If I had a dollar every time someone said to me “you must have some interesting stories” I’d have a whole lotta dollars. Probably like 20. Or maybe even 30. Oddly enough, I never tell anyone any of my stories. They are too personal and, for those of you criminal defense lawyers out there this comes as no surprise, they actually aren’t all that interesting. Or, the parts I think are interesting are probably not interesting to regular people.
Case in point, right now I think it is interesting that the government locks up people with this thing called ‘mandatory detention’ – so see, if you have an aggravated felony the government can take you from the jail you are serving your sentence in and when that sentence is up they can take you into immigration custody and then keep you there until your case is over whether that be weeks or years. Lest all you right wingers out there (yeah, I’m talking to you two) get your panties in a knot over “but those illegals are breaking the laws of our fine nation” you should understand that a lot of the people who are mandatorily detained are legal permanent residents meaning they have a green card. Meaning they did not break any laws other than the one they broke, were convicted of, and did jail time for. So, now what we do it we take them away from their families for even longer than their sentence of incarceration for their crime. We take them away from their jobs where they pay taxes and are productive members of society. And we keep them in jail. Indefinitely. They have no right to bond since, see, it’s mandatory detention.
Did you steal a car and get two years suspended sentence? Oh well, you are mandatorily detained (if Immigration and Customs Enforcement lodged a detainer against you and you never came out after your original arrest). See, this to me is interesting. Is it to you?
I know what people think, my work is the stuff of TV dramas and an entire network on cable TV. Things like the First 48 or to Catch a Predator are all based on these hideous people doing hideous things. But, in reality, the things that are fascinating to most of us are the legal minutiae. What you would call ‘the technicalities’ because above all else we lawyers are thinking things. We can take a thread and pull it until it either unravels or we’ve made you crazy enough with the pulling that won’t stop that you will throw your hands up in the air – not to waive them around like you just don’t care – but to say enough enough enough. How many of you have tried talking to a lawyer in a social setting? It seems to be going so well, until you say a word or a phrase and it isn’t exactly accurate. We aren’t inclined to just let it go and if we do you can trust that we are turning it over in our brains to figure out what you really meant because surely you didn’t mean what you said.
I have found, in my old age, that my brain functions differently from most people’s. It seems it might even be a form of autism. I can be wholly committed to a singular cause and concentrate on it until my brain bleeds. Or yours does. I sometimes cannot see the forest for the trees, other times all I see are trees and call on the help of friends to make out the outlines and boundaries of the forest. There are things to me that are fascinating about my job, but they require statute numbers and guidelines sections and SCOTUS decisions. These are not the things lifetime movies are made of. But they are the things that keep me intrigued from day to day.
I was asked the other day what it is that I loved about this job. Why I was better suited to this than to being a prosecutor. I know we’ve gone over this a million times but the answer is always the same. I love the single mindedness of this job. There is no other purpose but my client. There is no seeking of justice or decision making that goes beyond what is best for Mr. X or Ms. Y. There is no close call on whether this will be good for society or even for my client’s family. There is no one in the world but him. I find it to be so freeing and simple. Not that the work is simple, but the concept of it. I do not have to play god. I get to just be me.
And that, to me, is the most interesting part of all.