It’s no secret that law is imperfectly crafted by imperfect legislators and imperfectly administered by those so tasked, namely judges, lawyers, police officers, constables, magistrates. All fail in some regard. But, by and large, complacency doesn’t set in. A good lawyer doesn’t say “we’ll, I am not going to do this perfectly so who cares?” A lawyer, in light of professional obligations and applicable statutory, procedural, and case law advocates vociferously for a client. In its efforts to minimize the workload on judges, many courts delegate some judicial functions to others. This is most commonly seen in the case of arbitrators, mediators, masters.
I am a father. Yes, twice over. And, lately, I have been recalling a seemingly inconsequential statement I first noticed during a book fair whilst an elementary student. That statement says, “Anyone can be a father, it takes someone special to be a dad.” Hmm. It’s not that I cannot decipher the reason why this statement is haunting my thoughts. I can, and there are many [reasons]. Tee ball is chief.
As an attorney who handles criminal matters, two Supreme Court decisions handed down on March 21, 2012, raise a number of issues to ponder. Full disclosure: I’ve not yet read the entire opinions, nor any dissents; merely the syllabi. Both cases dealt with ineffective assistance of counsel claims by defendants who were convicted at trial. In both cases, plea deals were presented by prosecutors. In Frye, defense counsel did not inform the defendant of the deals. In Cooper, defense counsel advised the defendant to pass on the deal, and go to trial. In both, the sentences rendered post trial were more severe than the offered deals.
Candidly, this post will not do the subject matter justice. Nontheless, I will raise the issue if nothing else. Why is it that people, myself included, find it some difficult to be objective when dealing with anything? Work, family, politics…we tend to delude ourselves into thinking we’re the ones who’ve got no ax to grind, no bias, no implied assumptions. This has become clear to me as we approach yet another presidential election. Its no secret the economy is a mess, inflation is hurting people everywhere, unemployment is too high. But who to blame? There’s the debate.
A recent New York Time article raised the issue of shutting down the criminal justice system by refusing to accept a plea offer. That’s a simplification of the article’s premise, but an accurate one. The article was well written and raised important issues. According to the author, “More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury. Most people charged with crimes forfeit their constitutional rights and plead guilty.” I’ll take her word on the statistic for the time being, since my experience would tend to support those numbers. The crux of the article is less dramatic than its title may let on however; its not claiming that a plea bargain is never in a defendant’s best interest, but the author, through her interviewee, makes the case that often times, it is not. No disagreement on that point.
Questions are good. So, I am asking a question of the day, which may or may not appear daily. The idea, as with most non-rhetorical questions, is to generate discussion, debate, ideas. I raise questions because (1) the subject matter is something I care about and (2) I generally value input of others where its thoughtful, polite, and thoughtful.
So my question today is “What Skills Do 21st Century Lawyers Need to Thrive?”
Post responses in the comments section, but remember as the master of this domain, I reserve the right to ignore or delete rude or otherwise inappropriate remarks.
The Confrontation Clause of the 6th Amendment is one of the Constitutional protections afforded a defendant in a criminal matter. Essentially, a defendant has the right to confront or cross examine witnesses against him. In Bruton v. United States 391 U.S. 123, 88 S. Ct. 1620, 20 L. Ed. 2d 476 (1968), where a non-testifying co-defendant’s confession directly and powerfully incriminates the defendant, the Supreme Court found that an instruction to the jury to consider the evidence against only the co-defendant is insufficient to protect the defendant’s Sixth Amendment confrontation rights.
I have often been critical (not necessarily always in writing) of the manner in which entrenched interests put forth conventional “wisdom” with the express purpose of keeping said interest thriving, often at the expense of someone else. I recently wrote about my beef with the ABA’s Young Lawyer’s division statement here. And perhaps this post is a bit meandering and ranting. So be it.
To continue my series regarding pieces of information I wish I had while in or prior to law school, I add to the list the following:
I’m from New York City. The pizza in New York City is second to none–yes, Chicago, none–and I’ve have had enough pizza to know the good from the horrible. I was fortunate to have a mother who worked part-time at one of the best in New York City, according to Zagat. So, its always funny to me when a pizza joint advertises that it has the “best pizza.” When there’s a qualification on that claim, like “best pizza in Western Pennsylvania” at least there is some comfort in the hedge.
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