Saturday, October 16, 2010

Willing to fight.

" 'Cause i know the biggest crime is just to throw up your hands/say "this has nothing to do with me, i just want to live as comfortably as i can"

So tonight I laughed at this dude in the bar who told me (Future Public Defender of America) and my friend (Future District Attorney of America), when I inquired as to the nature of his profession since he was so invested in questioning the ethics of me and my friend's respective future professions, that he was in real estate. Which in this day and age can only remind me of Frank Slaughtery (AKA Barry Pepper's character in '25th Hour'), who declares that Monty's (AKA Edward Norton) lifestyle came "from the misery of other people" (Monty being a drug dealer). I realize the comparison isn't a perfect one (I suppose our rich white boy interlocutor may profit in complete obliviousness to the misery of other people rather than precisely because of it), but in the age of the credit default swap and the subprime mortgage, there is something pretty hilarious about a real estate agent claiming to be the last honest man. When asked if he sells homes to people who can't afford them, he responds "That doesn't happen in New York, honey."

Point 1: The only dudes who aren't related to me who can get away with calling me "honey" are bodega guys. It's only the looming character and fitness portion of the bar examination process that keeps me from decking the next drunk-ass recent college grad who gets all pet-name-y with me.

Point 2: New York is, according to CNN, somewhere in the top 15 when it comes to high foreclosure rates. Check your stats before you wreck...yourself (apologies to Ice Cube).

I was glad bucko's only answer to "So what do you plan to do about the criminal justice system being racist?" (the system's racial disparities being his moral qualm with me and friend's desire to work in the criminal justice system) was "I'm going to make a lot of money so I can give some of it away." Because at least now I can have the comfort of knowing that instead of running for public office, dude will pretty soon switch his voter registration (if he even bothers to vote) to Republican, find a woman looking to get her M.R.S., and distract himself with secretary-banging, attempted modelizing, divorce court, and alimony. Because I have a distinct feeling that "I'm going to get rich and give a lot of money away" thing isn't going to pan out.

Someday, I'll be able to comfort clients and their families, guide them through the system, advocate on behalf of their interests, help them seek education and drug treatment, and convince a jury that they are innocent or deserve a lighter sentence. Someday my friend will be able to pursue lighter charges, help indigent crime victims obtain justice, and go after gang leaders who terrorize poor minority communities. And if you want to fix the racism in the criminal justice system --which I don't think you do, because I think you probably rather enjoy your white privilege (see, e.g., what with it allowing you to get all savior-y on someone's ass)--you'd do better,i don't know, working to check your own white privilege? Working for an anti-racism organization? Going into a line of work that involves helping poor people? Doing anything besides sniping at a couple of (young, female-because don't try to tell me you'd pull this shit on a dude) law students in a bar, who, believe it or not, actually spend several hours a week thinking critically about these issues with the aid of some very smart professors? Because seriously, dude, I went to Berkeley-I majored in dismantling pseudo-liberal white boys. Especially when they try to "educate" me.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I'm back!

A long hiatus from blogging, I realize. I'm working hard to fulfill all three parts of that famous saying about law school alternately scaring, working and boring you to death (1L year? Definitely scary to a degree dangerous to the health of those of us already prone to panic and taking out our anxieties on our poor, unsuspecting bodies. 2L year? Full of work. Especially for my journal, beloved as it is to me). But recent discussions with a friend led me back to this site, which I felt like I should share:

I promise more regular posts from now on. Really! Coming soon, why I want to deck everyone complaining about the 'It Gets Better' project.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Something I like about my job... the incentive to be legally creative. By which I mean the incentive to, at least within reason, throw an argument against the wall (or rather, the judge hearing your motion, which can actually be a lot like a wall, depending on the judge) and see if it sticks. Although you don't want to waste your credibility on a totally pointless or unsupportable argument, you do get the opportunity to make a long-shot argument based on a minority viewpoint and see if by some miracle the judge will decide you've been persuasive.

From what I've gathered about California criminal law, at least with 10 weeks at a public defender's office, is that for the most part, the law just isn't on our side-the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments don't mean what they used to, preliminary examination is just treated as a means to rubber-stamp a case for trial rather than a genuine opportunity to examine if there's really anything remotely resembling strong evidence...I could go on. I'm not totally 100% committed to staying in public defense, or even criminal law, but particularly when you stop and consider that, well, innocent people get accused of crimes sometimes (and even guilty people deserve rights, in a constitutional, adversarial system...okay, I'm pressing pause on my preachy tape right now), it's a little scary what some judges have become willing to let slide.

