Monday, June 20, 2011

Kindly Shut Up, Please

Lord knows I certainly don't claim to be an expert at anything.  Nonetheless, I have had a little training here and there that occasionally gives me a leg up in certain situations.  Not to brag, but I worked as a paralegal for three years, went to law school for three years on top of that and I have practiced as a criminal defense attorney for nearly ten years.  I practice in numerous courts before numerous judges and I've learned a little about most of their likes and dislikes which certainly helps navigation through the judicial waters. 

What am I driving at?  Here I go again grasping for the tact that eludes me...oh well. 

I think I speak not only for myself, but for my comrades of the Bar when I tell you that there is a reason we don't let you talk.  I'm sure you think that our reasoning stems from the fact that (you think) we charge you exorbitant fees and therefore feel compelled to demonstrate our worth by running our mouths.  I'm not going to insult your intelligence--the aforementioned assumption is actually the case in many instances (mostly in those attorneys that charge north of $500 per hour), but in the trenches of District and Superior Criminal Court, we're about damage control.  I'm bailing out the boat as fast as I can and I'll be damned if I'm going to let you open your mouth and release Niagra Falls.

It's rather interesting that the clients who get the most ticked off about not being allowed to speak are the ones that I am so very desperate to keep quiet.  Of course, sometimes the Defendant is going to throw in their two cents' worth and damn the torpedoes!  Oy vey.  

Oh the things I have heard defendants say over the years.  It makes one wonder:  Do they really think they're helping themselves or is there some secret part of them that never again wishes to see the light of day without the frame of iron bars?  Naturally, some of them are as crazy as fruit bats and there's nothing I can do.  Some of them have egos so large that it's a wonder they even fit through the door of the courtroom and they lack all ability to speak to anyone without condescension no matter the price.

Based upon the behavior of my clients before they enter the courtroom, I can usually get a pretty good idea which ones are going to stand there and let me do my job (i.e. help them) and which ones are going to go all Ted Kazynski.  I usually have a little time to mentally gird myself.  When we get in front of the judge and the inevitable starts to occur, I shut my mouth, stand a step back and kind of watch the circus via an out of body experience.  I’ll certainly answer if the judge or the client asks me a question, but I’ve learned that trying to shut the client up in an attempt to return decorum to the situation makes things even crazier and louder.  If they’re going to flame out no matter what, let them flame out as quietly as possible.

What are some of the most memorable snippets?  You have to understand that I am drawing from a deep, deep well here.  It’s quite possible I don’t remember every last one.  Ten dumbass things said before the bench during a plea in no particular order are: 

  1. Your Honor, I was stoned out of my mind, so I really didn’t know what I was doing.

  1. Your Honor, I don’t know why she has a problem with the fact that I like to go out and get a drink every now and again—my other wives don’t mind it at all.

  1. I’m a juvenile, so I know there ain’t nothing you can do to me.

  1. Go ahead and give it your best shot.

  1. I mean...well...yes, your Honor, I am a hooker, but I’m clean and I’m good.

  1. I’m not the crazy one, sir!  No, THEY’RE [pointing around indiscriminately] the crazy ones!  THEY’RE [still not clear who] trumping up these charges because [leans forward and whispers] “they” want to search my body cavities and I ain’t talking ‘bout my teeth, either.

  1. I mean, yeah, I was out partying with my fraternity and the chick’s a cop, but I know she thinks I’m hot and how else is she going to get my digits but arrest me and shit?

  1. [Insert Yankee accent]  I don’t know what I was thinking.  I don’t know why I thought I could retire down here and be happy.  It’s like I’ve stumbled into f***ing Mayberry.

  1. Who do I complain to about judges?  You’re on my list, buddy!

  1. [Pointing to the female victim, his own female attorney, the female ADA and the female judge]  All you bitches is crazy!  You hear me?  Crazy!  C-R-A-Z-Y!  CRAZYCRAZYCRAZY!

Crazy?  Well, we very well might be, but at least we know how to keep our mouth shut.

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