Into the Wild

It’s a dark and stormy night.  I want you all to know that it is still Friday as I begin to type this, and therefore, if it is not posted until Saturday (or sometime thereafter) it’s because of storm related power/modem loss, not my poor time management.


Today I spent my first morning the magistrate’s court with as a public defender intern.

Good. Ness.  That’s what I have to say about that.  The beginning was like the worst cattle call audition ever, with lawyers calling roll over a mass of milling confused people, while others were directed off to one side or another to talk to their newly appointed lawyer – for roughly five minutes or so – before being summarily directed back to their seats with instructions that were meant to be helpful, but probably just confused them.

I was sort of entertained by the presentation difference between the assistant solicitor -a young man, well spoken, smooth haired, and impeccably suited, and the table of public defenders; all women in sensible shoes, minimal makeup and brisk demeanors.  (I like them.  Obviously.)

There were over fifty cases to be presented to the court for preliminary hearings; all to be done before 1 pm.  They weren’t – quite – but it was close, and nothing short of amazing.  Quite a contrast to HeLP Clinic, where we spent months agonizing over the details of a little boy.   Ironically, I would describe todays experience as much more clinical.  The attorneys were detached, analytical and efficient.  If witnesses and arresting officers weren’t there, the cases were dismissed.   It seemed (to my untrained eye) that just about anything more than that constituted probable cause as far as this judge was concerned.  At one point there was sort of a mass plea, when something like ten defendants stood up, were given a date and time to return, and then excused – apparently all having been given some kind of plea deal where charges were dropped in exchange for agreeing to go to treatment.

My other observation had to do with the use of evidence rules, or maybe the lack thereof. Turns out I have learned a few things in my Advanced Evidence class.  This morning there wasn’t much objected to besides relevance.  I suspect that was largely to do with time constraints, but there were also some private attorneys who seemed to just. . . not know what they were doing. . ?  (note to self: please don’t let me be that guy.)

It was really interesting – and apparently it’s going to get more interesting, because next week I’ll be one of the lawyers.