Friday, September 21, 2012

Chapters 71-74, The End

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(Haven't read chapters 65 through 70? Find them here.)


            I called Doug to tell him about the verdict.  I had been trying to catch him all day.  He finally picked up.  “Not-Mother-Fucking-Guilty!” I announced giddily.  I had forgotten to pretend we were enemies.
            He let his guard down too.  “Good for you, Kate.”
            “Good for the kid,” I said.  “Where’ve you been anyway?  I’ve been trying to call.”
            “I was at the doctors.”
            “Are you sick?”
            “I thought I might be.  I keep having this weird light-headed feeling.  The nurse asked me if I had any problems with my heart.”
            “Oh my God, Doug,” I said, serious for a second.  “Do you have a heart problem?”
            “I told her that I fall in love too easily.”
            “What did she say?”
            “That there’s nothing wrong with me?”

I left notes on Matthew, José, and Janice’s desks to meet me at the bar after work.  I arrived first, having left work early, unable to accomplish anything other than telling people about my trial and the verdict.  My friends’ arrival startled me out of a sweet daydream in which the judge asked the juror, “Is this the verdict of the jury?”  “Absolutely,” the juror said over and over in my imagination.
José was wearing an expensive-looking suit.  His shirt was crisp and white and his tie perfectly arranged.  I was horrified.
“What have they done to you?”
            “I’m opening my own practice.”
            “But why do you look like this?”
            “When people hire a lawyer, they want him to look like a lawyer.  It’s just a suit.”
            “But what about fighting for the underdog?  I thought that meant something to you.”
            “I like helping poor people, but I also like fighting against the government.  People with money need lawyers too.”
            “I suppose so …” I said, trying to get my mind around the idea.  “How do you get people to hire you?”
            “First, you put on a pimp suit.”
            “You do look good.”
            “I am good.”
            “Not to mention self-confident.  Do you have an office?”
            “For now I’m just pretending to have an office, until I make some money.  I say, ‘Meet me at my office at nine.’  Then I say, ‘No, wait, I have to be in court—just meet me at the courthouse.’  And then I meet with the client in one of those courthouse conference rooms.”
            “I bet you’re driving a Mercedes in a couple of years.”
            “Nothing wrong with a Mercedes.”
            “I don’t know …”  I loved his 10-year-old Toyota Celica with its “Free Tibet Now!” bumper sticker—I considered it a proud symbol of idealistic underemployment.
            “We’ve got to stick together.  Matthew, tell him he has to stay.”
            “I’ve been sort of meaning to tell you …”
            “I’m going to start teaching high school in the fall.”
            “High school?  But you don’t have a teaching certificate.”
            “Private school.”
            “What could you teach?”
            “Government and Civics.  Tenth grade.  The best part is that I’m going to be the freshman football coach.”
            “Janice?  Tell me this is a joke.”
            She lit a cigarette and handed it to me.  “My last day is two weeks from now.  I got a job at a firm.”
            “I don’t understand,” I said.  “Why is this happening now?”
            “Something happened while you were in trial,” Matthew said.  “We didn’t want to tell you until you were done.”
            “Did we all get fired?”
            “What then?”
            “You know how the commissioners gave us money for the new lawyers?” José said.
            “Gordon met with the commissioners again and told them we only needed three new lawyers and two support staff.  We had all been thinking about leaving, anyway.  Gordon’s last move made us expedite our plans.”
            I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I was furious but not surprised by Gordon’s betrayal, but I was more upset about my friends’ plans.  I could feel my band of underground resistance fighters disbanding.  I had pictured us staying together in the office.  Good and bad bosses would come and go, but the job itself would always be there for those of us who knew how lucky we were to be paid to question authority.  I could feel it slipping away, though.  I had a mental image of José driving a Mercedes convertible, hair blown back by the wind, a handsome companion in the passenger seat.  I saw Janice sneaking cigarettes outside a large law firm.  I saw Matthew out on a high school football field, shouting drills to awkward teenagers.  I couldn’t see me, though.  Where was I?


