Azimuth Check, November 8, 2010

Billboard for handsfree mobile phone equipment...
Well, Motorola isn't doing us CDLs any favors. Image via Wikipedia

Yet again, a smattering of different ideas forced into this blog by the voices inside my head.

Yep, these are not our clients.

We criminal defense lawyers live a unique existence. Most of our days are fairly lonely, and our usual human interaction comes with individuals from whom we maintain a fair amount of distance personally and emotionally. Occasionally, however, we gather in small groups or call each other on the phone and share a moment. We utilize a flavor of humor that is unique to us. I suppose it strengthens our solidarity.

Many of our anecdotes revolve around the potential client. These are individuals with whom we have not formed a relationship. After all, most of us avoid talking specifically about actual clients. The potential clients call on the phone, and most want to pump us for information, free advice, and/or baseless guarantees. They range from the innocently curious to serial deadbeating. While providing us with a certain level of frustration, they can also be amusing.


Below are some generalities based on what we hear.

  • OK, so your fee is $X. Well, can I tell you a little more about my case?
  • I saw your name, and I knew I needed a good Jew lawyer.
  • My case is really unique. (A clear indication that it is absolutely ordinary to anyone but them.)
  • Potential Client (PC): Well, my uncle/father/grandfather/family member is a lawyer. Lawyer (L): Well, what did they tell you to do? PC: They told me to hire a lawyer.
  • PC: By the way, I had Mr. ____ working on this case for a while, but he had never worked a court-martial and I wanted someone with more experience. L: Oh, I’m glad you said that. I take back what I said about this case costing $7500. Since I have to fix his screwups, it will now be $15000.
  • PC: I had a couple of lawyers, but they sucked, so I fired them. L: Wow, that really makes me want to be your lawyer.
  • PC: I talked to another lawyer, and they told me they could easily win this case. L: OK, so why are you calling me?
  • I know I haven’t paid you, but I just have a few questions. (These cases always start having bad phone reception when this line is used. Wierd.)
  • The government is out to get me. (This is heard at least 10 times each day.)
  • How much does it cost to be found not guilty?
  • I’ll give you a call back if things get really bad.
  • I was assigned a government-appointed attorney, but he told me he probably wouldn’t help much.
  • PC: I was brought in by police and asked about X. L: What did you do. PC: I told them I did it. L: You just told them? PC: No, I told them and then typed it into a computer. L: Hmmmm. PC: What should I do now? (If you only knew the many ways we’d love to reply…)

And, the surest sign that you won’t get a call back from a potential client: “I’ll have to talk to my wife/husband about this.”

Any additions to this list are warmly invited.

Some occasionally make it to the coveted “client” status, but that doesn’t make some of the banter any less amusing.

Yeah, What He Said

From Scott Greenfield, who should have written the majority opinion in Miranda v. Arizona (the court case that gives us Miranda rights):

When the Supremes created a bunch of warnings to be given suspects in advance of custodial interrogation, they assumed that would be the end of anyone spilling their guts to the cops.  After all, how much clearer could they be, starting with “you have the right to remain silent.”  Did they really need to include, “use it, you moron”?

I really said that?

Sometimes, when reading past trial records, I encounter things I say that confirm that I spew whatever the little voices inside my head order me to say. Here is an example from a closing argument:

Here, the government is trying to portray this soldier as the Supreme Imperial Grand Potentate of the Mid-Missouri LimeWire Child Pornography Society, and he is not.

I think my voices and I should sit down and have a little talk.

Non-Legal Thought of the Week

Surprisingly, you occasionally find pockets of population in the midwest that seem to be…..well……not quite so cosmopolitan. These populations are often at the end of jokes centering-around “Hee-Haw” stereotypes, and some of it is earned. Halloween reminded me just how earned it can be.

At a small town festival to celebrate the fall holiday, I saw a recurring costume which consisted of females wearing tight tank tops, tons of makeup, short shorts, and fishnet stockings. The women who wore these outfits ranged from skinny teenagers to more well-fed adults. I assumed it to be a general variant of hooker-themed costumes. I usually laugh these off as attempts to get attention, shock senior citizens, or both.

The fun and games ended when a mom (dressed in hooker chic) matched costumes with her 5 to 7 year-old daughter.

Yep, it takes a village.

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