Stressed suburbanites line the slender hallway outside the courtroom. They jockey for seats and air space, they chew gum and mumble inanities into cell phones. In the courtroom itself, the judge fidgets on the Bench, barking the occasional order to his long-time clerk, and maintaining an aura of boredom personified.
The Spanish interpreter, a rather beautiful woman with striking eyes, squeezes my arm as she follows the deputy district attorney out of the courtroom into his crowded office. I smile and nod for my client to make room for her. He sits upright, pulls his tennis shoes under his chair and cracks his knuckles.
"Does it always take this long?" he asks. "This is pathetic. I got things to do."
"Yes, it almost always takes this long," I eventually reply.
He bites and licks at his chapped lips, tension leaping from his body like fleas from an old dog. "You could have got here earlier and checked in earlier and we’d be, uh, done earlier."
I think, well, yes, I could’ve. I say, "Nope. There was a wreck near Belleview. I sat in one place for like 15 minutes."
A lawyer buddy races past me and rolls his eyes as he ducks upstairs, his headset bobbing as he walks. I smile. He’s a solo, has always been a solo, will always be a solo. Somehow, he remains both sane and collegial. A few years ago, I almost ran over him downtown in my car because he was talking so intently on his phone he didn’t notice the light had changed.
Nothing like a morning in county court in the web of courts that covers the metro from Boulder to Castle Rock. Nothing like trying to get from an arraignment in Adams County to a sentencing in Jeffco in, well — to get there on time — you’d have to violate the time/space continuum. Time is seldom your friend in this game, but you sure get to know every nook and cranny of the metro area — and of many other places you’d never visit if they didn’t have a courthouse.
I am starved. The young DDA is stuck with a half-dozen interpreter cases, which get priority. I try to count the cases that will go before me, attach a time to them and calculate when I can escape. If my upper time limit guess is right, I can grab some Thai at a place down the street; if the cases meet my low estimate, it’s the rather pleasant bakery at the strip mall next door. I prefer Thai to pastries, but I am seriously hungry. I stick my head in the DDA’s room and the interpreter smiles and whispers, "Almost done." I nod my thanks and go back to my client.
He’s getting surlier by the minute. The imp that forever sits on my bum left shoulder suggests that I recommend prayer to the young man. I’d do the crossword puzzle but some clients want you to act like they are your entire universe.
Whew, an elderly lady just waltzed by stinking of booze. Not the best way to show up at court in the morning – or, in the afternoon, for that matter, but it happens all the time. Just ask the security guys manning the metal detectors and the sheriff’s deputies lounging in the jury box. My client doesn’t notice, as he chews steadfastly on the inside of his mouth.
By this time, and I’ve only been around the guy for 45 minutes, I’m convinced he has a major league oral fixation. All defense lawyers are amateur psychologists. It comes with the territory. We’re around more pure unbridled madness than the average guy in the street is. Howling lunatics lurk at every turn.
At this point, I want to do the day’s New York Times crossword puzzle as much as I want to squelch the rumbling in my stomach. The waits really do seem endless. Eons pass in the space of a two-hour morning docket, the universe expands and your prospects shrink, but you move steadily on, preferably forward. Because that’s the life.
The prosecutor finally calls out my case. I tell the client to stay put. The offer stinks and we set the case for motions and trial. The judge calls me to the Bench and tells a ribald joke away from the mic. My client lights a smoke before he’s completely out of the courthouse. It’s dead on 11 a.m. — almost too early for lunch, almost too late for a snack. I opt for the early lunch and the crossword puzzle. Panang is the special of the day, the tea is soothing.
Hmm, what’s a seven letter word for barrister? Yeah, right.
Another day in paradise.
So I’m sitting at the bar in a local Denver club with a retired Russian/Israeli mobster, a sweet guy who used to control a large segment of New York’s coke trade back in the Studio 54 era. As usual, he asks, with that charming accent of his, "Gregory, any good drug cases?"
