Sunday, June 15, 2008

Some prosecutors just don't get it. They really don't understand why I do what I do or how I feel about my clients.

The other day, a prosecutor told me I was naive. Why? Because I said that I have no fear of my clients. This prosecutor told me, in a very condescending tone, that I am basically an idiot for not wanting to stay as far away from my clients as possible. I thought perhaps the prosecutor ought to have deferred to my greater experience in dealing with clients as a criminal defense attorney. In a decade of visiting prisons, jails, and courthouse holding cells, I have never been threatened or intimidated. I have never once feared any client might hurt me. And some of my clients have done some really bad stuff. So I really don't appreciate a prosecutor talking down to me in such a way and telling me I'm naive for trusting or liking my clients.

This conversation occurred as we were talking right before we had an IAC hearing. The prosecutor was responding to my client's claim that I had been ineffective. During this conversation, the prosecutor spoke of defending me and how an IAC claim made us strange bedfellows. Again, the prosecutor just doesn't get it. I don't want to be defended. If I screwed up, I'll say so. I'm certainly not going to just agree that my client got a perfectly fair trial. Why would I? I rarely think my client got a perfectly fair trial so there is always room for me to argue something should have gone differently. It's an easy leap to say if things went as they did, the defense attorney must have done something wrong. If the defense attorney that screwed up is me, then the least I can do for my client is admit it. I wouldn't consider a finding of IAC to be a knock on my professional reputation. Quite the contrary. I would worry more about my reputation if I were one of those lawyers who would be super defensive and refuse to acknowledge any possibility that I might have made a mistake. That kind of lawyer does not put the client's interests first and whatever else I am known for, I want to be known for always putting my clients first and always zealously representing them to the end. But this prosecutor was one of those who thought that I would be offended by an IAC claim and horrified if the court found merit in that claim. The prosecutor thought our idea of a win at this hearing would be the same. Nonsense. The only win for me is a win for my client.

On a side note, I have a tip for prosecutors: Don't tick me off right before you have to cross-examine me. It doesn't help if you wrongly assume that I will be eager to help you out with my testimony. But tick off a lawyer who isn't likely to be a helpful witness for you, and that lawyer will become a holy terror of a witness. Now please understand that I will not lie on the stand. That should go without saying. But I am a lawyer so I tend to be very careful with my word choices anyway. Tick me off and I'll just be that much more attuned to your word choices as well.


Gideon said...

Unfortunately, your view of IAC claims is in the minority. A large number of private attorneys I know hate them and think they reflect poorly on them as attorneys (I haven't polled pd's on them recently, so maybe it's a private vs. pd phenomenon).

You're right, though. The only "win" is a win for the client.

Woman in Black said...

Amen. I have testified about my representation a couple times; I was never found to be ineffective, but so what if I was? It is not about me, is it? Good for you.

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