Auction Scoots

Apropos of nothing, I went to a big going out of business auction last weekend. It was a pawn shop so they were selling a little bit of everything. The real reason I was there were the scooters and motorcycles for sale. Some of them have been parked out front for weeks and months and I have walked by them a hundred times, wishing, wishing. So I was really hoping they’d go for nothing. I was mistaken. The 2000? Honda ST1100 w/something like 24k miles went for $4k. The 2003 Honda Silver Wing w/about 6k miles? (looked almost brand new) went for $2400, and the beat up old (1995?) Honda Helix w/20k miles went for $900. By my humble researches, those were all about 50% of market value, except for maybe the Helix, which was in bad shape and should not have gone for so much (I thought).

My dad’s a big auction fan and each time I go to one I’m reminded of why people like them. It’s fun to check out the merchandise and wonder about what it will go for, and it’s exciting to get into the bidding for something you want. It’s also this strange sort of honor system culture where anyone can sign up for a number and bid, no questions asked (other than name, address, and phone number). Where else can you stand up and declare you’re going to pay $5k for something w/out anyone asking to see some kind of proof beforehand that you’re actually good for it? I could get into big trouble that way, but still, it’s kind of a neat thing.

I still have that scooter jones, though. If I’d had an extra $900, that Helix would have been mine! My grandpa had what turns out to be a rather rare 1984 Honda Elite 125 (rare because it was a 125 for only one year before they made it a 150, apparently w/o much of a performance gain). It’s been sitting in my dad’s garage for probably close to a decade now, but it apparently has title and ownership issues. Really I keep making this vow to stop wanting things I can’t afford and this would be one of them. Nose to the grindstone, pay those loans, get back to work. Yadda 2x.

Not Guilty! (Finally!)

As twitter followers and rss readers already know, I finally won a jury trial yesterday! Whoohoo! It was a two-witness, felony DUI trial that turned into a 2-day affair. The second day started w/closing arguments, then the jury began deliberating … and asking questions — seven of them. Jurors kept wanting more information but the judge kept telling them to rely on the evidence presented. Finally, after four hours, they came back w/the Not Guilty!

The clerk read the verdict: “We the jury, duly impaneled and sworn, do hereby find the defendant Not Guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol.”

It’s hard to think of other moments in life that could be better than those seconds right before the actual verdict, the verdict itself, and then the next second where you can actually exhale. It happened so fast I could barely believe it was real.

Obviously, this was terrific news for my client, but also for me. It was a huge relief because, if the verdict had been guilty, my client would have been subject to our 2-strikes law and a mandatory minimum 5-life in prison. (I kid you not.) So obviously it’s terrific that he no longer has that hanging over his head. But it’s also a huge relief for me personally because, well, basically it proves I can win at trial. I know it won’t happen every time, or even most of the time, but it’s just good to know that it can happen. And I know that there are many skills necessary to be a good public defender, trial isn’t the only measure of success by a long shot, etc. I know all that. But I also know that it feels really good to win. ;-)

Hibernation

It’s been wintry freezing cold here and I have not been able to rise and shine in the mornings at all. Three bangs on the snooze bar, minimum, every morning, even when I went to bed early the night before. I think I am related to bears. Call Stephen Colbert!

Randomness:

  • Life is always busy, so why can’t I ever post anything here? Maybe Audacity had the right idea.
  • Amazon has magazine subscriptions on sale. The magazines in my office’s waiting room are four years old. Should I gift a subscription to my office? If so, what would my clients like to read while they wait to see me?
  • Chyrp is a new blogging/tumblelogging platform I just learned about. Looks cool.
  • I also just learned about this essay by David Foster Wallace from 2005. I’d like to read it but since law school I don’t think I’m smart enough to read Wallace anymore. Law school is a good way to make stupid.
  • I spent two days last week at union meetings and they also made me stupid. If I were a poet I would write a poem called “Union Negotiations” and it would be all about freezing temperatures, a world frozen solid so that sound carries for miles w/no meaning, buffeted and interrupted by the howling wind. It’s lucky for you I am not a poet.
  • The writer’s strike may be over and that makes me both happy and sad. The strike was depressing to me, but mostly because it went on so long w/so little impact. It seemed to me yet another sign of the waning power of collective action and unions in general. I hope I am wrong.
  • I wish I could tell you which sucks more: Mean people or selfish people? Many times meanness and selfishness are the same thing.

ABA: What you do for me?

