Base!

When he was much younger, I played tag with my oldest child. I realize that nowadays this game is no longer politically correct, as it is both violent and exclusionary. However, hear me out for a second.

He was always able to tag me after just a bit of running. As a dad, you must employ a liberal let-my-kid-tag-me policy, else they’ll get frustrated and quit. The playing field must be leveled by throttling-down on adult speed and agility. Essentially, parents Harrison Bergeron ourselves for the sake of the kids.

When “it,” I’d give chase and remain far enough back to allow the kid to feel like he was skilled enough to deftly avoid my pursuit. After awhile, I’d throttle-up in order to give him equal time as “it.” This was when something curious happened.

He’d pick the nearest object–maybe a tree, maybe a chair, maybe a bush–touch it, and yell “BASE.” According to him, being on base meant that he was immune to being tagged. As he and I were the only participants, this left me in a bit of a lurch. A conversation ensued.

“You’re just calling base when I get close to you.”

“Uh huh,” he replied.

“You can’d do that. You just pick the nearest thing and call it base.”

“Uh huh.”

“That’s not fair. You can’t just call everything base when it suits you, and you’re just making up the rules for base as we go.”

“Well, this is base,” he stated while looking up at me in a righteous and defiant manner.

At this point, the conversation proves useless, and I resort to wandering around and acting disinterested until he vacates his self-declared base. At that point, chase began anew.

I realize now that this notion of “base” reinvented itself on college campuses, still with the same self-righteous indignation and disregard for logic.

Now, they are called “safe spaces.”

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Azimuth Check: This is a Private Space

First, please note that this blog is my private space. It is my safe space. You don’t have permission to be here unless I explicitly give it to you. Don’t make me get some muscle.

How do I do this? Easy. Just a few steps.

  1. Occupy a space that is widely and reasonably regarded as public and viewable by members of the public.
  2. State that I need privacy and a safe space.
  3. Prevent press access, photos, videos, etc.
  4. Profit?

Most of the individuals in the video you’re about to watch are students. Two are public employees. One of those public employees works for the University of Missouri as a director in the student life department and not, so far as I can tell, an academic. The other is an assistant professor in their communications department. Her name is Melissa Click and she appears in the last moments of the video. She specializes in the field of Mass Media.

Judge for yourself. How well does this purported mass media expert understand the role of the First Amendment in a public space, especially as it relates to members of the press?

Have You Had That Phonecall?

This morning, while consuming copious amounts of caffeine, I remembered an incident explained to me by one of my junior defense counsel. He had a client who was having a lot of problems overall in her life. The disposition of her criminal proceedings was relatively low (but stressful), and he secured a decent result. A couple of weeks after her case was adjudicated, he received a phonecall. Afterward, he rushed to my office to recount what happened and ask for advice. He explained the conversation line-by-line.

Defense Counsel: Hello.

Client: Yes, Captain ____, this is ______. I need your help.

DC: Sure, what’s up.

C: (voice becoming panicked) I’m in my car, and the police just stopped me, and I don’t know what to do.

DC: OK, well, just stay calm and listen to what they say and…

Background Voice: Ma’am, you need to put down the phone and step out of the car.

C: I have my lawyer on the phone! You can wait! Captain ____, I there are more police cars, and there are like 8 cops around my car…

BV: Ma’am, put down the phone and step out of the car, or else I’ll have to…

C: (Yelling) You can’t tell me to…..I have rights……I have my lawyer right…….

DC: (Trying to calm her) Look, just calm down, nothing is going to…

C: GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF ME!

Now Multiple Background Voices: (Yelling) Ma’am, you need to put the phone down. Get out! Get the fuck out!

C: I’VE GOT MY LAWYER RIGHT……..(Click)

There wasn’t much we could do. We didn’t even know if she was apprehended in a jurisdiction where we could practice. Heck, we didn’t even know what jurisdiction, period. We were in Missouri, and she was stationed near Pensacola, Florida. He tried to call her phone for a few weeks. It always went to voicemail.

We never heard back from her. It makes you wonder…

You Get What You Pay For: The Military Perspective

In the criminal justice system of Gotham City....