I began my new position in juvenile court the next day.  I would have liked to take a couple of days off—a week even—but my transfer had already been delayed a week due to Mark’s trial.  My new supervisor told me to go over to the juvenile detention center and talk to all of the kids who had been arrested over the weekend.  I presumed they called it “detention center” because the word “jail” seemed too harsh for children.  It was my job to try to get the kids who had been arrested over the weekend released from children’s jail.
            On the door of the detention center I saw a list:  “New Detainees.”  I surmised that these were the names of the kids I needed to talk to.  Just as I was trying to figure out how to get in the detention center, a tall woman with long, blonde hair, wearing a suit made of Pepto Bismol colored wool approached me.
“Are you the public defender of the day?”
            “I think so.”
            “I don’t think we’ve met.  I’m Sandy Spangle.  Juvenile Probation.”
            “Kate Hamilton.  Nice to meet you.”
            “Looks like we won’t have any hearings today.  The first two detainees have already been released by agreed order, and the third will agree to be released on electronic monitoring.”
            “Electronic monitoring?”
            “It’s an ankle bracelet that the child must wear at all times.  Her movements will be traced by global positioning technology.  She’s basically on house arrest.  She can go to school, but otherwise must be in her home or within 10 feet of her house.”
            “How old is she?”
            “Twelve?  What on earth did she do to require such intense supervision?”
            “She is charged with riding in a stolen car with some older teenagers.  She was originally released to her mother’s custody, but she failed to come to her first court date.  I have checked with her school.  She has missed 10 out of the last 20 school days.  She isn’t going to school; she’s running around with felonious teenagers.  She’s completely out of control.”
            “I guess I’d better go see her.”
            “There’s really no need.  She has agreed to electronic monitoring.  See?  She’s already signed the order.”
            “I think I’ll go see her anyway.”
            “Suit yourself.  Her name is Josie Reynolds.”
            Despite knowing her age before I saw her, Josie’s appearance was a shock.  She was still a child--so small that the detention clothes hung loosely from her slight frame.  She was sitting at a table in the detention library; her feet didn’t touch the floor.  She had been crying.
I sat down with her.  “Hey,” I said.  “My name is Kate.  I’m your lawyer.”
“Cool,” she said, wiping the tears off her face with the back of her hand.  “Are you a real lawyer?”
I smiled at her sweet face.  “You know, I think I am.”  I pulled out the notice setting arraignment.  “Did you know you missed court the other day?”  I felt ridiculous asking a 12 year old about a court date.
“I didn’t know.  I want to go home.  I want my mom.”  She began to cry again and covered her face with her hands.
“Where were you arrested?”
“At school.”
“At school,” I repeated.  If she was “out of control,” why was she attending school?  “What grade are you in?”
“Did your mom know abut court?”
“No,” she said. “She would have brought me in if she knew about it.”
“The probation officer says you have a couple of felony charges.  How did you end up with those?”
“I started hanging out with these 15 year olds, and it was their idea, and I was afraid that they would call me a chicken, so I went along.”
“Have you gotten in any more trouble since then?”
“No.  Going to jail really scared me.  I don’t see those older kids at all anymore—I just walk to school with my cousin and walk back home.  I go to school when I can, and my grades are way up.”
“You go to school when you can?”
“I was in a car wreck last year, and ever since, I have these migraines, where, like if I move, I feel like I’m going to throw up?  It’s really bad, so I have to miss school a lot.”
“The probation officer tells me that you agreed to be on electronic monitoring when you get out.  Is that what you want?”
“Not really.”
“Why not?”
“I just want to be able to go to the park and play with my friends …”
            I felt a rush of anger.  This was a 12 year old, who had never been in trouble before, who was at the complete mercy of adults to get her where she was supposed to be.  And they wanted her to go to the seventh grade wearing a global tracking device.
“We can have a hearing about that, honey,” I said.  “We’ll go talk to the judge about whether you’ll have to wear the ankle bracelet.”

