Holiday Traditions

I’ve always loved the holiday season for the various traditions shared by my family. They’ve evolved through the years. Many that existed when I was young have since died. Others began when I became an adult.

As a kid, I was forced to sit and endure political conversations. Most of them revolved around a consensus about “Commies,” how our country spends too much money, or other topics popular in WWII generation circles.

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve been granted a license to contribute to the discussions, though often to the chagrin of my Fox-News-lovin’ relatives.

For the last few seasons, one traditional conversation ensues. It begins and ends the same each year.

Here’s how it goes.

1. A relative begins by talking about how this country needs to get tougher on terrorists and how they love GITMO, indefinite detention, roadblocks for disgusting defense attorneys, etc.

2. I reply that indefinite detention, tripped representation, and the like are certainly in violation of our Constitution.

3. This is where they get me. They reply that our Constitution does not apply to those scum.

4. I’ll reply something like, “Oh yeah, I forgot, they’re not citizens or residents on US soil, so the Constitution doesn’t apply.”

5. They sit back, admiring the masterpiece they created in showing that stupid lawyer that he isn’t such a smarty pants after all.

6. Then, I say something about how the Constitution and it’s Bill of Rights were just made up by James Madison, Ben Franklin, and their drinking buddies.

7. “NO!” they reply angrily. Our rights are god-given. God intended for us to have those rights (and he somehow sent the memo to the founding fathers).

8. I reply, “So, god is a pro-American biased prick who makes rules that help us but don’t apply to the rest of the human race?”

9. They seethe and eventually reply with some cheap joke about lawyers.

This allows me two benefits. First, I pissed-them-off, which is always fun sport among family members. Second, they refrain from bothering me until the next holiday season.


Hoping He Wins

Whenever I make a weekend trip for groceries, I notice this man in a corner table of the store’s cafe.

He is always scratching copious amounts of lottery tickets.

It makes me sad.

I hope he wins.


Admiring Headgear

You can tell a lot about an Army by the headgear worn by their officers. Say, for instance, North Korea:

The hat is particularly prominent when seen upon the noggin of a young, skinny officer:

To think, I once bemoaned the size and shape of the Army’s old “bus-driver hat.” I guess I had it pretty good after all.

A Curmudgeon’s Christmas 2011

Originally published as a comment to a post at My Law License. It has been lovingly updated (but not too much) for 2011. Think of it as the lawblogger’s version of “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” but substitute the warm feelings of joy and happiness with the dense, musty air of old and busted.

Christmas arrived once more, and the old curmudgeon at Simple Justice sat hunched over his keyboard. It was an old keyboard, once white, now stained a light, tannish brown. Some keys were missing, but he didn’t care. He’d never need “PrintScr” again. Not with his latest version of DOS. The large, yellowed computer box sat under his desk, streaked with shoe polish from being kicked on particularly trying days. The word “WANG” displayed faintly on its face next to the 5 1/4 inch floppy drive. It had 1MB of memory and a 20MB hard drive. That’s all he’d ever need, or so the salesman said. He saw nothing amusing about the name. Amusement from that was left to those kids and their “Rock-N-Roll” music.

The faint light from the green, monochrome screen made his face look ruddy, but he didn’t care. He was alone. Just he and his blawg.

Tonight, he wouldn’t be disturbed. His phone, with its crystalish, rotary dial never rang at this time of night, and the cell phone, mandated by his wife, sat silent, turned off. The words JITTERBUG glowed lightly in bold cursive. AARP said it was the best. By god, if AARP says it’s good, then it must be damn good.

He tried to play nicely with others. He really did. He even opened a contest for the best blawg post, but that brought him nothing but despair. Nobody seemed to care anymore. All they wanted was more Shpoonkle–nothing more than a cheap money shot, if there ever was one.

He touched his beer, recently retrieved from the fridge. The word “Schlitz” lightly illuminated by the green light. “When you’re out of Schlitz, you’re out of beer,” he coughed, fondly recalling the slogan. It was warm. All his beer was warm. Kitchen Aid saw to that. They tried to explain the new “warm cooling” process. He couldn’t understand. He wouldn’t understand. Their slogan “80° is the new 40°” was lost on him, as were most modern advances.