Last week’s inbox brought the latest installment of the ABA Weekly Journal Newsletter. Inside are interesting tidbits about “big brother” facial recognition software from Micro$oft, some slightly interesting whining from biglaw associates about the gruntwork they no longer have to do ((I like the one who had to “appear and bail out clients who managed to get arrested late at night.” I thought I could be disbarred for bailing out a client!)), and a Blawg Directory that lists 200 “Criminal Justice” and 12 “Criminal Procedure” blogs. ((Who knew!? A couple of interesting finds from a quick browse include Simple Justice, a NY criminal defense blog w/a slightly academic focus, and the Cook County Public Defenders blog, to which I really should probably pay more attention. There’s also the No Montana Death Penalty Blog; it’s not very active, but good to know it’s there. Michigan Public Defender also looks promising (I love it when cops testilie!, but again, not very active. ))

But the really interesting bit in the newsletter is the story of a law school grad on a campaign to talk people out of law school:

“I’m on a one-woman mission to talk people out of law school,” she tells Law Blog. “Lots of people go to law school as a default. They don’t know what else to do, like I did. It seems like a good idea. People say a law degree will always be worth something even if you don’t practice. But they don’t consider what that debt is going to look like after law school.

“It affects my life in every way. And the jobs that you think are going to be there won’t necessarily be there at all. Most people I know that are practicing attorneys don’t make the kind of money they think lawyers make. They’re making $40,000 a year, not $160,000.”

Ah yes, so true. I do love my job. I do. What I don’t love is the debt it took to get it and the feeling that I will never escape or retire that debt. Ugh. I don’t even like to think about it.

I haven’t paid up my ABA dues for this year but so far I continue to receive stuff from them as if I had paid. I don’t see much benefit from being a member of the ABA, but, speaking of debt, I do lament being unable to afford NACDL and National Lawyers’ Guild dues. Where do people find the money for these professional organizations? Grr…

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Look back: Music 2007

Somehow 2007 ended and 2008 began without me getting the chance to do all the wistful looking back on the past year that I so enjoy. But there’s nothing saying that all year-end retrospectives must be done by year’s end, right? So, as we get going with 2008, the following is a list of songs I couldn’t stop listening to in 2007. These were songs that spent at least a week or more on either constant repeat or in very heavy rotation on the iPod. If we were still listening to cassettes, the little magnetic ribbon holding the bits for these tracks would be stretched and warped and on the verge of breaking—they’re just that good. And so, in no particular order, the 2007 Musical Imbroglio:

  1. The Chills by Peter Bjorn and John
  2. Music Is My Hot Sex by CSS (Hey, I was listening to it before it was an iPod ad, I swear.)
  3. Alabama by Neil Young (After a conversation w/a guy at the bar I started listening to the prime years of Neil Young and it’s great stuff, although I also really love the Harvest Moon era…)
  4. Invincible by OK Go (It’s sort of hard to choose one song. OK Go was just about all I listened to for about, oh, January and February.)
  5. Misty Mountain Hop by Led Zeppelin (An old Ledzep track appeared on a mix from a friend at the beginning of the year so I started listening to “IV” quite a bit. It just doesn’t get old.)
  6. The Diary of Horace Wimp by ELO (I’ve enjoyed ELO since I air-guitared to “Don’t Bring Me Down” for a “talent” show in 5th grade, so when a friend started talking about this song I didn’t need much persuading.)
  7. Imitosis by Andrew Bird (A catchy tune from a great lyricist.)
  8. Just Dropped In by Kenny Rogers (This is from the “Big Lebowski” soundtrack, most of which is quite recommendable.
  9. The Future Freaks Me Out by Motion City Soundtrack (Found this via the Weekend America podcast and fell in love w/it immediately. How can you not love the 80s nostalgia packaged in such a poppy fun tune?)
  10. Bowl of Oranges by Bright Eyes (The only show I saw this year and this is one the tracks they played. Great lyrics, great song.)
  11. One Two Three Four by Feist (Again, I listened to it before it became an HBO ad or an iPod ad, thanks to my sister who tipped me to it.)
  12. Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne (More 80s retropop nostalgia. Oh Mickey you’re so fine….)
  13. Reeboks in Heaven by Fujiya & Miyagi
  14. The Calendar Hung Itself by Bright Eyes (Just another great track I couldn’t stop listening to. Angry, angsty, awesome.)
  15. Tits on the Radio by the Scissor Sisters
  16. You Don’t Know What Love Is by the White Stripes (One of my faves from “Icky Thump.”)
  17. Beginning to Get to Me by Snow Patrol (Snow Patrol was all I listened to for another two months in probably March and April. And when I say all I listened to, I mean all.)
  18. Failsafe by New Pornographers (The only song I have from their latest; obviously I need to hear the rest.)
  19. The Pills Won’t Help You Now by Chemical Brothers (One of many I listened to repeatedly; great for background while working on briefs, etc.)
  20. If the Brakeman Turns My Way by Bright Eyes (Yes, I know, another Bright Eyes tune, but it’s my favorite from Casadaga and has to be on the list!))
  21. Young Folks by Peter Bjorn & John