I sip at my Ketel One martini and shrug. I lean closer and say, "Just way too many meth freaks."
"Ah," he sighs, "Meth, the drug of the hopeless."
I nod and say, "How very true."
And it is true. Ask anyone on either side of the table on the criminal law circuit. Ask the judges, ask the victim’s advocates, ask the meth addicts’ helpless parents and their scrawny kids who crawl around scavenging for pizza crusts on filthy apartment floors.
Worse still, meth freaks really like guns. You get someone whacked out on a three-day binge, broke and armed, and, well, things tend to go south rather quickly. There Will Be Blood, indeed.
Like most people old enough to remember the Reagan-era War on Drugs media blitz, with its moronic here is your brain on drugs "commercials," I used to laugh out loud at these overwrought, under-thought PSAs. Now, if you said, "Here is your brain on meth," and again, showed some eggs frying in a pan, nobody would disagree.
When I first started practicing law in the early 1990s, the issues were crack and the gang wars, then heroin and the grunge generation. Crack people end up in jail and heroin people tend to end up dead, so neither epidemic had a chance for real legs. There’ll always be crack and always be junk but not like in the Bad Old Days. I still remember walking my (late, great) dog in Capitol Hill on a Sunday morning when I started noticing that there were fewer crack vials and more syringes and old needles. Wow, smack is back, I thought. Thank you, Kurt Cobain. Of course, we all know what happened to him.
But these new meth people seem different. The meth freaks I knew growing up were mostly bikers. They had grizzled features and vintage Harleys. They hung out at a pool hall called Ernie’s, near Dreamland Pool. Their chicks had black eyes and broken jaws and worked at places like Ernie’s or in the smoky bars at bowling alleys or as hookers in the trailer parks on the west side of town. You did not want to emulate their lives in any way, shape or form. Even in a town as violent and grotesque as Portsmouth, Ohio, these folks stood out as Losers with capital Ls branded on their collective forehead.
Nowadays, the meth freak may be a diplomat’s daughter with a BFA from Bennington, or a graphic artist with a classic BMW (for now), or the lawyer next to you in court. The class lines have fractured.
So, I’m sitting in a courtroom with a man charged with a possession of a relatively small amount of meth. He keeps repeating, "It wasn’t mine." I keep repeating, "But they found it in your front pocket." He throws me a 1,000-yard stare and I make a few desultory notes on his file:
"He refuses to listen to a word I say. His brain no longer functions. It’s like talking to a zombie with a truly wretched complexion. A zombie who scratches his arms so hard that the cotton on his stained thrift store button-down is fraying."
Okay, so I keep more colorful file notes than most lawyers. But this is a normal exchange with meth freaks; they’ve erected a wall between themselves and common sense. Finally, he mutters, "Who are you working for, the cops or me?" I simply get up and walk away. Bad timing. Just the week before, I had a client OD and die on a major binge, as I tried to keep him out of jail for a case that was 90 percent paranoia and 10 percent fact. You work so hard for these folks and you so seldom do them any good.
One day in court in JeffCo, I had way too much time to kill, and I’d finished both crossword puzzles, and the battery was low on my iPhone, so I couldn’t play Paper Toss, and saw that I’d written a little note about meth: M-E-T-H: Makes Every Thing Harder. For everyone. For all of us.
After writing the paragraphs above, I was browsing through the criminal law statutes and found a legislative declaration at CRS 18-18.5-101. It stated that between 1997 and 2004 the "rate of methamphetamine treatment admissions increased over two hundred percent." It noted an increase in meth-related crime, in foster care placements, in kids at risk because of pregnant moms on meth. Meth truly is a magnet for misery and it is causing the biggest problem in criminal law since the gang wars of the 1990s. Like most lawyers on the endless, Kafka-esque road that is life as a criminal defense lawyer, I try to see humor in pretty much everything; black humor being saving grace of The Life. But meth isn’t funny, it isn’t funny at all.
