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August 23, 2005

DC LSIC: Orientation Notes, Day 4

I got a little busy over the weekend but here are the final few bits from my last day of orientation last Saturday for D.C. Law Students In Court:

  1. Rule #1: The government always wins.
  2. Rule #2: The quickest argument can trump Rule #1. (The court wants things to move fast and with the least possible hassle, so if you get there first w/your point, you're more likely to win.
  3. Court-appointed attorneys are not free if you lose. In D.C., if you're found guilty in a case where you have a court-appointed attorney, you court costs will be somewhere between $50-$250 for a misdemeanor. It's more for a felony. (I still need to find out what the income cap is to qualify for court-appointed.)
  4. The U.S. Attorneys speak of “allocution” when talking about sentencing arguments. E.g., “we reserve allocution,” or “we waive allocution” in a plea offer. Why don't they just say “argument”? Silly lawyers.
That's about it. Of course, we covered a lot of material that I haven't mentioned here, but these are the high points. I'll pick up my first cases on Thursday and the clinic runs from now until graduation, so expect further updates in the coming months.

One more note: We need to appear as lawyerly and professional as possible, and one way to do that is to have business cards ready to hand to clients when we meet them. If you find yourself needing business cards for any reason, check out VistaPrint, where you can get 250 cards for $5.25 (the cost of shipping).

Posted August 23, 2005 10:40 AM | 3L

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Maybe someone who does federal work can jump in here, but I think you might be confused about allocution.

Allocution, as we use it here, means a recitation of the admisison.

So, for example, on sentencing, you'd waive allocution when you don't require the defendant to admit that on "August 25, 2005 at the corner of 5th St. and Washington Ave., I possessed 3 vials of heroin." but instead just allow them to answer the question "Are you guilty of the crime of Possession of a Controlled Substance?" with the word, "Yes."

Sometimes whether or not allocution is required is part of the plea agreement.

For instance, the govt may want someone to allocute specifically who they bought drugs from if they're going to use it in a case against the seller, or, for the opposite effect, if you're going to take all of the blame so that your co-defendant can get a better disposition.

Sometimes waiving allocution might be part of a plea agreement. For instance, sometimes the specific allocution can be used against a defendant in an immigration proceeding, so the defense attorney would want a waiver of allocution if possible.
It's hard to think of a specific example for that, but there are times when the crime itself might not make someone deportable, but an admission of the underlying facts would.

The point is, I don't think it's really an argument. It's more of an... allocution.

Etymology: Latin allocutio, from alloqui to speak to, from ad to + loqui to speak
: a formal speech; especially : one made by a defendant at the time of sentencing

I hope this clears something up.

Also, I know you mentioned in ambivalent voices, but I never knew that any place had an actual "bar card." You should scan it in so we can see what it looks like.

Posted by: blondie at August 25, 2005 07:39 PM

Ah, ok. I think I get it now. In the office where I worked this summer the plea offers usually said things like "prosecution will waive/reserve argument," so I just thought that's what this was trying to say. In that smaller jurisdiction, they never made the defendant formally recite and admission of guilt, so I'd never heard of that. It's kind of an interesting addiition to the process, now that you've explained it for me. Thanks!

Posted by: ambimb at August 26, 2005 10:59 AM

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