Category Archives: Legal Profession

Closing down the whorehouse in Washington D.C.

Dwight asked what I thought of corporate firms and the appointment of Eric Holden as Attorney General.  Holden works for one of the largest corporate law firms in the nation.  I thought what I wrote him might be of general interest. Here it is in part:

Dwight: I lost what I wrote you somewhere. It is floating around in all of its immaculate wisdom in cyberspace and will one day descend and save us all.

I wrote that corporations are dead. Therefore they require the dead to represent them. I wrote that one cannot work for the dead for very long without beginning to die, that is, the human psyche begins to dry up and one day will fall out on the carpet of the boardroom floor. It will look something like a dried up old prune.

Holden has worked for one of America’s mammoth corporate law firms. The government itself is the largest corporation known to man. Perhaps this will serve him well in managing the thousands of bureaucrats who congregate in the Department of Justice, most of whom are also dead or dying. All I ask of Mr. Holden is that he be honest most of the time and that all of the time he will refuse to use his great power for political purposes. His predecessor ran a whore house.

To that I should add:  I have spent a good portion of my life fighting big government on behalf of ordinary citizens.  I can’t think of a case in which the FBI or federal prosecutors were involved that there wasn’t hanky-panky of some sort present. When we humans have power we use it, which, in the hands of government agents, often mitigates against fair trials.  The idea of a fair trial has something to do with honest evidence and ethical prosecutorial conduct despite the imbalance of power between the parties.  Sadly, that ideal is most often vacated, and power, seeking justice or not, too often wins.

How to survive the tyrant Judge (part 3 of 3)

Part 3, The judge. Who is this Tyrant?

We remember from Part 1 that the abused child likely sees the judge as a potential abuser. The child whose parent was self-centered and narcissistic, as a lawyer, will likely suspect the judge as having little concern for him or his client. The child who feels his parent abandoned him will see the judge as one who cannot be trusted. Yes, and the child who was loved and deeply protected may, indeed, as a lawyer, relate to the judge as the source of protection and favor. Any accurate understanding of the judge-lawyer experience requires us to become aware of how we saw the power-persons of our childhood. This judge–any judge–like any other person of power, has the capacity to help, even to love. Yet this same judge can, if challenged, descend upon us with a vengeance in accordance with the judge’s own psychic composition, all of which bring us to the consideration of the judge. Who are they?

So we walk into the courtroom dragging our baggage behind us and look up to His Honor, who drags into the same room his own baggage. Obviously these persons were once lawyers themselves, and before that, children who had experienced their own power-persons. These are human beings who are as vulnerable as we, and to the extent that we have begun to understand ourselves in relation to authority, so, too, we can understand them.

When judges ascend, they do not leave behind their beginnings. When they take on the black shroud their roots do not evaporate into the firmament. Indeed, judges, as we, will exercise power in ways reflecting their own struggle with authority. It is useful to see the judge not as this tyrant peering down at us with evil intent, but as this child not different than we, not this monster shouting his fearsome commands at us or the bully embarrassing us before jury, but the child before he was immersed in his own history. Could we but see the judge as human, as reacting to his history, might we not be so afraid?

At this seminar of Trial Lawyers College I have previously mentioned, the great Josh Karton – a teacher of far more than drama – was working with a pair of attendees. One played the role of the uncharitable judge, the other the lawyer who was attempting to win his point. The lawyer, as is his wont, spoke in the high tight tones of the arguing lawyer employing the empty words we use in the courtroom. Karton frequently interrupted imploring the student to use plain words, not, for example, “I hereby move the court for a continuance,” but, “Your Honor, I need to have this case put over for a week.” Not, “I am otherwise committed by a prior setting in another court,” but “Judge Jones has ordered me to trial on Tuesday.”

The lawyer playing the part of the judge was unmoved. “This is not my problem, counsel,” he replied. “You can take this up with Judge Jones.” But suddenly Karton changed the entire environment when he suggested that the student ask the judge for help. “I would appreciate it if…”

“No,” Karton said. “No. Ask him for help.”

“I would like you to…”

“No,” Karton interrupted again. “Are you afraid to use the word, ‘help?’”

“I need…”

“Use the word, ‘help.’”

“Could you help me,” the lawyer said at last.

The judge was silent for a moment, almost as if he couldn’t think of what to say. Finally he said, “See my clerk, counsel. Perhaps he can find a spot week after next.”