I found Josie’s mother in the lobby of the juvenile court complex.
“Josie says she didn’t know about the court date.  Is that true?”  I asked Josie’s mother, who, like Josie, had been crying.
“Oh, absolutely.”  She lowered her voice.  “I’m embarrassed to say it, but we’re kind of homeless right now.  I moved out from my boyfriend because of domestic violence, and we’ve been staying at my sister’s, and sometimes my mom’s—the mail must have gotten lost in the shuffle.”
“How’s she been otherwise?”
“She’s been great.  I didn’t like those girls she was hanging out with, but she wouldn’t listen to me about them until she got arrested.  She hasn’t seen them once since that day, though.  She walks to school with her cousin, and listens when I tell her to do something.  She’s even been doing the dishes.”
“The probation officer says she has missed a lot of school.”
“Yes, from the migraines.  Ever since that car accident, she gets them a lot.  But I always call the school when she has to miss a day.”
“Have you talked to the probation officer?”
“Yes.  She was pretty rude.  I told her all of this, but she acted like she didn’t believe me.  Like it was somehow Josie’s fault that she has migraines and didn’t know about the court date.”
“All right.  I think we should go talk to the judge about whether Josie has to be on electronic monitoring.  I’ll go and find out when we go to court.”

I walked the hallways of the juvenile court complex until I found Sandy Spangle.  “Did you know that Josie didn’t know about the court date?”
“So she says.  She has a responsibility to know when her court date is.”
“But they had moved.  She didn’t get the letter.”
“She could have called the court.”
“She’s 12 years old.”
“If she’s old enough to commit felonies, she’s old enough to keep track of her court dates.”
“I think we’re going to need to have a hearing.”

I waited on a couch in the court administrator’s office for the 1:30 detention hearing.  I was reviewing my notes and the affidavit of probable cause when the court commissioner came in.  Court commissioners, lawyers appointed to a quasi-judgeship by the county, heard most juvenile cases.
The commissioner said to the court administrator, “I hear we’ve had some new talent transferred here to juvenile court.”
“Yes,” the administrator said.  “We got lucky with this latest transfer.  Usually they just send the newbies.”
“What good fortune, to have a lawyer sent here with so much experience and skill.”
I blushed and stood up to introduce myself.
“Yes,” the commissioner said without noticing me.  “We are truly fortunate that Bradley Boldham will be the new prosecutor for juvenile court.”

The juvenile court room was tiny, as if everything had been down-sized because of the children we were dealing with.  I sat down at the counsel table with Josie, who began crying again when she saw her mother seated in the back of the courtroom.  I had never seen a detention hearing before, but assumed that it would be similar to a superior court bail hearing.
“We’re here, your honor,” Ms. Spangle said, “because Ms. Hamilton thinks we should have a hearing.  Josie had already agreed to electronic monitoring before she talked to Ms. Hamilton.”
This comment was totally inappropriate.  Should I object?  Before I could decide what to do, the judge said, “Thank you, Ms. Spangle, I’ll hear your report now.”
I was surprised at Ms. Spangle’s lack of neutrality.  She told the judge that Josie had missed court, missed 10 of the last 20 days of school, and was “out of control.”  She didn’t even mention the changed address, the migraines, or that Josie was at school when arrested.  I couldn’t wait to give the judge these additional facts.
            When Ms. Spangle finished talking, I assumed it was my turn.  I stood up, but the judge, said, “Now let’s hear from Josie’s mother.”
Josie’s mother stood up and smiled nervously.
“I understand, ma’am, that you can’t handle your daughter, can’t even get her to attend school.”
I was shocked by the judge’s tone.
            “Yes, but, but …” Josie’s mother stuttered, clearly taken off guard.
            “I presume, ma’am, that your daughter is completely out of control.”
“But, but … you don’t understand …” She was too intimidated to explain the situation.  I was appalled.  The judge had obviously believed everything the probation officer said, without a chance for a response.
            “I presume that you simply intend to allow your daughter to run the streets, committing crimes.”
Finally, I had had enough.  I knew judges hated to be interrupted, especially mid-tirade, but this had to stop.  I stood up and said, “Judge, will you please wait to form your conclusions until you’ve heard from both sides?”
“Miss Hamilton,” he said sternly, “this is not your turn.”
“I know, your honor.  But you’ve just expressed a lot of conclusions without hearing from Josie …”
The judge stood up and shouted in a voice too loud for the tiny courtroom, “SHUT UP, MISS HAMILTON!”  I felt my face turn red and sat down, not seeing any benefit to an escalating shouting match.
The judge asked Josie’s mother a few tepid questions, and then turned to me.  “Do you have anything to add Miss Hamilton?”
“Thank you, Judge,” I said, trying to keep my tone even and respectful.  I was afraid he would order Josie to be on electronic home monitoring because he was angry with me.  I ran through our response to Ms. Spangle’s exaggerated claims:  that Josie had stopped hanging around the older girls that she got in trouble with; that while she missed school often, these were excused absences due to a documented history of migraine headaches; that she and her mother had not received notice of the court date because they had moved; and that Josie was at school when she was arrested.
To his credit, the judge said, “Oh, so it’s not all bad.”
I looked at Josie, who was swinging her shoes a few inches above the floor.  “This is a 12-year-old child who shouldn’t have to go to the 7th grade wearing a global positioning device.”
Once again, to the judge’s credit, he ruled in our favor, and released Josie to her mother’s custody, without electronic monitoring.