He is adamant that his beers be served in proper glasses. He rolls his own cigarettes, and uses too much cologne. He has never met a remotely good-looking woman whom he hasn’t immediately hit on, and he has been imprisoned on more than one continent.
He obviously misses his extended misspent youth, one spent stealing, conning, selling enormous quantities of drugs, doing enormous amounts of drugs and being, well, an international gangster.
He is also a wonderful guy who would give you the shirt off his back.
His name is not going into this little article. That’s because he’s in WITSEC, the federal Witness Security Protection Program. Let’s call him "Ron." That’s the name used by author Dave Copeland in the book about his pre-WITSEC life, "Blood and Volume: Inside New York’s Israeli Mafia."
Ron is part of a loose coterie of my friends and ne’er-do-wells who meet every week or so at a local music establishment. He and I became acquainted for one simple reason: we like jazz. We come at happy hour for the excellent cheap eats, the just-as-excellent cheap drinks and, of course, the ambiance.
I’d known Ron for awhile, but we hadn’t really hit it off. Then, someone told him that I’m also kind of a writer and I’m a criminal defense lawyer. It soon became crystal clear: Ron knew a lot about crime and a great deal about defending criminals.
Throw in the shaved head, the suit jackets over turtlenecks and the thick accent and it became apparent that Ron was either a criminal or someone with a serious crime fetish.
After a few conversations, he asked if I’d like to read a book that had been written about him. As an avid reader, I said sure. I have many friends who have published books, some pretty darn good ones and even a couple borderline masterpieces. But I couldn’t think of anyone I knew who’d had a book written about them.
The next time you’re enjoying a cocktail at a local bar, listen for the accent and sniff at the air for a potent cologne. The man sitting atop the stool beside you may have a most interesting story to tell you.
Ron brought a copy the next time we saw each other and I start reading about one of the most insane lives ever lived. I mean, how many of your drinking buddies have broken out of a German prison or helped run a boutique stocked entirely with stolen merchandise? He’s also imported cocaine by the boatload. Ron got in so deep with the globe-trotting criminal element that he had to assume a new identity and move thousands of miles from home so as to not get, uh, whacked.
Meeting Ron sparked my interest in WITSEC itself. Growing up in the 1970s, the news was littered with tales of mafia hits and crime trials. The cinemas were full of films like "Serpico" and "The Godfather." It was a world of crooked cops, psychotic criminals and, starting in 1970 or so, the Federal Witness Protection Program. Someone had to testify against the mobsters, and dead men tell no tales.
Most people credit a staffer for Arkansas Sen. John L. McClennan (who credited G. Robert Blakely) with writing the section of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. The act included provisions for the witness protection program. McClennan worked at the urging of Gerald Shur, a U.S. Attorney who’d served under Robert F. Kennedy when Kennedy was Attorney General.
Shur had prosecuted major cases in the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the Department of Justice. He used witness protection and grants of immunity to lock up his share of gangsters.
Anyone who read Peter Maas’s "The Valachi Papers" back in the day understands what this entailed. Policymakers first had to decide who qualified for witness relocation, and what could be done to keep witnesses safe. They had to figure out how to integrate these people into new communities with new identities. Finally, they had to consider the safety of the new communities, when inserting a (hopefully) retired gangster into the mix.
I won’t go into detail (though they are pretty darn interesting), but for anyone interested, Shur himself wrote the best account of the rise and use of the program in his book "WITSEC."
So, back to Ron. I finally asked him, "What’s the hardest thing about being in the program?" I figured he’d say testifying against old friends, moving from places like New York City and Tel Aviv to Denver, or just losing the frisson of a well-executed crime.
"Getting a real job. It’s hard. All I knew was crime."
Getting a real job was not at all what I expected. And, yes, he has a real job. He’s also a good father (as opposed to being a Godfather, I guess). The only thing he likes better than talking about crime and criminals is talking about his daughter — another thing we have in common.