We discovered that the word ‘help,’ does, indeed, carry with it powerful urges. That word is consistent with the parent’s responsibility to the child. On the psychic plain, if the lawyer is child and the judge parent, an underlying impulse to help is at work. The need to be helped is endemic with the judge who was, himself, a child in need of help, and that need persists with the judge who is now the power-person with a parental duty to help. As judge, he likely told himself and his sponsors that he wanted to help his community by rendering justice. To be helpful is the confessed motivation for most judges to abandon private practice and don the robe. Further, without regard to the lawyer-judge relationship, the notion of being helpful is one deeply embedded in our society. We help, or believe we should, those who need help. By intention, if not action, we have become the good Samaritans from the first days of our teaching.

Something magical happens when the judge soars to that place of power, the bench, from which he stares down at us, or worse, refuses to look at us at all. We forget that yesterday he was as we, smallish inside, puffed up on the outside and standing before another judge projecting the preadolescent posture of his own child. But in a matter of a day he has abruptly changed into someone we do not know. How he has shed his history of humanness is a mystery we do not address. We see him in a different light. By representing power he becomes power. His power casts a new eerie light over him. He speaks in a different tone, and his lexicon seems foreign and stilted. In our sight, and in our ears he has transmogrified into that which has arisen and is untouchable.

At this workshop Karton sought to remind the participants that judges are but humans, that they were lawyers as we, and, yes, before then they were once but little children. He called upon a ex-marine, a former sergeant in the View Nam war to play the part of judge. He dressed this judge up in a pair of little panties and put a teddy bear in his arms. Then Karton called upon another participant to present his argument to the judge. There was spontaneous laughter from the audience. How silly, the judge, how ridiculous. That we should be intimidated by such a man, was unthinkable. But how was it that a tough Marine, by a few exterior accouterments of the child, was transformed in our vision from the fearsome jurist to the ridiculous child?

We, of course, know that although the judge may have a revised view of himself, his underlying self has not changed. Although he may be taken with his new power, nevertheless we know that at his core he is the same old Henry Honeycut. The principal change has been in our eyes. They play tricks on us and cannot be trusted.

In the debriefing that took place, the sergeant who had played the role of the judge was asked if he had felt humiliated. He, too, was the same person both before and after his role playing and the fact of his embarrassment was barely able to penetrate his tough exterior. “Yeah, maybe a little,” was all he would admit to.

But at lunch I sat across from a member of the faculty and as we talked about what we had witnessed he began to tear-up, his lips began to quiver and I realized he was crying. I asked him, “What’s the matter, man?” and he replied, “That judge (referring to the marine) was hurt.”

“Yes,” I said, “perhaps a little.”

“More than that,” he said. He is a very sensitive man. “More than that!” he said again weeping through the words. Then he burst out with it: “Who protects the judge?”

And the epiphany came exploding through to me! The judge, before him, the lawyer, and further back the abused child, had always sought protection. There is power in the legal profession, not the greater power of the judge, but power. The lawyer has more power in the course of human affairs than the plumber. Lawyers, police officers, probation officers and judges are in power professions. And who needs power? Most often those who seek it need it.

Given even marginally acceptable conduct, when the judge takes the bench his level of protection is also elevated. He does not enjoy perfect protection for he must consider the whim of the voters, the power of a hostile media and the pressures of his office, but once enthroned the security he achieves is greater by magnitudes than that of nearly every other member of the system. To the litigant in any given case the judge is the most powerful person in the universe. To the lawyer (who may once have been his adversary) he is untouchable. Who can successfully attack the judge? What lawyer? What litigant, what police officer—who?

But what about the bellicose lawyer who challenges the judge to “bring it on.” What about the lawyer who’s willing to attack the judge in ways suggesting mutiny, or even to assault him with a poorly disguised contempt? It’s not that the judge is in actual jeopardy. It’s not that his safety is at issue. He is still the judge. He has the power to order the sheriff to place the contemptible lawyer in the cross-bars hotel and to remain in jail until he has purged himself of such contempt. But that the judge has the power to protect himself, even from mere insult, does not mean he doesn’t feel threatened, and the question raised by our sensitive staff member, “Who protects the judge?” becomes an important key to understanding the attorney-judge relationship.