So it basically comes down to OK Go, Snow Patrol, Bright Eyes, and a random mix of old and new pop tunes that got me through 2007. This was the first in many years that I actually listened to a measurable amount of non-NPR radio, mostly while driving to and from the jail on a regular basis. That’s where all the top-40-ish stuff comes in. Even w/the poppy pablum, 2007 was a pretty great year, musically. Of course, if none of the above songs strike your fancy, NPR’s Songs of the Yearand Best CDs from All Songs Considered might offer something more to your liking.

So what were you listening to last year? What are you listening to now?

Due process? What’s that?

So what’s this “due process” thing all the kids and the Constitution are talking about? What is it? Notice and hearing? Isn’t that what we learned in law school? So, like, when the State wants to take away my freedom and throw me in a tiny concrete cell, I get notice of why and a hearing on that, right? And if the State says I can gain release on bond, I get notice of that and a hearing on it, right?

Not here folks! Here you can have a bond hearing in front of one judge who sets bond at X, then another judge can call the jail and raise your bond over the phone to X times 4! We don’t need no stinking due process!!

Some days I really really really love my job. Or, ok, I’ll be honest: Some days this job makes me so angry I feel like I’m going to spontaneously combust b/c the point of doing this job is to be in a position to do something about injustices like this and here I find I’m as helpless as any random dude on the street. Ignorance, bliss, where are you?

In other news, my mom got a scare this week when she started having excruciating and random pain on her scalp and a doctor suggested she might have trigeminal neuralgia. It’s a condition I’d never heard of before, but after a little research it’s clear that having it would be seriously not good. (See also here, here, A few days and another doctor visit later, and there’s reason to hope it’s just some random muscle spasms and no big deal. Keep your fingers crossed.

In the ongoing quest for the perfect data management solution, I’ve found nirvana in the 30-day free trial of Filemaker. It’s perfect! But at $300, I’m going to have to keep looking….

Hpapy New Waht?

Spsdloeupy smoe plpoee can raed jelubmd up wrdos as lnog as the fsrit and lsat lterts dno’t cgnahe. Smoe plpoee can’t do it.

Ten-and-a-half-hour day today. Very busy, much more to do. And I’m sick. And that sucks. Enough said.

What did the payphone bring you today?

If you’re a public defender you probably end up getting some number of phone calls from your clients in jail. For me, that’s about 50-75% of the calls I get each day. All those calls come from payphones, and nearly every single call brings me some new task to complete, conundrum to solve, problem to get angry about, or challenge to surmount. So again I ask: What did the payphone bring you today?

Today for me brought a string of calls from clients who were well-behaved and quiet over the holidays, but are now getting restless to hear updates on their cases. Very busy day.

I’ve also spent a bit of time yesterday and today working on cleaning off the desk, tying up as many loose ends from 2007 as possible. I can see places on my desk that I haven’t seen in months! Next: The piles on the floor! Isn’t there a feng shui lesson in there? Piles keep you mired in the past? It’s time to move forward, so the days for those piles are few.

Finally, I’ve been working on improving my systems for attack and defense. By that I mean, I’m trying to figure out a way to keep focused far enough in the future in terms of court dates and other deadlines that I can aggressively represent my clients — that’s the attack. At the same time I’m trying to devise a low-overhead system for documenting what I do so I can remember it all and so I can cover my ass if any of those pesky IAC/ODC claims come up. It’s sort of the Kick Your Ass While I Cover Mine system. Our case management system is Justware Defender and it is so hopelessly slow and inadequate that it is of no help whatsoever in these areas. Instead (and I really hate to say this), I’m learning to use Outlook and Word to keep myself on task and keep good records of what I’m doing. So far, the experiment is in its infancy, but I’ve had two pretty productive days in a row w/it, so hope springs eternal.