The next time you’re enjoying a cocktail at a local bar, listen for the accent and sniff at the air for a potent cologne. The man sitting atop the stool beside you may have a most interesting story to tell you. You never know.
Rumors surrounding the disappearance of Sand County District Judge Dwayne Edward Effertype appear to be true. First, it must be noted that he has not entirely disappeared; he just refuses to be seen in public and has resorted to conducting all of his court sessions via social media. Working primarily out of the basement of his palatial lodge-style home (once featured in the annual Sand County Mansions guided home tour) in the shadows of Dog Mesa, he blows through his dockets via his MySpace site, Facebook and Twitter.
Accounts vary on why this usually gregarious bastion of the Bench retreated into near seclusion. Was it the unrequited love of a certain comely public defender? Or perhaps it was the presence of the District Attorney, Floyd T. Floyd, who sought to have the judge removed from the Bench when he discovered that the judge was the wag behind the blog "Morons I Deal with Every Effin Day." The blog was especially acrid in its discussion of the mental capabilities of the county’s most important elected official. Additionally, inside sources assert that the judge seriously started sliding into the slough of despond when he learned that his twin daughters Edie and Efie, while touring Europe in grand style, fell in with a cult. The cult worships the Seventh Proposition of Wittgenstein’s "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus," (the D.F. Sears and B.F. McGuinness translation).
Needless to say, oral arguments by attorneys using paralegals to Tweet their arguments in 140-character bursts have become de rigeur in Sand County. The judge responds to written motions on his MySpace page, where you can also hear the local PD punk band’s version of "Rubes in Robes," in its unedited version.
On his Facebook page you can find lists of his favorite movies ("The Verdict," "12 Angry Men," and, of course, "Caddyshack"); the songs he loves to sing while playing a classic 50s ukulele ("Folsom Prison Blues," "Maxwell’s Silver Hammer" and "Anarchy in the U.K.") and the book that changed his life, "Spy vs. Spy – The Complete Collection."
Even the national media have taken an interest in the antics of the one-time stunt pilot, cop and mayor of Dog Mesa. The news show "60 Minutes" sent a reporter to interview the judge, which he agreed to do only under the condition that it be conducted via the CU-Boulder alumni chat-line. National Public Radio was rebuffed when it refused to submit a pre-interview interview crib sheet with suggested answers.
Whatever the rationale for this unprecedented, quasi-exit from the Bench, appeals have started trickling toward Denver appellate judges. Allegations include violations of the due process and the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. An amicus curiae brief was filed by Douglas Bruce, complaining of a violation of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a.k.a. TABOR.
It’s unclear what drove the judge to the brink of what appears to be madness. Who really knows what is going on within that once-astute legal mind? In a cryptic Tweet from somewhere in Sand County, the judge quoted Oliver Wendell Holmes, "The law is made to govern men through their motives, and it must, therefore, take their mental constitution into account." So, is the judge an avatar of a new legal reality, or merely an aging crank? Maybe we’ll never really know.
No, this isn’t some strange acronym-based sci-fi subculture. This is the world of drunken driving criminal defense (and prosecution) in Colorado, circa now.
Okay, maybe it is an acronym-based sci-fi subculture. It is a world of "pretext stops" and "indicia of alcohol consumption." A world of men and women drivers who always tell the cops they’ve had only two beers, if they admit to drinking at all. This is a world of sobriety checkpoints and cops who seem to be so jaded that they appear to me to use the exact same descriptions in their reports for every person they stop: "odor of an unknown alcoholic beverage, slurred speech, red, watery eyes."
In this world, everyone fails the SFSTs, or, in cop lingo, they "fail to perform the tests as a sober person would."
Want to have fun at your next party? Try to "pass" the roadside tests before you’ve had your first glass of that excellent Malbec you’ve been saving for a big night. Good luck.
Like many criminal defense lawyers in this state, I spend an inordinate amount of time defending drunken driving cases, with DV (domestic violence) cases a far second. Doing this work day in and day out, it seems we are a society of people who like to drink a lot and then drive after drinking, and then go home and slap around the spousal unit.