After the hearing, I waited with Josie’s mother in the lobby.
“Thanks for sticking your neck out for us,” she said, “I felt really bad when that judge was mean to you.”
“Don’t worry,” I said.  “It’s my job.”
“Well, thanks again.  That judge was making it seem like I’m a bad mother and she’s a bad kid.  That’s just not true.”
Just then, detention staff released Josie into the lobby.  She ran to her mother and hugged and hugged her.  Then she turned around and hugged me too.
“Thanks for sticking up for us, Miss Hamilton.  I’m sorry that judge yelled at you.”
I touched her cheek.  “Don’t worry, Josie.  No judge will ever really shut me up.”


A month later, I was becoming more accustomed to juvenile court—parts of the job I loved (the kids), parts I hated (people buying into the idea that making children criminals and locking them up in detention was going to save them), and other parts just annoyed me (the judges, probation officers, and prosecutors).
I walked back to the office on a sunny afternoon thinking about how long I could stay in juvenile court before its inanities drove me over the edge.  Two years, maybe three—long enough to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.  I considered my options:  water-color artist (I couldn’t paint); marine biologist (I wasn’t 12 years old), president of the United States (please).  It would be nice to find someone to cook for, I thought.  I almost walked right past Matthew, who was sitting on a park bench in the shade of a tree near the office.  He was holding hands with a girl wearing a long, flowery skirt, pale blue cotton sweater, and Birkenstocks.
“Meghan?”  I asked, feeling a rush of intuition.
Matthew blushed. “No, Kate, this is Annie.  We met a couple of weeks ago at the health food store.”
“What were you doing at a health food store?”
“Looking for something good for me?”  He smiled at Annie.  She giggled prettily.

I was happy that Matthew was moving on—his teaching job started in a couple of weeks and he appeared googly-eyed in love with Annie.  Janice had already begun her new job, and José’s practice was off to a fast start.  We still had lunch and occasionally gathered at Moezy’s, but it wasn’t the same.
I didn’t like to admit it, but I was in a funk.  Juvenile court was definitely less stressful, and I tried to tell myself that I was giving myself time to think.  I could figure out what I wanted in life, where I was going with my career, go to the gym at lunch every day.  But I felt like a loser.  Half of my files were “Minor in Possession of Alcohol” for God’s sake.  And while the kids were fun to talk to, the work wasn’t challenging.  I had become an adrenaline junky, and now I had lost my fix.  For years, I had operated on a combination of bravado and instinct, but now the bravado was gone.  What was left?