Let us consider the tough, intransigent, irascible old devil who will skin us like a trapped rabbit, the judge we all fear—the judicial bully. We see him with the young, childlike lawyer we have already met, the one with the cemented smile, the baby face and the voice to match. He will protect her. She requires shield and shelter. But put our mucho-macho man before the same judge and although in reality the judge is no more threatened by him than by the childlike lawyer, the judge will disembowel this lawyer. It isn’t that the judge arises to any danger, real or perceived. He reacts to the child within. He needs protection, and when our friend asks, “Who protects the judge?” we see that he protects himself, the child within, with the power of his position, the power he sought in the beginning for his protection. “Who protects the judge?” We do. We must if we are to effectively represent our client before him in the courtroom.

So there we are, judge and trial lawyer, mirrors of each other, sometimes both fearful of one another, and both taking such steps as may be necessary to survive a perceived danger—both persons echoing the trauma of times past. From the lawyer’s standpoint, his best defense is to understand himself or herself. We cannot educate His Honor about the roots of his need to judge. We cannot take him by the hand and lead him into the forest of his past and reintroduce him to those experiences that formed his needs. Those in power are rarely capable of recognizing the forces that led them to seek it.

But we have become enlightened. We have inspected those original places where the child in us is like the first rings that make up the towering tree. The tiny rings at the heart of the tree never disappear no matter how mighty the tree may grow. We begin to understand how the child in us is still so easily threatened, but so, too, is the judge’s child. We both seek protection. We observe the threatened child as lawyer, fearful, terrorized, sometimes, in defense, confronting and hostile, threatening, even raging. We see the lawyer both afraid and angry that the judge he stands before is the tyrant judge. But we have learned that the tyrant judge was born of similar beginnings, and that, to the same extent we need protection, so does the person we fear the most in the courtroom—His Honor.

The mirror is always at work.

How to survive the tyrant Judge (part 2 of 3)

Part 2, The dangerous disease of power

I have long held to the proposition that the expressed motivation attracting judges to the bench is suspect.

I do not take as universally true the easy, self-serving assurance of many judges that he or she simply wants to do good. I am leery of do-gooders. I have believed, and I still do, that judges, like all persons, have needs that fuel their choices. Their need, in a money society, is certainly not money, for judges are notoriously underpaid. The greatest attraction to the bench is simply power. In a given case the judge has more power over the litigants before him than any other human being on the face of the earth.

I have sometimes encountered tyrant judges who lord it over the poor rabble struggling below them, who seem to enjoy observing a particular lawyer helplessly twisting and turning in the winds of their whims. I have suspected that some such judges furtively rejoice in their power over lawyers who have been more successful than they, and over litigants who for unobvious reasons the judges may despise. I have seen judges who eagerly await the opportunity to dump a load of scorn on those who have made unfortunate choices in their lives. Yes, some want to do harm. And I am saddened that I find myself writing these lines.

I recognize that judges, like doctors who daily face the injured and dying, and lawyers who are routinely relating to clients who are maimed or hated or who are guilty of horrendous crimes, may become calloused in order to maintain some semblance of mental health. But as for judges, how does a human being wrench screaming children from their parents, turn one’s back on the pathetically injured for no better reason than they fail to fit some fictional legal model, send men to the death house or to long terms in the torture chambers of prison unless the judge has grown a certain protective coating around the hide of the heart? Still even the most gentle judge, the rare one who exudes a caring nature, is often one who I am not likely to trust, not at first. I have discovered that too often an outward benevolence covers a merciless heart.

But if I am fair I must acknowledge that judges are not too different than I. I, too, claim I want to do good. I claim that I have devoted my life to help the forgotten, the lost, the voiceless, and the damned. It all sounds good. The idea of it feeds my soul. I have a need to be useful, to feel worthy, to engage in just causes, to fight just fights. I wish to be seen as a warrior for the people. If my own sense of self stands for justice on behalf of ordinary people, justice against the powerful, against the corporate overlord and the tyranny of government why can’t I grant such an honorable motive to judges? After all, we have encountered many humans who genuinely care. And judges who were once lawyers surely know the dismal plight of those who seek justice and who so rarely obtain it. Yes, rarely.

Still, these days too many judges ascend to the bench bearing a fealty pledged to the people’s masters. We can understand the phenomenon. Today, most judges are selected by a power saturated with the interests of business, and a majority of the judges appointed were once prosecutors or corporate lawyers. In their former lives these lawyers took on the cause of power. As prosecutors they were daily drowned in the dreary decadence of criminals crowding the jails. As civil defense lawyers they experienced the excesses of trial lawyers representing those who claimed to be injured or who, even though injured, sought to take advantage of their injuries. The politicians seek judges who reflect their own philosophical leanings. The tree grows bent in the direction of the prevailing wind and in the calm can never fully right itself.