On Twitter, Cody from @KitchenAid tried to help. Then Madison, then Logan, then Dakota, and finally Riley. They all failed. He wanted to talk to Alice. Nobody was named Alice anymore. Alice was a name from a time when people got things done. Today, there were none to be found. Not this time. There were no more Alices. Kitchen Aid didn’t want an Alice. Then they might have to refund his money. Or start fixing shit.

Tonight was the night when everyone across the blawgosphere would get their new toys. There were touch things.  There were internet things. There were books in computers. There was legal research that looked like Google. There were Judges who, starting tonight, would start accepting motions filed over email. There were gadgets and gizmos. Some with apples, and some with other, glowing displays. To him, they were all fruity. The bile welled-up in his throat.

“Merry F-ing Christmas” he thought to himself as he prodded the yellowed keys, glancing ruefully at the warm Schlitz. He’d be done in a few minutes with this post. Free again, for awhile.

Then, he’d do what he always did at this festive time of year while everyone else dreamed of gifts with lithium-ion batteries. He’d replace the pocket parts on all his federal reporters. In these days of electronic unhappiness and warm beer, it was the one thing that gave him sheer glee, if only for a while.

A Little Lead Time…

At 9AM on December 7, 2011, I read an email. It was a desperate plea for help and court-martial representation.

I was all ears (so to speak) since I love the courtroom and courts-martial. Though, I don’t get very many (maybe 2 a year).

Essentially, it explained that the service member was in trouble. Their family was in trouble. They faced many family, medical, financial, and child-care issues. Evidence existed to show that he was being treated unfairly and unjustly. Extenuation and mitigation existed in copious amounts.

I’m game. This is the lifeblood of my professional existence. I’m psyched. I’m already formulating motions to file and arguments to be made in order to get this thing to evaporate prior to trial.

This is exactly what I need — a chance to do something great this holiday season.

I looked for dates and times. Timing is everything.

The email was sent after 5PM on December 6, 2011.

The court-martial was scheduled to begin at 7AM on December 7, 2011. I do not know the location.

I hope he has a happy holidays and a great Trial Defense Services lawyer.

Meanwhile, At the Hall of Justice…

That damned word just won’t go away.


It’s more relative than a prostitute’s preferences.

I talked about it before as a word defined by the beholder, not through universal understanding.

The Holiday Season stimulates some of the more needful members of our society to search for a lawyer to help with all the past injustices in their life. A good example is when they pled guilty in 1982 after giving a written sworn statement confessing to the crime. The confession came after watching the surveillance tape showing them earning a Best Actor Oscar. Now, they want something done since they were obviously the victim of unfair treatment.

They call. I say there’s nothing I can do for the conviction since it happened almost 30 years ago, they already received at least one look at an appeals court, and they lack evidence to merit an extraordinary writ. I politely decline to take their case.

“Put the money that you would’ve paid me into a savings account for your kids,” I say.

Out comes the anger. They accuse me of working for the government. I’m part of the conspiracy to make them miserable in life. They say I don’t want justice. I explain that I couldn’t, in good conscience, take their money in a case that would likely die a quick and quiet death. Out comes more anger. They state I don’t want justice, and how dare I even think about charging them for such a wonderful, glorious case.

Their definition of justice: Take my case for free and get me everything I want. Or else you suck.

I hate the use of “justice” in almost any context except the phrase “Meanwhile…..At the Hall of Justice.”

To some prosecutors, “justice” means getting the death penalty or life without parole.

To defense attorneys, it means an acquittal or the lightest possible sentence.

To some clients, it means getting a fair shake and fighting as hard as possible.

To others, it means getting whatever they want, logic and law be damned.

I sympathize. I try to be as kind as possible. I try to demonstrate the logic and math behind my declination. I try to explain that theirs is not the only sense of “justice.” I explain that my definition of the term involves not accepting their money in a case that is guaranteed to fail. Sometimes it works. Most of the time, it just causes the expulsion of bile.

