No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Another attorney approached me and asked me to take over the appeal of a case he had taken to trial. Client had already sent disparaging letters to the judges complaining and he didn’t want issues concerning conflict of interest. He’d do it for me if I asked so I agree and I’m subbed in.
2 months later, after waging a couple battles to get all the transcripts I have them all in hand. The trial transcript is 600+ pages. The 4 days of motions and sentencing hearing are at least 300 more. Oh well, I guess I know what I’m doing this weekend.
Chagrin: I got another transcript back and was reading through it. I had filed a motion pretrial and the prosecutor had filed an answer along with a case that was factually dead on but addressed a similar but different legal issue. Or at least I thought it was pretty obvious that it did.
However, the judge starts out the hearing (before I can say a word) with “In light of the case that the prosecutor has proffered . . .” Before he can finish that statement I was on my feet arguing for everything I was worth. The problem is that, having taken that blow to the head right at the beginning my argument wasn’t too coherent. When I rush my arguments tend to come out in partial sentences. Court reporters have specifically commented to me about how much they hate this but it’s not something I think is going to ever change and most of the time the judge understands what I’m arguing. However, reading the transcript context does not come through and I look like I’m a babbling idiot (and maybe I was for the first couple of shock filled minutes). Nevertheless, I preserved the error about 10 times in the case. Trial judges hate this but you get paranoid about the appellate courts kicking an appeal because you didn’t preserve the error at exactly the proper point in the case. Anyway, about half way through that first argument my synapses reconnected and the argument makes much more sense. By the time I finish making it over and over and over again it’s pretty clear (and the judge was ready to shoot me). The judge still didn’t follow [my understanding of] the law but that’s what courts appellate are for (if I can convince one to hear the case).
Predicting Client Behavior: After years of doing this I still cannot accurately predict whether clients are going to show up for court. I’ve had two this week whom I was certain would show pull a no-show and a client today - whom I would have bet large sums of money had skipped - show up. Of course, her case turned out much better than I thought it would; she got suspended time on three charges (30 hours community service at her church) and one charge withdrawn. Maybe she knew something I didn’t.