In reality, only a small percentage of Americans ever get caught and charged with DUI (DWI in many states), which in Colorado means a blood or breath test with a result of at least .08 percent blood-alcohol content. Yet the courts in this state are overflowing with drunken driving cases every day. Go to Denver County Court courtrooms 100K, or 186L, 316R or 320E on any day of the week to see what I mean. Case after case, day after day, a relentless tsunami of alcohol-related offenses.
And that’s just the criminal side. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is a special level of hell. The branch at 1881 Pierce Street — DMV’s death star for accused drunken drivers — is a rabbit warren of rooms, filled with men and women whose job is to take away the driver’s licenses of people accused of drunken driving. Don’t get me wrong, a number of them are as nice as they come. But if you refuse the chemical tests, you get an automatic one-year revocation — no driving privileges whatsoever. Try to keep a job without a license in Colorado.
Then, when you’re unemployed, try to keep your relationship with your husband or wife or significant other together. Again, good luck. And if you test over .08 BAC, you’re looking at a month without a license, then eight more months on an ignition interlock system. You know, blow a clean, alcohol-free test or Mr. Car ain’t movin’. If you test over .17, then hello to two years with that contraption. Ouch. Trust me, they’re not free, either.
Get two convictions in five years, or three in a lifetime, and it’s goodbye license for a good long while.
When I was in law school, we never studied drunken driving law. Sure, we learned enough evidence to mumble our way through a suppression hearing, maybe. But to tell if something is fishy with a blood draw or a breath test? To get a knack for these fallible machines? To learn how to cross-examine an experienced DUI cop? Well, law school has nothing to help you there. Yet, everyone has a right to make sure the system is working properly.
So, it’s CLEs in Vegas, it’s the listserve, it’s listening to Harold D. or David M. break down the weaknesses in the Deputy DA’s case. It’s trying to convince the client who pleads guilty that they could have killed someone, including themselves. It’s trying to convince 20-something DDAs that if the retest of the blood draw is 15 percent off the original test, the test isn’t dependable. The job description certainly doesn’t mention the tasks like convincing pretty 40-something suburban moms that if their darling 21-year-old daughter has a .225 BAC at 11 a.m., she probably has an honest-to-God drinking problem.
So, if you see me in the old Volvo rushing west on Sixth Avenue to JeffCo, with the latest Yo La Tengo disk cranked to 11 on the stereo, or hustling in the backdoor at 1437 Bannock wishing I’d had one more cup of Pablo’s excellent breakfast blend, I’ve more than likely got some DUI files in the Swiss Army shoulder bag. So, it’s time once again to turn down the first offer, or set a case for motions and trial, or take the hard-earned 8+3 and argue for straight probation. It’s time to wait forever to be called up to the podium, enough time, in fact, to lose at computer chess or win at solitaire. It’s time to figure out how to pass the time waiting to do something you never thought you’d have to do, not when you walked in the front door to your law school as a first-year, nor when you walked out the door for graduation.
Welcome to the machine.
By the Numbers…Drunken Driving
(courtsey of MADD — Mothers Against Drunk Driving)
Number of U.S. drivers arrested in 2006 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. This is an arrest rate of 1 for every 139 licensed drivers. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "Traffic Safety Facts 2006: Overview." DOT 810 809. Washington, D.C.: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2008.)
3 in every 10
About three in every ten Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives. (NHTSA "The Traffic Stop and You: Improving Communications between Citizens and Law Enforcement." National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, March 2001, DOT HS 809 212.)
Estimated number of people in United States who died in drunken driving-related crashes in 2008 — a decline of 9.8 percent from the 13,041 drunken driving related fatalities of 2007. (NHTSA "Traffic Safety Facts 2007 Data: Alcohol Impaired Driving" DOT 810 985. Washington, D.C.: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2008.)