“The tree grows bent in the direction of the prevailing wind and in the calm can never fully right itself.”

Unfortunately, my view of the bench is supported by a majority of trial lawyers who represent ordinary people. At the Trial Lawyers College, where we teach lawyers how to successful fight for people against corporate and government power, the attitude of the attendees who have spent many years in the trenches before countless judges is nearly uniform. Rarely do I find a lawyer who believes most judges are mostly fair, mostly caring, and mostly driven to accomplish good ends. Sadly, many see judges as their enemies, as opponents in the courtroom even more powerful and adverse to the lawyer than the opposing lawyer.

They see judges more concerned with their dockets, with moving their cases forward, with controlling the courtroom and the lawyers, with making decisions that will be acceptable to their constituents and that will not be badly reported by the media. True, most often lawyers do not see judges as overtly dishonest or even consciously in the pocket of power. But they see them as the possessors of power who too often exercise it wrongly, insensitively, in forwarding their own agendas, and ultimately functioning to the detriment of the litigants. This is not to say that there are no caring, fair, even loving judges in this country. Many, but not enough, do great honor to the bench. In the end, a majority of judges are seen by most people’s lawyers as a power source of harm.

As for me it is harmful to look up to a judge who has ignored the poor and bowed to the rich, to show such a judge respect when he is not worthy of respect, to show such a judge deference when he reveals an underlying indifference to the human condition, to give such a judge honor when he has lived a life on the other side protecting power and money. Yet I am troubled by these judgments.

COMING SOON, Part 3 of 3: “The judge. Who is this tyrant?”

The secret to winning…so who are you?

When I enter the courtroom it never occurs to me that I could lose. Battles are to be won. The opponent is merely a necessary player, as is the judge. They are there because the battle could not proceed without them.

The idea of losing comes, in part, from a lack of preparation, which is a failure of self respect. Think of it as if you were a boxer. You have not trained. You have two inches of belly fat hanging over your shorts. Your cheeks are baggy. You puff going up the stairs. You brag a lot because that is all you have. This is a fighter who will lose because he does not respect himself sufficiently to prepare. If he were the trainer he wouldn’t allow a boxer such as he to enter the ring—he would care too much about his profession as a trainer to let an unprepared fighter he trains get slaughtered.

The refusal to prepare also reveals a lawyer who does not care deeply for the client. Jurors recognize an unprepared lawyer. It means the lawyer does not care much for this person whose life or welfare is in his charge. If the lawyer does not care, why should the jurors? The lawyer knows the client better than they. Caring is contagious. If the lawyer doesn’t care the jurors won’t care either.

I know lawyers with great talent who stagger out of bed in the morning not knowing for sure which case they are scheduled to try that day. But the fault is sometimes not the lawyer’s. The cost of operating a law office and to make an acceptable living from the trial of cases is hard at best, particularly in the criminal field. Most persons charged with crimes do not have the money to pay a lawyer for the necessary time it takes to adequately prepare a case – months, considering the investigation, the interviewing of witnesses, and the endless pretrial motions the lawyer faces in the modern trial, not to mention a trial that can last many weeks.

To survive financially, many lawyers are required to take too many cases from poor paying clients. Public defenders are often laden with scores of cases, many serious ones, without the time or resources to properly prepare while the prosecution may have all the time and resources necessary to win. As a consequence too many persons charged with serious crimes do not receive an adequate defense. They are often counseled to plead guilty, to make deals—the only bargaining chip they have—with their own lives. Take ten years from my life in exchange for the forty years that I will probably lose if I go to trial with an unprepared, unskilled, uncaring, overworked public defender or for that matter, a private attorney who has taken my case because he’s three months behind on the rent. A money system favors money, not justice.

A few lawyers are skilled enough that they can win some of their cases with nearly no preparation at all, but they know that many a client has suffered as a result — in a system that cannot provide justice for all, no matter how the myth is sold to the people.

I have said that when I enter the courtroom I do not consider the possibility I might lose. To lose one must give permission to his opponent to beat him. As a young lawyer I lost three civil cases in a row. The pain of losing was so severe I could not bear the thought of ever losing again. It became a life or death issue for me. Life as a loser became so unacceptable that I would rather quit the profession than continue down that road. I realized that preparation was a critical key.

