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» Practice in General

Fix Your Index!

The folks at West and Lexis have a history of sending me things I don’t want. Years ago, I recall getting unsolicited boxes from Thomson Reuters (West) and Reed Elsevier (Lexis) containing books on things like scientific evidence and cross-examination. They were accompanied by invoices designed to make it look like someone at my office actually ordered the items inside. They had call identification numbers for calls Adrian and I never made, and reference numbers for orders we never placed. They may be sneaky over there at West and Lexis, but you have to get up pretty early in the morning to pull a fast one on Brown & Little, P.L.C. We figured out the scam and returned the books each time. In one instance, we … Read entire article »

Filed under: Practice in General

What the "Hot-Shots" Do

I judged a law school moot court client counseling competition last week where the competitors were supposed to play the role of a lawyer in an initial consultation. One competitor struggled at times formulating questions, and he told the judges that was because he was concerned about asking too many questions. He didn’t want to know too much. Of the three judges, two of us practice criminal law. The third, a transactional lawyer, deferred to us to instruct the competitor about what to do about that dilemma. I answered by telling the competitor it wasn’t really a single dilemma with a clear answer I could give him right there, but more of a daily reality of practicing law in a field where you represent people. To know what … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, lawyers, Practice in General

Arizona Sentencing Laws Meet My Least Favorite Word: Policy

It’s no big secret to regular readers of this blog that Matt does the heavy lifting around here. Frankly, he does 99.999% of the lifting. I was finally, again, inspired to write out of deep frustration. I often feel as an Arizona criminal defense attorney that I operate in a separate world from attorneys in other states because of Arizona’s especially draconian sentencing requirements. Arizona legislators seem to take pride in steppin’ it up a few notches every couple of years to save our citizens the embarrassment of getting lambasted by Texans laughin’ at our sissy laws. 45 days for a first time DUI if the blood is high enough? We got that. 10 year minimum for possession of a single photo deemed … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Government Rants, Practice in General

No Life Experience Needed

I sat in the hallway outside a jail visitation room trying not to listen to the conversation going on inside the room. I really didn’t want to eavesdrop. I just wanted to get in and get out. I had three more visits before the day was over and couldn’t do my visit while the room was occupied. Inside, a probation officer was interviewing a defendant for a presentence report. He pled guilty, and she was getting information for the judge who was going to sentence him. She wasn’t very good at keeping the volume of her voice at a reasonable level and kept saying “okidokie” to the guy’s responses. She was probably in her late twenties, and she was overweight. She had a social … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Government Rants, Practice in General

No Warm Fuzzies Here

The work of a criminal defense lawyer is often thankless.  You can put your heart and soul into something, and at the end of the day, you may be the only human being on earth who knows what good you’ve done, what difference you’ve made. When it looks like you’ve messed up, however, it rarely escapes notice. You’ll get caught. You’ll get called on it whether it’s your fault or not. I got to experience some of the thankless nature of the job yesterday morning. My first hearing was a change of plea. The client is already serving a prison sentence, and he has a couple of years left to go. There’s a decent constitutional issue, so I convinced the prosecutor to make him an … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Courts, Practice in General

Losing at Trial

Last week, a jury found my client guilty of three counts of dangerous crimes against children. I sat next to him in court as the clerk read the verdict, and he broke down before the clerk made it through the second count. He knew he would spend the rest of his life in prison. This isn’t the first trial I’ve lost. It pains me to say it, but it’s also unlikely to be the last. No matter how hard I try, I’ll probably again have to experience the feeling of knowing someone trusted me with their life and made a gamble that didn’t pay off. It’s a twisting, sinking, hopeless malaise that consumes you. You’re in a nightmare. You know you can wake up, … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Practice in General, Trial

Preparing for Trial

I spent a good bit of my weekend preparing for trial. It’s a draining experience, though not nearly as draining as trial itself. This particular trial has very high stakes. My client’s earliest release date will be more than seventy years from now if he’s convicted. Being able to speak in public, knowing the facts of the case, and understanding the rules of evidence are rarely enough to effectively try a case. There are countless variables in almost any trial, and anything can happen. Every trial I’ve done has taught me that one of the most important skills a trial lawyer can have is the ability to predict problems that might arise and prepare accordingly. My background is in music. In music, you do your best … Read entire article »

Filed under: Practice in General, Trial

Who Plans These Things?

Maricopa County Superior Court’s Downtown Regional Court Center, or “Downtown RCC” as they call it, may be the most irritating place in the state to handle a case. The Maricopa County regional court centers are where a lot of felony cases end up in their early stages. The cases I’ve had there are ones in which the county attorney has filed a complaint but probable cause has yet to be found for the charges by way of a grand jury indictment or preliminary hearing. When I’m at the Downtown RCC, I usually have to find out what the initial plea offer is and either affirm the preliminary hearing or request a continuance to see about getting a better offer or a dismissal. Downtown RCC is in the basement … Read entire article »

Filed under: Courts, Practice in General, Prosecutors

Plea or Trial?

In Arizona, criminal defendants have no constitutional right to a plea agreement. The state does not have to offer one and can discontinue plea negotiations at will. If the state does offer one, it can take it off the table anytime before the court accepts it. That puts a lot of criminal defendants in a very difficult situation. Many defendants have no desire to go to trial. Some want to avoid trial at all costs. A big problem arises when a client doesn’t want to go to trial, has a weak case and a lot of risk, and feels they have a right to a plea they’re willing to accept. The problem is sentencing. Some Arizona crimes carry extreme sentences. If the state is alleging … Read entire article »

Filed under: Clients, Practice in General

Thoughts on Work-Life Balance

I’ve mostly avoided blogging about work-life balance up to now. I usually have nothing intelligent to say on the subject, as my idea of balance generally consists of letting the pendulum swing. If it swings too far to one side, it’ll swing back to the other with a vengeance. I keep that in mind and try to avoid letting it swing too far to one side or the other, though I’ve encountered varying degrees of success in my quest to strike the perfect balance. These past few weeks haven’t been my most successful. I recently lost Dakota, my five-year-old German Shepherd, to chronic renal failure. I took her to the vet a few weeks ago because she was limping and seemed in pain. They asked … Read entire article »

Filed under: Practice in General, Solo Practice

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