            I had been in juvenile court about a month when Neal Stein, the juvenile supervisor, called me into his office.  I hadn’t gotten a feel for him yet, which was a good sign, because it meant that he left me alone.  He was in his 50s and had worked in major felonies under Ed, but Gordon had made him the juvenile court supervisor, probably to avoid a power clash in felonies.  José had told me that Neal was a true-believer public defender, but was a few years from retirement, and happy to ride out his last years in juvi.  I didn’t dream he would be like Ed; I just hoped he would leave me alone.
            I sat in a chair in Neal’s office, waiting for him to finish a phone call.  Neal had gray hair, a slightly scruffy beard and mustache, and wise eyes.  Movie posters—Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Fight Club—decorated his office walls.  The posters showed that he had some power, because Gordon had banned “unprofessional” office décor.
“Nice posters,” I said.
“I keep forgetting to take them down.”
I laughed.
“What?” he asked.
“It’s just … you’ve got good taste in movies and some passive-aggressive tendencies—I think we’re going to get along.”
“That’s a lot to read into some old posters.”
“I tend to jump to sweeping conclusions based on minimal information.”
“How’s that work for you?”
“Surprisingly well.”
He took his glasses off and cleaned them with a tissue.  “Kate, I asked you to meet with me because an intern will be volunteering at our office this summer.  She wanted to see what juvenile court was like.  I’m assigning you to be her supervising attorney.”
“Aren’t supervising attorneys, like, older or something?”
“I think they need at least four years of practice.  You’ve got that, right?”
I counted on my fingers.  Four and a half.  “What am I supposed to do with him?”
“It’s a her.  Natalie Beatty.  Show her around, answer her questions.  You know, show her the ropes.”  He held out a white folder.  “Here’s her resume.  Read it if you want.  She’ll be here tomorrow at eleven o’clock.”
I looked at the folder.  Her name was embossed in silver letters on the cover of the white folder made of thick linen-textured paper.  The folder held a resume, writing sample, transcript, and a newspaper article about a volunteer project she had organized last summer.  On paper, she looked like everything I wasn’t:  organized, goal-oriented, driven, together.  I felt a puzzling emotion as I looked through her packet; I wasn’t resentful of her seeming competence—I felt proud of her.
The next morning, I straightened my office for Natalie.  I had read a book about clutter that said neat piles were better than messy piles, so I squared the edges of all my disorganized stacks of stuff.  I took to storage a document box full of Nate Bridge’s materials.  I blew dust off of Kelly Campbell’s antennae and considered washing Mr. Roberts’ swim trunks.  I was nervous.
At exactly eleven o’clock, I opened the door to the lobby.  “Natalie?” I called out.  A petite young woman with curly chestnut hair stood up and held out her hand.  We were wearing identical navy pinstriped suits.
“Ann Taylor sale?” I asked, holding out my hand to shake hers.
She shook my hand and nodded gravely, “Seventy-five percent off.”
“You went with the striped blouse?” I said.  “Because I had a hard time deciding between the stripes and the floral.”
“I couldn’t decide either,” she said, “so I bought them both!”
We laughed.  She had an open, pleasant laugh—loud enough to feel hearty and real, but tonal enough to be charming.  She was wearing a pearl necklace, where I had a few silver beads on a black leather string.  She didn’t seem comfortable in the suit, like she felt a need to sit up extra straight to feel she was justified in wearing it.  I pictured her looking at herself in the mirror after she dressed for our meeting, insisting to her reflection, “Lawyer, Lawyer, Lawyer.”
I showed her to my office.  “I guess I’d better figure out what I’m supposed to do as your supervisor.  Do you know where I find the statute regarding Rule Nine Interns?”
“I think it’s in rule number nine.”
I laughed.  “Are you being insubordinate already?”
“No, I was just saying …”
“That the Rule Nine regulations can be found in Rule Nine?”
I opened the book and found Rule Nine.  “It looks like you can appear in court, but because juvenile court is technically a division of Superior Court, I will need to be there with you.  I wonder if you can do trials?”
“Trials?”  Her expression conveyed sheer terror.
I pretended not to notice.  “Yes, I’ve got one next week.  Let’s see, ‘a Rule Nine intern may conduct trials in Superior Court if accompanied by the supervising attorney, bla, bla, bla.’  Looks like you can do it.  Great.”
“Do what?”
“My trial next week.”
Her pen stopped moving.  “Me?  A trial?”
“Why don’t you just read through the police reports over lunch.  You can stay here in my office while I go to the gym.  It’s a pretty good case—you’ll have fun.”
She stared at me dumbly.  I handed her the file.