I also began to understand that if one has a full sense of self, not a blown up conceit, but a person who makes mistakes, who is afraid, who can feel and care, who is as real as he can be, who is on the road to becoming a person—that person will be hard to beat in a courtroom or anywhere. He is not an intellectual muscle man or a phony sweet pea with the supercilious smile and a nose worn smooth from toadying the judge. He can be trusted and he speaks a language that jurors understand.

How do you beat such a lawyer? Be more of a person than he. I let my opponent worry about losing. It will take him into strange and dangerous places.

Winning—the simple secret

Some of my tribe have been worried because I haven’t posted for a while. You’ll recall I’ve been writing about slavery. We are all slaves. Each of us has a slave specialty—slave to work, slave to debt, slave to guilt, slave to social pressure, slave to habit, slave to sick relationships, slave to….I try to be free, and sometimes I won’t post for a while. You have given me that permission. Don’t worry. I may be taking a walk through the forest in the early mornings when I usually write. But it is good to be missed.

Speaking of forests, in a jury trial lawyers become guides to the jurors through a frightening forest. The jurors do not even know the person sitting next to them. They have never been in a courtroom before, this strange place where lawyers argue according to strange rules that do not make sense. The jurors do not know where justice lies. They do not know who to believe, both sides pointing their accusatory long white fingers at their opponent.

There is a judge looking down at them dressed in a black robe. Nothing grows in the courtroom. The place is barren of life. Lawyers with soft hands that seemingly have never done an honest day’s work talk in a strange language, one with incomprehensible words that have no other purpose than to put the jurors down. The jurors have worries of their own, their families, their jobs, their debts that grow while they sit and listen to this senseless blather. Still they know the stakes are high, a person’s freedom or life or well being are at stake, and the jurors want to do the right thing.

I have said that it is as if the juror is about to embark on a journey through this forest and he or she has to decide which lawyer, as a guide, to follow. That’s why the only thing a trial lawyer has to sell to jurors is credibility. Without it, the most skilled, the most charismatic, the most comely, the best dressed, the highest paid, the lawyer with the highest IQ, the lawyer from the largest firm, even the one the judge seems to favor cannot win without credibility. It is also why the lawyer who may be frightened, inept, less skilled, not so eloquent, even second rate and sometimes befuddled will win every time if he or she is a credible person.

I have been criticized for being “too superficial.” I suppose that means that my own intelligence quotient is dragging behind or at least isn’t on display. But remember, we can think our way to any decision. The reasoning of the U.S. Supreme Court is a good example. The court’s numerous five to four decisions tells us that about half the court have thought themselves into the wrong decision and do so continuously. We can think ourselves into oblivion. Science is already knocking on that door with its invention of nuclear weapons and the manufacture and use of devices that will surely destroy this fragile, pretty little planet.

Our worst enemy is our own species. We have the ability to lie to and cheat our own and to thereby seriously injure or destroy each other. But we are also equipped with what I call “psychic feelers” that tell us when someone is attempting to deceive us.

Our worst enemy is our own species.  We have the ability to lie to and cheat our own and to thereby seriously injure or destroy each other.  But we are also equipped with what I call “psychic feelers” that tell us when someone is attempting to deceive us.  We can be hoodwinked for a day or two.  But in a trial that lasts for any length of time, the jurors begin to understand, even on a subconscious level, who is the most trustworthy.  Over the long haul, jurors usually can’t be fooled, and those who contend that this simple truth is superficial and does not give due credit to their own massive brain power will be those who use that same superiority to explain why they lost their last case, and the case before that.

I have often spoken of “the magic mirror.”  It reflects who we are with each other.  If the lawyer does not trust the jurors, the jurors will not trust the lawyer.  If the lawyer does not like the jurors, the jurors will respond in kind.  If the lawyer keeps secret his or her feelings the jurors will secret their own.  If the lawyer hides behind big words and tricky tactics the jurors will turn away from him.  How hard is this to understand?  I keep insisting that our role models should be our children.  I have often said I have learned more from my kids and my dogs than from all of the super minds out there.

So how can you win your next case? How can you win your next argument — in the courtroom or at home? How real and how credible can you be? 