Percentage of drunk drivers whose licenses are suspended who continue to drive. (Peck, R.C., Wilson, R. J., and Sutton, L. 1995. "Driver’s license strategies for controlling the persistent DUI offender, Strategies for Dealing with the intent Drinking Driver." Transportation Research Board, Transportation Research Circular No. 437. Washington, D.C. National Research Council: 48-49.)
Everyone should fly into the city of Alamosa on a 19-seat Beech 1900D plane at least once in their lifetime — if for no other reason than to know the true meaning of the word "fear." Our co-pilot was a dead ringer for Opie Taylor, though slightly taller and without one of Aunt Bea’s pies waiting at home.
When we were just above the runway, a crosswind knocked us cockeyed and I heard someone in the cockpit, other than Opie mutter, "Oh, jeez. Oh, jeez." The two cowboys behind me yee-hawed as we settled down onto the tarmac while I contemplated a quick last will and testament. House, dog and life insurance to my kid; my art, art books and Volvo to my girlfriend; remaining books and CDs to my youngest brother Matt, except for my Thomas Pynchon first editions, which simply must go to ex-Docket wit Paul Kennebeck.
Okay, so after the fear and trembling not quite unto death, we landed at what passes for an airport in Alamosa County. The eight other passengers and I stumbled down the narrow steps to the runway, knees still wobbly. A converted lawn mower ferried my sad, blue Samsonite bag with the green bow from the bowels of the Beech to the "baggage claim." The backseat cowboys, who turned out to be geologists, met their ride and disappeared into the San Luis Valley.
I was left to face the Budget rental car clerk alone. I expected him to sneer at me and lisp, "City boy reeks with fear, doesn’t he?" Instead, he merely confirmed my reservation, handed me the keys to a less than luxurious Saturn SUV and pointed me toward the Best Western.
Now, first of all, it may have been "western" but the Alamosa motel I arrived at was far from the "best" of anything. My room did have a small fridge, a flat screen TV, and no obvious signs of insect infestation; then again, most crack houses get two of three right on that analysis.
The Rockies were blowing a ninth inning lead to the Braves on TV and my room was creeping me out with all strange white wood and the aura of satanic rituals past. So, I decided to head into "downtown" Alamosa. All three blocks of it. Where, to my surprise, I found a perfectly pleasant coffee house, Milagro’s, with a perfectly pleasant barista who, to top things off, sang along sweetly to the Tracy Chapman song playing on the radio. The songbird then served me a just right cappuccino. Order was restored to my universe.
Oh, did I mention the coffee shop had free wi-fi? Not that I used it, but the very idea of free wi-fi in this twilight zone scenario made me feel as if I was still tangentially in touch with civilization. Thank You O’ Great Gods of Cappuccino and Free Wi-Fi! The gods, though capricious, still occasionally smile, even on one such as me.
As I sat, sipping my cappuccino and before I got all cuddly and started hugging random strangers, I thought back to that harrowing flight. The Beech 1900D has no restroom, hence, as spring begets summer and summer begets fall, the flight served no drinks. Simply put, nobody should have to make the 48 minute jaunt to Alamosa in a Guam Air reject without access to cocktails. I may move to have that important consideration placed in the Colorado Constitution; it’s rife with many a lesser issue.
After reminiscing, two rustics entered Milagro’s. They sport overalls with shoulder flaps undone a la Jethro Bodine, the most style conscious of the Beverly Hillbillies. For a moment, I thought I’d been transported back to the Appalachian rust belt of my tawdry youth. I do love the male rustic’s hat, enviable in its concatenation of dirty straw, sweat-stained band and mule-chewed brim. I felt a sort of awe.
So I was safe, relatively sound, and had the beginnings of a caffeine buzz. An acoustic version of John Lennon’s "Watching the Wheels" hummed from the radio and the barista hummed along once again. The rustics were pot farmers and needed coffee even worse than I did. They stunk of skunk weed and their eyes were red as that big blue mustang’s out front of DIA. Colorado circa now, what a place.