I came back from the gym an hour and a half later.  I was thinking it would be funny to drape my damp work-out towel over her chair.  I opened the door.  She was sitting in my chair, looking straight ahead with tears in her eyes.
I felt like a heel.  Why did I think I had to perpetuate this insane hazing ritual?  “Natalie.  What’s wrong?  It’s not the end of the world.  I’ll help you.”
“It’s just that … I’m not signed up for the trial skills class until next semester.”
“Don’t worry about that—no one learns how to do a trial in a trial skills class.  I’ve got everything you need to know right here,” I said, tapping my head with my finger.  I glanced at my bulletin board.  The trial roadmap Janice had written four years ago was still tacked there.  I took it down and handed it to her.
“Here’s a list of the components of a trial—Opening Statement, Cross, Direct, and Closing.  You won’t have to worry about voir dire, because juvenile court only has bench trials.”
She looked down at the paper in her hands.
“Now let’s talk about the case,” I said.
“Can I take notes?”
“Sure.”  I handed her a fresh yellow pad.
“First we figure out what our defense is,” I said.  “Then we prepare every aspect of the trial from the perspective of our defense.”  I noticed she was writing every word I said.  This made me feel very wise.  “So, what’s the charge?”
She finished writing and looked up at me.  “It’s an assault.”
“OK.  What are possible defenses to an assault?”
She stared at me.  Tears welled again.
“A rhetorical question.”  I handed her a tissue.  “Since assault requires an intentional touching, there’s accident.  Or maybe it just didn’t happen.  Or it was consensual.  Or they’ve got the wrong guy.  And, of course, self defense.  Don’t worry, it’s really not that hard—your defense will be obvious when you talk to your guy.  It’s just a good idea to be aware of the general possibilities before you talk to your client.”
“My client?”
“I guess you’ve never had a client before.  Clients are the best part of this job, even when they drive you crazy.  Because your duty is so pure—it’s your job to do the best you can for this one person.  Not a corporation, or stockholders, or the State of Washington.”
She was writing everything I said again.
“Look, Natalie, do you want to know the most important thing about doing a trial?”
“Yes!”  Her eyes were eager, her pen poised.
“The most important thing,” I paused for effect, “is to Be … Fucking … Prepared.”
I watched her write, “Be F-u-c-…”
“Natalie.  Don’t write that.  Let’s just talk for a little bit, and then you can write notes later.”
We spent the afternoon working on the case.  I made her write an opening statement off the top of her head, and then showed her how to refine it.  We brainstormed ideas for cross-examination.  I gave her a list of things to put into her closing argument.  By five o’clock, I realized that I had been talking for two and a half hours, and still had more to tell her.

I tried to stay out of Natalie’s way as she prepared for the trial.  I wanted to hover.  She practiced her opening statement to anyone who would listen.  I admired her nerve.  The only person I ever practiced in front of was my reflection in the mirror.
We double-checked the Rule Nine Intern statute to make sure we had everything covered.  I was curious about whether I needed to sit at the counsel table with her.  I knew she wanted me to sit with her, although she hadn’t asked, but I didn’t want to give her that security blanket.  She had to learn to rely on her own instincts, even when she felt like she didn’t know what she was doing—especially when she felt like she didn’t know what she was doing.