In response to Kit (aka Peregrinus)

I am proud of you, Kit. I have told my students at Trial Lawyers College—where we teach practicing people’s lawyers how to be real, how to win by caring, how to be honest in the presentation of themselves—that if they take care of their clients, no matter how meager the compensation, that the money aspect of the practice will eventually take care of itself. That is a promise.

Defrauding our nation’s lawyers

Most trial lawyers have been defrauded of their education.

On the average it costs more than $100,000 to get through law school. And after four years in undergrad and three more years in law school, the law school graduate doesn’t know enough to pass the Multi-state Bar and has to spend another $5000 or more to prepare for that. Even then many will fail the bar, some more than once.

The bar exam itself is a fraud. The exam does not help the law profession to determine those who will fight for people, who are honest and who have courage—the most fundamental requirements of a lawyer for the people. The bar exam only tests the applicants ability to play their mostly silly word games.

So we have law schools claiming they are educating lawyers when most lawyers, as they drag themselves out of the misery and boredom of those three empty years, are tragically unprepared to do anything useful. I have often said that for an assistant to help me in a trial I would rather have a nurse than most lawyers fresh out of law school.

The nurse has been trained to listen to the patient. Lawyers know little about listening. The nurse chose her profession because she cares about people. Lawyers are not taught to care. They are engorged with the rare niceties of legal gymnastics often taught by ponderous-headed professors who have never looked into the painful eyes of a client and who have never tried a single jury trial for a human being. If a student complains that a case he or she is studying does not render justice, the professor is quick to retort, “We do not teach justice here, Mr. Jones. We teach the law.”

I could teach an eighth-grader in twenty minutes how to brief a case. Yet for all three years in most law schools the casebook method of learning the law is still in. The matriculating young lawyer is as qualified to represent a client with the education he has suffered through as a doctor who has never seen a patient, who has never held a scalpel in his hand and who learns surgery by having read text books about it and becomes skilled in surgery, if ever, after having stacked up piles of corpses who represent his pathetic learning process.

“The trial of a case, in its simplest form, is telling a story jurors can understand. Yet most lawyers are taught little, if anything, about communicating with others.”

The trial of a case, in its simplest form, is telling a story jurors can understand.  Yet most lawyers are taught little, if anything, about communicating with others.  They are taught to deny their feelings and, at last, have so long shielded themselves against their feelings for that many find it nearly impossible to get in touch with them. Yet justice is a feeling and jurors (as do we all) make their decisions based on their feelings.

Most lawyers know little about classical literature and history, have never written a poem, have never painted a picture, have never stood before an audience and sung a song, have never been permitted to confess their pain or their love, and, in short, have been denied the stuff of personhood.  One need not write poetry or paint pictures to be a successful human being.  But some intimacy with the arts and the language and its use and with right brain functions of feeling and creativity are essential to the development of the whole person.  Little wonder that lawyers, disabled by all of the stifling, mostly useless mental exercises they have suffered, have trouble relating to jurors much less to the rest of mankind.

Is it not a miracle that after having been defrauded of their education at the hands of the entrenched in our law schools that American lawyers haven taken on the fraudulent mindset of their educators who have defrauded them?
 

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The voice of silence

This morning I am at the Thunderhead Ranch east of Dubois Wyoming where–along with a volunteer staff of brilliant and talented trial lawyers–we conduct the Trial Lawyers College each summer. It is early. The sun is still in hiding.

The exercise for the day is silence—blessed silence. We met in the loft of the big barn at five o’clock. Once we entered the barn all was silent except for the instructions I gave. We should meet with Mother Nature. Every part of us came from her, and will one day return to her. We should go in silence and listen to her and see what, if anything she has to say to us.

Are we not harassed by noise? Are we not attacked by its pollution? In the cities we cannot escape it, the sound of gasoline engines belching and growling, the vibrations above of airplanes roaring and whining, the incessant chatter of the radio and television that seems to be a requirement for life without which we are lost and lonely. Even in the house the incessant sounds abound, the whir of the refrigerator, the tromping of the family’s feet, the babble of children and the louder babble of their parents—the noise of life. There is no way to escape it.

“I instruct the lawyers, we call them warriors, for these warriors fight for the rights of people against the daunting power of corporations and government…”

I instruct the lawyers, we call them warriors, for these warriors fight for the rights of people against the daunting power of corporations and government—I instruct the warriors to go into the hills that surround the ranch. Find a place that is yours, where you can see no other person—perhaps by one of the huge old rocks discarded by retreating glaciers, or down by the stream. Nothing here will harm you. The wild animals, the deer, the antelope, the coyotes, the moose—they are all friendly. Even the mountain lion is shy and will slip away to avoid the noise of your feet.

