14 July 2003
A Week In the Life of a Criminal Lawyer:
Monday: In the morning I go to the prosecutor's office to try (yet again) to get the prosecutor to agree to a deal we have been bantering back and forth about which will keep us from having a jury trial. In the afternoon I go to Circuit Court and try to convince a judge to just sentence my client to a year for his habitual offender offense (that is, for those not from the Commonwealth, felony driving after we told you not to and it carries a year mandatory). The judge decides that we should have a sentencing hearing and requires us to all come back in a few weeks when - if he acts like most judges do with this obnoxious law - he'll sentence my client to a year. After this finishes, I visit some of my clients at the county jail and then its the hour long trip to the regional jail where I spend a glorious evening visiting 8 clients. I have to wait 45 minutes before they can get a male guard to come and frisk me so I can go down to see my clients (you know, they never show that part on The Practice or Law and Order). While I'm waiting they are supposedly calling my clients so that they will be down in the meeting area when I get there (all except the one client they can't find). I get downstairs and, by a miracle, they're all there (the regional jail used to be really bad about this but lately they've been on the ball). For the next couple hours I talk with my clients on matters ranging from the vitally important to the totally inane. Then I go out to get the final client and he's not there. They still don't know where he is. Instead of wandering off, I stand there in front of the guard while she calls around and finally locates him. When she find him, he's in protective custody which means I have to wait around for another 30 minutes while they clear all the inmates from the area so they can bring him in. When that conversation ends I finally get to make that wonderful hour+ trip back (gotta love the whole regional jail concept).
Tuesday: In the morning, I'm running late as I try to get to a rural court. I think I'm going to be 5 minutes late which is usually no big deal. But there's no way my luck would run that good. I pull off of a major state highway onto a two-lane country road which covers about 2/3 of the distance to the courthouse and very shortly find myself behind a farm truck traveling 35 mph the entire length of the road until it dead ends at the next major state highway. I zoom over to the courthouse and I'm still only about 20 minutes late. As I walk into the courthouse I see my client standing in front of the judge and the entire courtroom empty of anyone else except the prosecutor and deputies. I'm greeted by: "Hello, Mr. Lammers. I was just about to assign another lawyer to take your place." OUCH. However, the case went pretty normally from there. A 15 minute docket? Who knew? This is the same courthouse where I've seen a single Trooper with over 200 tickets by himself (not counting the rest of the docket). In the afternoon I drive back to my local Circuit Court where the prosecutor is going to finally offer up the deal on the jury we have scheduled for Thursday or I am going to ask for a continuance (my client has just gotten me the addresses of key witnesses I need to subpoena). I go to the prosecutor's office and he gives me an offer which is not what we've discussed and (after the client refuses) the case is continued until October.
Wednesday: I go to the federal court building in Richmond to observe because I am thinking of getting on the federal court appointed list. The day is pretty much a bust. I get to watch a parole violation hearing and then the District Court shuts down for the morning. I go back for the afternoon and the trial set has been moved to the Magistrate Judge because the Defendant has decided to plead guilty. So I traipse down to the Magistrate's courtroom and watch the plea; I come back a hour later to watch another plea but the lawyer doesn't show. And thus ends my wonderful day at the federal court.
Observation ~ The federal courthouse has a wonderful library which is entirely useless because you cannot bring in anything electronic so you cannot sit there knee deep in books while you use them type up a brief or a motion.
Thursday: A PFC who I represent flew in from Ft. Riley (in Kansas) in order to take care of a petit larceny charge. It got worked out so he has a year to do 50 hours of community service and after that the charge will go away.
Friday: Had a client fail out of a drug program so he came to court to face the music. The only problem was that the witness had left the Commonwealth so the prosecution had to drop the charge. (I'm not complaining, I'll take a client favorable result any way I can get one).
Author: Ken Lammers on 7/14/2003