On the day of Natalie’s trial, we went together to the courtroom.  Natalie set all of her stuff up on the counsel table.  I sat in the back.  Bradley walked into the room.  He looked at her, then at me.  I introduced them.  “Bradley, this is Natalie Beatty.  She’s a Rule Nine Intern.  She’s going to do this trial.”
“She can’t do this trial,” Bradley said.  “This is Superior Court.”
I was afraid Natalie would faint.  “Yes, she can, Bradley,” I said without looking at him.  I was glad we had read the rule carefully before coming over.  I placed myself between Bradley and Natalie and tried to distract her with conversation.  She was freaking out, though.
“Kate,” Bradley said, tugging at my sleeve.  “We need to talk.  A Rule Nine Intern can’t do a trial in Superior Court.”
“Shut up, Bradley,” I said, and went back to whispering to Natalie.
Bradley sat facing stonily forward.  Bradley would never change—he arrogantly thought he knew what he was talking about, even though he obviously hadn’t read the rule.  I could have shown him my copy of the statute, but why help him?  I could tell Natalie was stressing, but she was going to have to learn how to deal with these arrogant assholes.
Bradley picked up his briefcase and put it on the table, as if preparing to leave.  “I’m going to have to dismiss the case,” he said.  “I can’t find my witness.”
“Great,” I said with a fake, bright smile.  I watched him slide his legal pad into the case and walk out of the courtroom.  I thought this would probably happen; I hadn’t been able to find his witness either.
Natalie was bewildered.  “What just happened?”
“You just won your first case!” I said, putting my arm around her shoulders.  “Bradley couldn’t find his witness, so he had to dismiss.”
“But I didn’t do anything.”
“In this business, a win is a win.  And you did do something.  You worked hard and got ready for the trial, and if the witness had come in, you would have done the trial.  Because you were ready, you forced Bradley to dismiss.”
We walked together back to the office together.  I carried her trial notebook and she carried her briefcase and legal books.  “I don’t understand,” she said.  “Bradley didn’t know what he was talking about with the Rule Nine Intern stuff.  He had no idea what the rule’s provisions were.”
“I hate to be the one to tell you this, Natalie, but there are a lot of pompous jerks out there who don’t know what they’re talking about.  Your job is to not be fooled by them, and to call them on their bullshit.”
“But if he didn’t know the rule, why did he say I couldn’t do the trial?”
“He’s a jerk.  There’s a lot of them running around out there.  Don’t let it get to you.”
“Still, if he didn’t know the rule, why didn’t he just ask?  Asking questions is not a sign of weakness.”
At that moment, I wanted to hug her and tell her everything would be OK.  Even if I knew better.  I wanted to tell her so many things—that you would be lucky to find one intelligent, thoughtful lawyer in 10, that a lot of them are jerks, that some people will treat you unfairly; that she would do great work in spite of all of it.  But who was I to tell her all of this?  She would find out by living it—why ruin the surprise?  “One of the best parts about this job,” I finally said, “is telling assholes like that to go fuck themselves.”

Later that day, I stopped by Neal’s office.
“How’s the Intern?” he asked.
“She’s great.  She’s smart, she works hard, and she’s willing to fight for the clients.  I thought she might be a little too wholesome, but maybe that was just the pearl necklace.  And I saw her sneaking a cigarette behind the building the other day.”
            “She sounds perfect,” he said.
            “I think she might be.  I was a little annoyed when you assigned her to me.  But now I think I’m glad.  I was in kind of a funk before, but now I feel better.”
            “I know.”
            “You planned this?”
            “You don’t practice criminal law for 30 years without learning a little about human nature.”
            “Well thanks, um, Boss.”  I hadn’t called anyone “boss” since Ed.

I found Natalie in my office talking on her cell phone.  She closed it and said, “Want to go and have a drink?  I’m meeting some of the other interns.”
“Sure,” I said.  “Where?”
“A place called Moezy’s.  Do you know it?”
“I think I can find my way.  I’ve got a few things to do still—I’ll meet you there at 5:30.”

 I hadn’t seen Doug since I had moved to juvenile.  I had anonymously sent him a dead cockroach I found under my desk by interoffice mail, but otherwise, nothing.  I was surprised when I saw him outside the main courthouse, carrying a cardboard box.
            “Have you been demoted?” I asked him.
            “Not exactly,” He said, setting his box of belongings on the ground.
            “What do you mean ‘not exactly’?”  Did they find out that you told me about the skid marks?”
            “No.  I just thought it was time for a change.”
            “A change?  Where are you going?”
            He motioned his head across the street to a squat one-story building I hadn’t noticed before.  Above the door, a sign read, “American Civil Liberties Union.”
            “Someone violated your civil liberties?” I asked.
            “I’m going to work there.”
            “But you’re a prosecutor.  Can you become something else?”
            He put the box down.  “As a prosecutor, I was always looking for the worst in people.  When I got a case, I’d think, ‘This is a bad person who needs to be punished.’  I don’t think it’s healthy to look at people that way.  You guys at least try to find something good in a person who had done a bad thing.”
            “Allegedly done a bad thing.”  He looked into my eyes for a second, like he was searching for something.  “I didn’t like what being a prosecutor was doing to me.”
            I looked at my watch.  Damn, five minutes late for court already.  “I’ve got to go,” I said.  “I’m late for court.  I suppose I’ll see you around?”
            “Sure,” he said, and held out his hand.  His outstretched hand struck me as both funny and sad.  After everything—a handshake and goodbye.  He took my hand, but then didn’t let go, and pulled me closer.  He shook his head in a familiar way, as if amused, and then lifted me up and kissed me, right in the middle of the courthouse courtyard.
            I opened my eyes when I realized that he had stopped kissing me.  I looked up at him, surprised.
            “Kate, I want to tell you something, but I don’t want to talk about it.  I want to say it, and then that’s it.”
“All right,” I said, wanting to hear the words.
            “You are the biggest pain-in-the-ass I have ever met.”
            “This will never work,” I said.
            “I am thinking not,” he agreed.
I stood immobilized as Doug stooped and picked up the box he had been carrying.  He backed away from me a few steps, lifted the box to his shoulder, and began walking away. 
 When he was halfway across the courtyard, I snapped out of my trance.  “Hey!” I shouted.
“What Kate?” Doug shouted back, over his shoulder.
“The ACLU would never hire a former prosecutor!”
“Nice try.”
He shrugged, grinning.
 “The ACLU has standards, and so do I!” I proclaimed.
Damn his cute, raised left eyebrow.
“Really, really.”