When they find their place they should lie down on the earth and listen. Perhaps there will be a message. Perhaps the warrior has something to say to Mother Earth. Perhaps the warrior will ask questions like: What is the history of my life? Who am I? Where have I been all of these years? What roads have I traveled? And, having heard the answers to those questions, perhaps he or she will have a better idea of the road ahead.

Then these lawyers will come in and have a silent breakfast. Not a word will be exchanged among them. And after breakfast they will meet again in the big barn where they will paint. Paint? Lawyers painting? They will be asked to paint who they are, to paint a portrait of their soul. They will find in that exercise something of themselves that most have never encountered. And they will paint in complete silence.

After that we will have a silent lunch and at two in the afternoon we will again meet in the big barn and break the silence. We will share with one another what we have learned. What we have experienced. What it has been like to see the sun come up, to break the darkness. What our conversations with Mother Earth have been. What was revealed to us in our painting.

Already, every morning we meet in the big barn and first off we give time to the warriors to read their poetry to us. Most have never written a poem. Each warrior is required to sing a solo. The warrior mounts an old picnic table and looks down on his fellow warriors. It is frightening—to sing a song like that in public. But we must learn to use the voice, to acquire a comfort in speaking to juries. We must learn the rhythms of poetry in our arguments to the jury. We need to learn the composition of our speech that is found in song and verse. We should better understand who we are in order that we can better know our clients and the judge and jurors, yes, and even our opponents.

We have already been in other exercises that are calculated to help us to become acquainted with the self. We are teaching and learning together. It is a program that lets the warriors experience successful ways to choose their juries, to present the evidence and to make their arguments. It is a new kind of education that lawyers never get in law school—how to be a human being. We believe that if we are to successfully argue to other human beings in a courtroom—to jurors—we must first learn to be human beings ourselves.

I am writing this while the warriors are about their silent tasks I have assigned them. I am thinking about how much courage it takes to participate in those tasks. I am also listening to the stream outside my window. The sun has burst out in its perfect glory. The day is upon us. And silence, as my mother used to tell me, is golden. I have learned much from it.

In response to Daniel Q

I do not try as many criminal defense cases as civil cases for the injured.

I tried many criminal cases as a young prosecutor, and I am not proud of the fact that I never lost one that went to trial. Could I have been right that many times? I once convicted a man of first degree murder with the death penalty attached after which I pled to the Wyoming Supreme Court to reduce the charge, and the court did.

It is usually not hard to win your cases as a prosecutor–usually. You have the evidence, the investigators, the leaning of ordinary citizens toward your side of the case.

Winning as a defense attorney is another thing. Some public defenders try in a single year as many cases for persons charged with serious crimes as I try in ten years. I know a public defender who has seven hundred cases to watch over and who tries scores of cases each year.

This system is terribly broken because public defenders are often, more often than we know, not provided the time to prepare and the resources to launch a competent defense. These lawyers, hated by some, fight on with little pay and are the true heroes of the profession.

When many years ago I saw the light and refused to take on any cases on behalf of corporations or to longer represent the state as a prosecutor, or otherwise, I began to take criminal defense cases that appealed to me. They were usually seen as losers by those who claimed know, but I could give myself the time and the money to properly prepare and present these cases.

I have just finished the defense of Geoffrey Fieger in Detroit, a case I worked on for more than two years, one in which I had all of the resources necessary to make a competent defense. Mr. Fieger was acquitted on all ten counts.

But in the Imelda Marcos case, one that lasted more than three months, I had only three weeks to prepare. This, was an anomaly.

I have tried many other jury cases, including murder cases (written about in two of my books, Gunning for Justice and The Smoking Gun) but I had the time and the assets to properly prepare. Preparation and passion are the key to winning, always. Always.

When lawyers compare their own records to mine and ask questions, they are being unkind to themselves, because most criminal defense lawyers have dockets with too many cases. It takes a lot of criminal cases to provide the income necessary to survive in this field. Most criminal defense lawyers would love to have the time to prepare their cases that I have had in most of mine.

I do recall having pled one of my clients in the middle of a trial when the US Attorney offered a deal no one could refuse–no jail time and a smile. But that has not been my M.O.

Thanks for your question.