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March 18, 2005

Defender Dilemmas: LSIC Interview

Ok, so here's the situation: You're a public defender and Petey is your client. He's charged with beating up his girlfriend and he comes to you and he says, “Hey man, I did it. She had it coming, man. But this is a rearrest parole violation and if I get convicted of this I'm going down for a long time so you gotta get me off, man. Ok?” What do you do? It gets better. Petey quickly changes his story. “I didn't do it, man.” But you just said you did, Petey. “Well, um, she started it.” Really? “Yeah, and my cousin was there and he saw the whole thing. Ask him, he'll tell you—she started it, she hit me first.” So will your cousin testify to that? “Sure, but here's what you do. When you go talk to him, don't ask him what happened, just tell him what I said—that he saw the whole thing and she started it. He'll agree, because he was there.” What do you do? Or here's another good one: Your client (not Petey this time, let's call him Jake) comes to you on a misdemeanor and you ask him about his record and he says he's got a rap sheet a mile long and starts listing off offense after offense for which he's been convicted and done time in the relatively recent past. It sounds pretty bad. But then you get discovery from the prosecutor and Jake's rap sheet is blank—it shows none of what Jake mentioned. What do you do? I had an interview with DC Law Students In Court (LSIC) yesterday and these were the kinds of things we talked about for half an hour. It was awesome! I don't know if I had all the “right” answers (or if there are “right” answers to questions like these), but it was great talking to two attorneys who face choices like this all the time and have experience weighing the pros and cons, advising clients, cutting through the BS when necessary, interviewing possible witnesses, gathering other evidence, etc. It was like an adrenaline injection and a breath of fresh air. These guys didn't assume I was just biding my time until I could get a firm job or looking for a credential to get me ahead somewhere else—they didn't care about any of that. What they cared about is how I would handle hostile client situations, tricky fact patterns, and tough choices. It also made me more impatient than ever to get back to work at the PD's office this summer. I can't wait until May! Is this what I want to do? Um, yeah. LSIC will announce decisions about who made it into the clinic next Wednesday. You can bet I'll be waiting by the phone.... About LSIC, see also:
  • GW's description of the clinic (scroll to the bottom).
  • A recent WaPo story about a $2 million award the clinic received thanks to past litigation against Comcast, including more information about what the clinic is and what it does.
  • The DC Bar's coverage of the same thing.

Posted 08:09 AM | Comments (14) | 2L

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