I opened Moezy’s door.  I saw Natalie see me, and thinking that I hadn’t seen her yet, she quickly put out the cigarette she had been smoking and pushed the ashtray away.  She was sitting with two other male law students—they all looked young and fresh.  It was strange to think that they probably thought of me as an older lawyer.
I sat down and shook their hands.  Pam came over and put a beer down in front of me.  “Hey, Kate.  Haven’t seen you down here lately.”
I smiled at the others.  “I’ve, um, been here before.”
“Been here before?” Pam laughed.  “Ha!  I’d say that you practically live here, except that you do live here.”
I smiled again.  “I do, um, sort of live in an apartment right above the bar.”
“You live in an apartment above a bar?” The blonde law student said.  “That’s great!”
“You think so?  It’s just the first place I found—I’ve always thought of it as temporary—but I guess four years is a little long for temporary.  I’ve actually been looking for a house to buy.  Maybe one of you could take over my lease here?”
“I’ll take it.”  The dark-haired guy said.
“Not if I get it first.”  The blonde one said.
“Shouldn’t you guys get a job before you start looking for an apartment?” Natalie said.
“Didn’t you hear?” the blonde guy said.  “There’s an opening at the public defender’s office—for a new attorney in misdemeanors.”
“I hadn’t heard about the opening,” I said.  “I’m kinda out of the loop on things like that.  Are you going to apply?” I asked.
“What do think?” Natalie asked me.  “Should I apply?”
I hesitated.  If I could do it all over, would I become a public defender?  Or would I choose the something safer, something more lucrative, like Conatox?  Trial work could be exhilarating and exhausting.  You were the realest lawyer in practice, but the public treated you like an unemployable pariah.  And the pay sucked.  Faces flashed through my memory:  Mr. Roberts, Bradley, Judge Piddle, Doug, Emily Knight, Kelly Campbell, Nate Bridges, Mark Holland.  Would I do this all over again?  I remembered getting the verdict in Mark’s trial, the words “Not Guilty” echoing through the courtroom, Mark and his family hugging me.  
The three interns were waiting for my answer, the silence stretching too long.
“Should you apply for the job?”  I looked at Natalie’s earnest face.  “Absolutely.  I’m not going to tell you it’s easy, but it’s the best job there is.  If you can survive it.  And even if you can’t take it forever, you’ll end up with some pretty good stories to tell.”



The Oldtimer said...

Thanks. This was an enjoyable ride. How can you not like a woman who speaks up.

carol d said...

Thanks, Oldtimer! I'm glad you like it. There are quite a few people, surprisingly, who do not like a woman who speaks up. But theyre just haters.

Skelly said...

And they all lived happily ever after - HOORAY!
All of us PD's are so lucky that you wrote this.
- "Skelly"
P.S.: I want to be Neal when I grow up.

carol d said...

Thanks, Skelly! I have a feeling that you already are a Neal.

Rhonda Whittaker said...


Hated to see it end. I've shared it on my facebook, and hope my other PD friends read it. You should publish it!!

carol d said...

Thanks, Rhonda! That makes me very happy.

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