expired, but whatever) is their weekly email of legal news headlines. Today’s email brought great news about the legal job market. For example, Jenner & Block asked 10 partners to leave, a PR firm is advising law firms on how to write layoff memos, another firm is rumored to have laid off 80 associates in the last nine months, some talking head says the legal economy is going to be twice as bad as the most extreme predictions, and law students are being advised to have backup plans (and backup backup plans) b/c they are heading into “a grim hiring market.”


So this is the context in which I just quit my job and am now looking for a law job in a state where I do not yet have a license to practice. If you always suspected I was utterly brilliant, wonder no more! I am obviously a genius!

The good news is that I’ve never found that the “news” or advice from the ABA has been very relevant to me as law student or lawyer. Like the law school I attended, the ABA is focused largely on BigLaw, and BigLaw is not where I have any interest in being. I’m going to be fine.

Oops! Gotta run! I’m late for my shift at Starbucks!

One Person On Your Side

Golden Gate University Law School Professor Peter Keane is featured on today’s edition of This I Believe on NPR. The good professor was the chief assistant public defender in San Francisco for 20 years and he believes that “everyone, no matter what they have done, deserves to have one person on their side.”

Me, too, Professor Keane, me too.

It’s a great essay. I highly recommend it. Professor Keane makes a good case for the layman who asks of public defenders: “How can you defend those people?” It reminds me of one of the best answers I’ve ever heard to that question, which comes from Blonde Justice, with some further interesting discussion of the question itself. Also highly recommended.

Perhaps these discussions resonate with me at the moment because, well, right now, I *don’t* defend those people. Currently I am unemployed. For personal reasons I have moved to Chicago and am now searching for a job. I would like nothing more than to continue to be a public defender, so if any reader out there has any connections, however tenuous, with anyone in the Chicago criminal defense community, please let me know!

Keep going up the price does

Didn’t it used to cost less than a quarter to send a letter? The only good thing about the constantly rising price of postage is that we get stamps like these:
Yoda-600X600 461540
Remember: “Named must your fear be before banish it you can.” Deep man, yeah.


Let me tell you something, kid. Working sucks, ok? Working sucks. And it doesn’t matter if you’re in a bank, a department store, or a doughnut factory, because once you’ve been there long enough the only thing you’ll care about is when your next pay increase is, how many vacation days you’ve accrued, and if your health insurance is going to pay for the cholesterol medicine that keeps your heart pumping no matter how much shit you work through it. Then, after you’ve gained 20 or 30 pounds because you’re so f***ing uptight all the time, you wake up and discover that you’re working for your father-in-law in a position with a gratuitous title and you’re totally replaceable, and, not only is the new guy better at your job, but he’s got a better car, and better jokes, and better hair! So no matter what you do, you make sure you make a lot of money doing it because it all sucks! And that is one lesson I, as your mentor, can teach you.


Sucka! (Who, me?)

Ok, I was totally duped. I read on my treo RSS reader that Gideon of the blog “a public defender” was quitting his job to go into private civil practice and I totally believed it. My treo downloaded the post before he updated it to say that it was an April fool’s joke and I haven’t had time to look into it further since reading it, so for two days now I’ve been wondering, ‘How could he do that? What’s going to happen to PD Stuff!?’

Ha. The joke’s on me. Of course, my gullibility has a context. Two of my colleagues right in my office have left in the last month to pursue, um, other things. One left after about 5 years as a PD to become an investment banker (!?), the other is leaving to become a part-time prosecutor w/a private civil practice on the side. That sort of makes me ill.

That brings to a total of three the number of PDs in my office who have quit to become prosecutors since I started at the office 20 months ago. At least one of them was a great public defender and an inspiration to us all, so seeing him go to the dark side like that is demoralizing and sad beyond words. That aside, the idea that such a relatively large number (close to 1/5th of our total attorneys) of public defenders in our office clearly will switch sides to make more money speaks volumes about the defense culture here. I’ll just leave it at that…

Anyway, I’m glad it’s not that way nationwide and that Gideon was only joking.

Then why do I keep counting?

I have to stop reading the news; it only reminds me that the world is going straight to hell in an American-made handbasket. Exhibit A:

Since 2006, when the insurgency in Afghanistan sharply intensified, the Afghan government has been dependent on American logistics and military support in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

But to arm the Afghan forces that it hopes will lead this fight, the American military has relied since early last year on a fledgling company led by a 22-year-old man whose vice president was a licensed masseur.

Thank goodness that “war on terra” is going so well!

Closer to home, I recently lost a probation violation hearing where we were asking the court to excuse my client’s failure to complete her restitution payments by the end of her sentence because my client had made a good faith effort to pay. The law says that failure to pay restitution must be excused if you’ve made a good faith effort because your obligation to pay remains with you for life, the “victim” has civil remedies for collection, and the state can garnish wages and tax returns to ensure you complete your restitution regardless of whether you’re on probation. So we had testimony that my client has worked a low-wage job throughout probation, working 32-35 hours/wk, which is all the employer would give her. She paid about 20 out of 36 months, she moved her family to a cheaper apartment to save money, her husband was in jail through part of the time and so could not contribute to household expenses for her and her two kids, plus when he was out he had his own considerable restitution to pay in an unrelated matter, etc. Finally, we had evidence that during this period, creditors brought three separate collection actions against my client for debts she and her husband incurred prior to the time this restitution was ordered, so for most of the time she was supposed to pay restitution her wages were being garnished for other debts.

Of course, after all of this, the court said, “You could have tried harder! You have cable tv and your son has internet.’ (Testimony was that son pays for the internet himself.) “You should have sold your tv and skipped those luxuries to prioritize restitution.” The court revoked my client’s sentence and started it over again. Awesome. I have a suggestion: Why doesn’t my client stop paying rent and move into a shelter so that much more of her income can go to restitution! That would really be trying, wouldn’t it?

What else? Oh, I recently learned that two of my “favorite” judges have very interesting “pet peeves.” One of them says his pet peeve is lawyers who can’t control their clients and waste his time at hearings they are totally going to lose. Great, so we should just ignore the fact that even if this judge denies the motion, an appellate court might very well rule the other way? It sounds to me like he’s saying that attorneys making a record for appeal and/or fighting for every possible hope their clients might have are wasting his time and annoying him. This from a judge who also recently asked me in an off-the-record pre-trial status conference, “Why doesn’t your client just plead guilty?”

Another judge’s pet peeve was cross examination. “It takes too long and just repeats the state’s case, so why are you wasting my time?” (I’m obviously paraphrasing.) So the judge is saying that his pet peeve is the entire defense case!? How often do we end up going to trial w/nothing but cross to make our case!? I don’t believe this judge was ever a defense attorney and it’s pretty clear he never prepared a cross-examination of a key witness, yet I have to practice in front of him on a regular basis. Grrrrrrr!

The song on constant rotation these days is Why Do I Keep Counting by The Killers. I mean, really, if all of our days are numbered…??