Idiots Among Us

Once upon a time, I looked at lawyers as a profession of noble gentlemen and ladies. I subscribed to the famous line from the Ed and Patsy Bruce song (later immortalized by the incomparable Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson (those two deserve a spot in the white caddy, but I digress)):

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ’em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Make ’em be doctors and lawyers and such

I was nostalgic, just like everyone would like to be.

Of course, once you enter a profession, you inevitably become jaded and a bit cynical, and you’re able to see that not everyone fits the mold you previously assumed. Now, I still think it is a noble profession, if only for the fact that we are empowered to profoundly effect someone’s life.

At the same time, I long ago came to the realization that there are idiots among us. A while ago, I experienced the following conversation with opposing counsel. You know, the type of opposing counsel who is supposed to seek “justice.”

You may be baffled by the logic (or lack thereof) of what you are about to read, but, rest assured, I was part of this, and it still baffles me.

My description is significantly sanitized, as the subject matter of the case was extremely shocking to the conscience.

Me: Hey, I understand the evidence you have and the witnesses you are going to call. How about we agree to plead this in exchange for a referral to a Special Court-Martial? [this essentially places a cap of 12 months on any confinement]

“Justice Seeking” Person (JSP): I find that massively underwhelming, especially considering that, in a federal district court, the mandatory minimum is 5 years.

Me: OK, even though we aren’t in federal district court, you got me on that one. OK, here’s the deal. Last year, the same judge we have for our case gave 24 months in US v. Schmedlap. Schmedlap pled guilty to almost the exact same stuff as my client is charged. Considering that, how about 18 months? That way, my client gets the benefit of about 6 months and you get the benefit of saving taxpayers thousands of dollars in expert witness travel and expenses as well as your own time.

JSP: If you say so.

Me: Huh?

JSP: Well, that’s your interpretation of Schmedlap.

Me: [Retrieving the charge sheet in Schmedlap] See? He was accused of the same stuff. And see, he had almost the exact same number of [Illegal Things] in his possession. In fact, many of the [Illegal Things] were the same [Illegal Things] you caught my client with. The full record of trial is in your file room. Go check it out.

JSP: That’s your interpretation. I think this case is worth 3 years.

Me: Based on what precedent or authority?

JSP: Federal courts have a mandatory minimum of 5 years.

Me: This isn’t federal court. Our mandatory minimum is 0.

JSP: I still think it is worth 3 years.

Me: But, the judge in Schmedlap gave 24 months. That’s the same judge we have for this case.

JSP: That’s your interpretation.

Me: I…….huh?…………..

So, I exited on that basis.

Opposing counsel was fairly new, but this was a dangerous case to try, especially considering a mound of evidence that didn’t help my client. I went to her boss. Surely a more experienced lawyer would see that this all made sense.

Me: Hey, I wanted to talk to you about a possible deal in this case.

JSP’s Boss: I talked about it with JSP. We think it is worth 3 years.

Me: OK, but, here, check out Schmedlap. The same judge…

JSP’s Boss: We think it is worth 3 years.

So, I exited on that basis.

Maybe if I go to the big, big bossman, I’ll get some traction.

Me: Hey, I wanted to talk to you about a possible deal in this case.

Bossman: Yeah, JSP and JSP’s Boss came to talk to me about that. I think you’re right, and you’re supported by precedent. Schmedlap is pretty clear. However, they feel strongly about 3 years, and I’m going to back them up on it.

Me: …

So, I exited on that basis.

Final Note: Assuming you pay taxes in the US, your tax dollars pay for the salaries of JSP, JSP’s boss, and Big Bossman.


2 thoughts on “Idiots Among Us

  1. There’s a mandatory minimum. They should turn it over to the USAO and see how that works out.

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