But all that is by way of saying that we have an incentive to try everything. And before anyone pipes up to say "Yeah, to bury the prosecution in a pile of paperwork! I see how you dishonest, criminal-loving PDs are!" (trust me when I say I actually heard this from someone I know. And it wasn't said with sarcasm, although I admit it wasn't said verbatim either), I don't get the impression that this is the primary incentive. Part of it is obviously the constant specter of IAC claims, particularly in capital cases. But more importantly, it's the specter of not doing all you can for a client. If there's a chance you could get a coerced confession thrown out, or the fruits of an illegal search suppresed, you want to take it, if taking it isn't such a long shot that your credibility is on the line.

And then if you're me, 1L Violent Felony intern, you get to write it. Which is so much better than law school writing. Why? Because your supervising attorney is not saying to you "that's a long shot, only a few cases go that way, you can't make that argument." I had a particularly frustrating 1L Moot Court experience-I had an interesting problem, and enjoyed oral argument a lot, but my student editor was one of those unhappy folks who wants to make everyone else unhappy too (a popular species in law school). If you tried to come up with an argument that hadn't been what she imagined when she wrote the problem, you were shot down-"that's a long shot, the judges won't like it, there isn't enough case law in support, you don't understand the issues (even if you did) because you are a lowly 1L who couldn't possibly have original thoughts and it is not physically possible for you to come up with a good idea I didn't think of first..." (okay, so that last part was just implicit). Now, quite possibly the incentives are different in other practice areas. But for now, I'm happy to have spent the summer working on assignments where the incentive was to try anything you could think of. Because it's nice, after a year of law school, to actually get to think of things.

Friday, July 30, 2010

First, a word on the title. Then, some words on other things.

So, the title. First I should point out that I deserve no credit for it. All credit is due to my friend Y., who blogs over at UpperWestLaw. Also, to be fair, it's kind of a half-truth on my part. I'm not sure it's totally accurate to say I liked myself before law school (chorus of former roommates cries out "You can say that again!"), although I promise not to make this blog a chronicle of my own Robert Langdell-induced psychological woes. But it is by far one of the most common sentiments I've heard law students (especially female law students, but more on that another time) express. Often with a touch of gallows humor.

But sometimes without it-a friend of mine who had been in my section throughout the entire year (sections do a bit of switching up between first and second semester at my school, which I think I'll be terming East Coast Law School for the sake of anonymity) ran into me after our Crim exam. She's a bit older than me, and law won't be her first career. She said she was worried that she hadn't done that well on Crim (which to be fair, was everyone's feeling, even the Crim law junkies like myself and the prep-schooled, Ivy League-d future Law Review-ers of our section). I made the usual supportive law student noises-it was an awful exam, everyone left feeling bad about it, probably the curve would help her out, etc. And then she said "Yeah, but I don't think I studied enough. I spent the day after Con Law beating myself up about how I probably did. Law school has made me pretty good at self-hatred. Although I was pretty good at it already."

Yeah, me too.

Which is not to say I hate law school. Hate's a strong word, as elementary school teachers and mothers of 12 year-olds worldwide like to say. I like class (well, except Contracts. Nothing good to say there). I like my summer job, at home in a public defender's office. I like-love- the people I've found who aren't nuts. I'd happily teach in a law school someday (in my current dream life, I teach Criminal Procedure somewhere and have a criminal defense practice). But my gosh and golly does it get weird in there sometimes. Weird like "OMG my life is over because I will not make 160K immediately upon graduation" weird. And there's what my friend S. has cleverly termed "the nuclear arms race of studying." There are the dudes who make you want to go "Yes, I know. I go to law school, too. This law school. That's why I'm in your Property class every morning." I've managed to scare med students with tales of law school. Med students!

Rant-y there, are we?

I guess a few words about me/this blog are customary at this point. First, yes, I'm blogging anonymously. In large part because while things could get a little substantive (maybe even a lot, who knows?) around here at times, I don't plan on putting this on my resume, and really, it's unlikely to ever have readers beyond a few friends anyway. Also, I want to be able to talk about school without it someday coming up in a Google search, so any references to my school, my classmates, and my professors are going to be, I hope, sufficiently veiled. And to the extent that there may be a little injection of feminism/gender law into this blog from time to time, I'm inclined to protect myself to the extent I can from the vitriol that can sometimes get directed at feminist bloggers (somewhere, someone is already telling me that I am giving in to the patriarchy...but dude, come on, I'm one person with a computer trying to read casebooks, politely scold errant journal authors who have failed to give this poor, suffering Articles Editor a friggin' revised draft a month after it was due, and not cry daily.)

So...yeah. Wow, I need to start working on concluding cleverly.