NACDL in Philadelphia
If you read these posts, all I do is travel to NACDL meetings, but it's not true. In between I work and play music ... these CLE events do a couple things: bring us sterling speakers with great USEFUL information, and unite us with colleagues fighting the same war in similar trenches around the country. Although these few meetings are all on the Right Coast (hint hint), I'm requesting movement back toward the Left. And we will: soon is San Diego, Cincinnati, San Francisco - well, I know Cincinnati is not on the coast, but it's closer than Miami...
There were a couple of poignant events these last couple weeks:
My 13 year old son just cut his first CD with a GREAT bunch of players in L.A. area, Pacific Ocean Bluegrass Band http://www.pacificoceanbluegrass.com/ - expect it to be available in June, around Fathers' Day. Pretty heady stuff for a bunch of really talented and good kids. (If you're like me, you are always wondering where the good kids are - 'cuz the ones we mostly see are the ones in trouble.) Congratulations, kids!
And, a local Federal magistrate judge asked me to second chair a 1999 case, where the Defendant had been treated psychiatrically, and had been incompetent, and had a really fine lawyer doing a bang-up job for him. But, the client is paranoid, not over the edge at the moment, but doesn't really trust anyone, so we all, the judge, the magistrate, the AUSA, and his lawyer, went all out to be sure he was treated more than fairly. More than fairly I say, I finally asked the AUSA to please take over negotiations and pre-trial on all my cases! The deal was a good one by any standard: the plea was at 9 a.m. yesterday morning, my flight from San Jose, California to Philadelphia was at 11 a.m., and at 10:15 I was watching the clock roll on by.
My client speaks English, very well, and also Cantonese, a little better, so we had an interpreter on "stand by" for when he didn't understand or was afraid ... which was often. He asked the judge, "How many more questions?" - and I could see his mind working over each one, carefully, and I could see him take a breath and close his eyes to try to get his mind around it. He finally did, actually numbering the questions so as to manipulate them more easily, I presume, in his mind. The plea concluded. The rest of the courtroom took a breath, and went on to the other business. Sometimes, just sometimes, we get to see kindness, from the bench, from the government even.
The story is good - if for no other reason than it compels the rest of us, who don't have to work so hard to grasp ideas - to open our hearts a little to those unfortunates who do. I mean, really, have you ever had a criminal defendant who didn't have some psych issue, even if only temporary? I had a psychiatrist opine to me once that he had never seen a homicide in which the killer did not dissociate during the actual killing: he remembered holding the gun; he remembered the gun smoking. But he didn't remember pulling the trigger.
Consciousness. Reminds me of the old Be Here Now tome, mandatory reading in Texas where I grew up...
Y'all come back now, y'heah?