I don't care if they have Batman on their team, I'll never be part of this workgroup. Image by David Jackmanson via Flickr

In the last couple of days, criminal defense blogs have been en fuego because of the recent article by Hartley, R.D., et. al., Do you get what you pay for? Type of counsel and its effect on criminal court outcomesJournal of Criminal Justice (2010) highlighted by the American Bar Association.  The basic conclusion of Hartley is that public defenders have just as much success in representing their clients as private practice defenders.

Naturally, both private practitioners and public defenders have their own takes on this issue. Two great analyses of this article are from Scott Greenfield and Mark Bennett, and I encourage you to read their opinions (please note that Mr. Bennett’s analysis is contained in 6 separate entries, starting with this one and ending with this exclamation). The most notable gripe from those in private practice is that Hartley heaps praise upon the closeness of public defenders with their prosecutorial counterparts as well as the judiciary. His definition of good defense work causes the most consternation, and this definition defies what most members of the defense bar believe to be zealous advocacy. Hartley lauds the existence of a courthouse “workgroup” that facilitates smooth case processing and administration of justice.

Workgroup? Justice? Where do I begin?

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Choice of Prosecution: Military or Civilian

I’ve often been asked these two questions:

Why did _____ County take this case and not the military? Or,

Why did the military take this case and not ________ County?

The same also applies when you regard military vs. federal district courts.

The answer to these questions is usually one of the following: a. workload, b. law/sentencing guidelines, or c. ego.

Too often, the answer is C. Ego.

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Have you been a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Have you found beauty in those labeled ugly?
Have you found worth in the discarded?
Have you given hope to the condemned?
Have you found an abused child within a monster?
Have you seen generosity in the heart of a thief?
Have you found life in those who murder?
Have you touched humanity when all others recoil?
Have you given sweat to a losing cause?
Have you borne a burden no one else would bear?
Have you given love to those who have none?

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Criminal Representation – The Way to Not Advocate

The more I observe the actions of others, the more I realize we can learn a lot from the Underpants Gnomes. For those of you who are not South Park savvy, these were small gnomes in one episode who adopted a very curious business model.

It goes like this:

Phase 1: Collect Underpants

Phase 2: ?

Phase 3: Profit

Here is a short excerpt of the gnomes briefing their plan to the South Park gang:

I’ve seen this model at work in legal representation.

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Why am I here? Part 2 (Being an Underdog)

Some of you have asked about the change in blog title. I went from the boring and mundane “Eric L. Mayer, Attorney at Law” to “The Military Underdog.” This ties in with my previous post about why I do what I do, and I hope to answer this fully and universally, though you will often note that I reference my niche, military law.

In short, it embodies a lot of what I love about my job.

Criminal defense representation is inherently an acceptance that you will be the underdog in every (or almost every) case. Why is this?

1. The prosecutors have a blank check. They are able to prosecute on behalf of the government without regard for the cost. I have seen tens of thousands of dollars spent on cases with shaky evidence. They don’t care. They don’t get a bill.

Defense can present their case, but most actions that cost money require asking permission from the government attorney, military commander, or judge. Whereas the government can secure an expert witness without notifying the defense ahead-of-time as to the nature and purpose of the expert, the defense must put all of this information in a written request prior to the expert being hired or retained to serve on the defense team. Even then, the requested defense witness may be denied in favor of a cheaper one provided by the government.

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Leaders like Prof. Hoeflich make a difference

The third year at the University of Kansas School of Law was no picnic for me.

During that year, my wife gave birth to my second child, I prepared for the bar exam, my family readied for a move to Louisiana, and my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer. I am my mother’s only child. As such, I became her caretaker during that time. Cancer is ugly, and as her caretaker, I witnessed the ugliness firsthand. I experienced things that most people only see in horror movies.

My family did what they could to keep me on track, and I particularly must thank my wife for being as solid as a rock despite the dynamic circumstances. However, it takes more than one friend to weather so many competing priorities. Luckily, I had that extra support from a professor at the University of Kansas School of Law, Mike Hoeflich.

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