Epilogue: Two weeks and eight trips to the acupuncturist later, my left neck and shoulder are still killing me. And, I have two more trips to Alamosa before the case will be done. Such is the life.
On Aug. 2, I opened my own criminal defense practice. Imagine a small office in a big old house within easy crack-deal distance of Colfax. Such is my new home away from home. Now imagine: invasive malpractice carriers, crafty website designers, surly furniture movers, new and confusing phone numbers, business cards (ecru, brilliant white, faux crayon?), financial services wunderkinds, ruthlessly invasive health benefits shysters, money going out without any coming in, the new laptop and printer, a credit card machine from hell. Imagine the Road Worrier worried indeed. Throw in a 15-year-old daughter in driver’s education, a sprinkler system with the mind of HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and a headache that doesn’t seem to ever go faraway.
So, starting a law office shouldn’t be rocket science, right? Wrong. Hence, I am now the reverse Werner Von Braun starting a law office. Or so it seems. Call me and I’ll explain, at length, what not to do. At length, I say.
First off, I am now a fervent advocate of so-called Obama-care. Really, I’m a fervent advocate of Any-care. Finding health insurance — much less affordable health insurance — when you are a middle-aged guy with a couple of annoying “pre-existing conditions” is not an easy thing in modern America. It took forever to find even basic coverage. And that with exclusions galore. In the same way that Dustin Hoffman’s character in “The Graduate” is advised to get into “plastics,” I wish someone had pulled my younger self aside and whispered deviously into my ear, “health insurance.” What a racket. Somehow, I can’t imagine a health insurance professional opening a small office in a big old house within the aforementioned easy crack-deal distance of Colfax.
Next, malpractice insurance…but no rant. To my surprise, I found reasonable rates and solid coverage. Then again, one of the “upsides” of being a criminal defense lawyer is that your clients don’t sue you as much as they grieve you. I’m half-convinced that there is a criminal collective unconscious in which dwells (in shimmering neon) the number for Attorney Regulation.
Now, the acronym from hell: SEO. Yes, dear readers — the Road Worrier has created a website and ventured into the murky world of Search Engine Optimization. These folks make promises that would make a hooker blush: 500 percent more hits! (maybe that one doubles as a discount medical marijuana dispensary) Dominate your Google rankings! Let our media consultant send you–yes, you–zooming into the spotlight! Even beyond the shared exclamation point fetish — and these guys use more than a tweener Miley Cyrus fan on Facebook — these people know no shame.
So, I found myself with an office, health and malpractice insurance, and a website. What I didn’t have were clients. My first step was to go on Facebook and ask all of my friends to come to Colorado, break the law, get arrested for something colorful, and hire me. I hope this isn’t a violation of some ancient legal taboo against creating a clientele, such as champerty or barretry. Nobody has complied with this request yet, anyway. I did have a former classmate, who is now a psychiatrist in D.C., say that I’d have to clear up all of his old warrants first. But, hey, I refuse to do pro bono work (if you can even call it that) for an East Coast shrink. A man has his pride. Then again, considering some of the stunts we pulled off in Colorado in the ’90s, maybe I should have my P.I. buddy Mike Stone run a check. (Ever crawled out of El Chapultepec and climbed into Coors Field at 2 a.m. and played catch and practiced The Great Slides of the Ages? I thought not.)
So, I have decided to expand my Facebook request to every lawyer in Colorado, or at least every lawyer in the Denver metro, and see what happens. I am hereby requesting the lawyers of Denver and beyond to indulge in a massive non-violent crime spree. If 10 percent of you get caught, and 10 percent of those caught hire me to defend them, I’ll both thrive and be able to send the darling daughter to CU-Boulder, unless even in-state tuition rises to obscene levels due to the anti-education nuts in our legislature.
Like Uncle Sam, I want you. And yes, I accept credit cards.
To speak with Rawlings further on starting your own practice, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.