It all solidifies my professional heart’s desire for “justice.” I wish the word would go away.

Checking the Camo

I truly believe you can tell a lot about a government by the camouflage they utilize for their military/police/security forces. Take, for instance, Syria. It takes me back to my Run DMC days.

Camo like this is good enough to score backstage passes at a D-level rap concert.

Lawyer Bios

Red Dragon (film)

You might write your bio a bit differently if you watch this movie. Image via Wikipedia

OK, last week I read lawyer correspondence for the closing salutations.

This week, I love the lawyer bio.

Oh, they’re fun. There are so many gosh darned, good looking, passionate, in-tune, high-flying, premier, prestige, upscale, forward-thinking, plugged-in, personal, networked, hard-hitting, in-your-face, upwardly scaled, thought leading, war fighting, goat roping, warrior ethos, turbo charged, well-tailored lawyers out there. I’m just beside myself with joy. But, I’m not really looking at the adjectives.

I want to know hobbies, and families.

I love it. You’ve all seen something similar to this, by my friend Cody Clapp.

Cody loves spending time with his lovely wife Cheryl and their four kids Cody Jr., Clarisse, Christopher, and Cumquat. They also have a dog (Chihuahua/German Shepherd mix) named Liquesbawles (Licky for short). In his free time, Cody loves sports, reading, and building models of the Battleship Maine (after the explosion).

I have a quick question about this, and I’ll put it very simply. Why the hell does anyone need to know this?!

Did you ever notice that every lawyer with a bio seems to love sports? Owing to the fact that Cody is morbidly obese, one must assume that his love for sports is limited to watching on his 90 inch television while laboring for every breath.

In addition to sports, there’s always some intellectual pursuit, like reading, opera, or admiring a personal Robert Maplethorpe collection. We must feel it is necessary to put that intellectual tidbit in there just to let our potential clients know that we’re hunky-dory with the intellectual practice of law. Heaven forbid they see us as one of those mouth-breather lawyers.

Then, there’s the family. Gotta show the family census to include the pets. Why is this? Why do you need to advertise? Even more, why would you want to advertise this if you are a Criminal Defense Attorney? Have you not thought about who will be checking-out your stats? Why does anyone give a damn about Fluffy? Or Max? Have you not seen the movie “Red Dragon?” Same goes for those who put their family census on the back of the minivan. What purpose does it serve? All it does is help us to tally points.

Finally, there’s the tedious hobby. Model building. Gerbil training. Cross stitch. Somehow, we feel the need to demonstrate the ability to accomplish some tedious task.

But, really, the only thing tedious is reading all the superfluous crap in your bio. Stick with what you do, why you do it, and experience you have. That’s all any of us want to know.

Well, except for the Red Dragon. He wants to know everything.

Solo By…

I missed the news. I did. There was even a party, or so I heard.

Carolyn Elefant, author of Solo By Choice (the book with the ugly chair) has now issued an update: Solo By Choice 2011-2012 (a book with a  slightly more visually appealing chair relegated to watermark status).

The original was a good book and helped me get off the ground. It occupies a prominent place in my office. The book is a one-size-fits-all approach, so don’t expect it to answer all questions, but it gets you safely in the ballpark. Now, my copy is relegated to collector status. I’ll put it with my 1G iPhone.

However, I’m extremely disappointed with her new book. No, I haven’t read it, but I understand that it is an update to the original. I didn’t want a boring update. I wanted something fresh. Something edgy. Something navigating new, dangerous territory. I wanted a real rebel, not an ABA rebel.

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It’s Snowing at UA!

Those sneaky and festive folks at WordPress made it snow on my blog. However, because my blog’s layout is primarily white, the effect will likely only be noticed by readers with epilepsy.

So, for those of you sans epilepsy, I’m posting the picture below so you can watch it snow on the courthouse at Camp Liberty, Baghdad, Iraq. It’s my way of saying “Happy Winter Solstice.”

Please allow the snow a few seconds to start.

Our Duty is to Help

As Criminal Defense Attorneys, our duty is to help somebody accused of a crime. Sometimes, that means shooting for an acquittal. Sometimes, it’s scoring a great deal that allows the client to leave prison in 10 years. Sometimes, it’s getting things thrown-out before trial. It all depends on the case.

Sometimes, going to the press is the right thing. I can think of a few circumstances, but they are very, very few. The purpose is to curry favor with the public in order to pressure the government to back away from a harsh or unfavorable stance.

So, knowing this, I’d like to know how this interview could possibly help a client.

The Times published an extensive interview in which Sandusky attempted to clarify his relationships with young people.

“If I say, ‘No, I’m not attracted to young boys,’ that’s not the truth,” he said, according to the story published Saturday. “Because I’m attracted to young people — boys, girls — I …”

His lawyer, who was present at the interview, spoke up at that point to note that Sandusky is “not sexually” attracted to them.

“Right. I enjoy — that’s what I was trying to say — I enjoy spending time with young people. I enjoy spending time with people,” Sandusky continued. “I mean my two favorite groups are the elderly and the young.”

I cringed reading it. I cringed copying it. I cringed pasting it, and I’m sure I’ll cringe when I hit the “publish” button on this post.

Knowing this, I have a simple heuristic to determine initially whether going to the press is a wise decision.

Is your client accused of molesting children?

If yes, absolutely do not go to the press. Avoid them. Change your number. Get another cell phone. Buy an alarm system. Build a safe room in your house. Switch to a high-fiber diet. Do whatever you need to do to prevent your client from talking to the press, and absolutely avoid the press yourself. Strong-arm your client. Break his arm if necessary.

If no, absolutely do not go to the press–unless contemplated for at least one week and discussed with no less than 3 friends/mentors.

If anyone happens to know a logical reason for taking a particular Pennsylvania high-profile case to the press, please let me know. I’m open to it, but I don’t think it exists.

Imperfection is Perfect

I made a note some months ago about a conversation with a then-potential client. He asked me about prior results and experience, and I responded per usual with something like this:

Well, I’ve had success with cases like yours. I’ve even had some really great results. But, you should know that, even after 8 years of practicing military law, I’m not perfect. I’ll try my damndest to get a great result for you, absolutely. In addition to knowing all the good stuff, you should also know that I’ve gotten my ass kicked in the courtroom, and a few of my clients will still be in prison for the next 10 to 20 years. In fact, I only know of one lawyer who says he never lost a case, but I’m not sure if I believe that. If past results are extremely important to you, I’d look around, because my past is anything but perfect. I can’t guarantee results, only effort. If perfection is what you seek, then I’m not the lawyer for you.

He thanked me politely as we ended the conversation a minute or two later. I figured I’d never hear back from him.

A week later, he became my client, and stated something to the effect of this (paraphrased):

I called one guy, and he told me that he could guarantee me a win. I called another and he told me he hasn’t lost a case since 2000-something. I decided to go with you because you didn’t seem full of shit.

I don’t consider it a compliment because it was merely comparative. However, I think we’re a good fit, and that’s what really matters when someone entrusts part of their life or livelihood to me.

Glad You Found Me

People arrive here in various ways. Some already have me in their RSS reader. Some have a bookmark of some sort. Some use links from other blogs. None of those are fun for me.

Fun is when someone finds UA through internet searches.

Today filled me with great joy, as it proved that I rule the internet.

If you search “lawyer mustaches gamso,” the top 3 hits are……wait for it…….you guessed it. Right here.

See for yourself. I’ve got everything from Priority Mail to Gerry Spence’s wife to Gamso’s mustache to some guy who feels strongly about entering the military.

And, just for the heck of it, here’s the mustache. Pay no attention to the three sans mustache. They are of no consequence.

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Enduringly and Lovingly Yours

I love reading lawyer correspondence, but I don’t read it for the substantive information. I like to look at the way it is formatted, addressed, return addressed, and signed. I think it says a lot about someone. Lately, my focus is closing salutations.

Old-fashioned written correspondence from lawyers always has a closing salutation. Emails? Not so much.

What do they really mean? Not too much. Ms. Manners applauds them, but, as a practical matter, they have little worth.

Yet, I think they say a lot about the person.

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