- Case Types
- How We Defend
- Who We Are
- 10 Other Houston Criminal-Defense Lawyers
- Contact Us
Unemployed Kid Lawyer writes to small-firm-owning Young Lawyer (obviously not me) after four on a Friday afternoon:
I am a recent cum laude graduate of [third-tier law school], and write to express my interest in potentially joining your firm. A colleague of yours, [Some Friend], whom I met at a networking event, recommended that I contact you about a possible position. Please see my attached résumé, writing sample, transcript, and list of references. If you have any questions or would like additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you should you decide to contact me about a potential opportunity.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
YL’s response, an hour later (after five on Friday, now):
Do you want to come in Monday afternoon to chat?
What we are looking for is someone who is considering starting a solo practice but doesn’t have the capital to get an office, supplies, malpractice insurance, etc. I have a lot of overflow right now, but given that we just opened our doors last year, I can’t pay someone $85k a year, salary, and benefits. Maybe soon, but not right now.
On the upside, we have a nice office, conference space, etc.
KL says he wants “opportunity”; that is the essence of opportunity:
- Not a guarantee but a chance.
- Someone covering the overhead while you figure out what you’re doing.
- Two smart, hardworking young lawyers who aren’t yet grumpy, jaded, and cynical, and whose doors are open to you.
- More experienced lawyers’ table scraps.
KL didn’t feel that way. His reply, three days later:
Sorry for the delayed response.
I really appreciate your getting back to me and offering to meet with me. Unfortunately, I don’t think this would be the best fit. I just don’t really have an interest in a solo practice. But all the best to you and your new firm.
That made my jaw drop. Scott Greenfield keeps telling me about the entitlement of the slackoisie, but I didn’t believe it—the young lawyers I deal with regularly show no character defects (though I may unconsciously select for initiative; nobody without gumption is likely to spend more than a minute on the phone with me)—until now.
Some people—such as KL?—see self-employment as a last resort, preferable only to unemployment. Those people should by no means be self-employed, but they are increasingly unemployable because employment requires initiative. Being paid $85K a year to learn your craft is not “opportunity.” It’s the gravy train. Maybe KL will find that ride on the gravy train that he is looking for. But such rides are few and far between nowadays, and a lawyer with no interest in working for himself isn’t going to be much good to anyone else for anything but contract document review (not that there’s anything wrong with that—there are documents taht need reviewing).
On the other hand, some people see every other option as a stepping stone to self-employment. Lawyers like that will see that what KL offers—an office, mentoring, and overflow—is worth more than money.
If you are in the Mid-Atlantic states, and interested in such an opportunity, email me and I’ll connect you with YL.
(And if you’re in Houston, and interested in such an opportunity, email me. I had given some thought to creating an incubator for criminal-defense lawyers here, but if KL is representative of the new generation of lawyers it’ll never work.)Copyright © 2012 Houston criminal-defense lawyer Mark Bennett. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this feed on other websites breaches copyright. If this content is not in your news reader, the page you are viewing infringes the copyright. (Digital Fingerprint: 9fddc86334d71f22cfdb4b70fe23bb0e.)
I’m documenting this here in case someone else has the same problem. Today I wrote a ten-page response to a government motion, and when I saved it (from MS Word 2011) to PDF format it was over 5 megabytes—too big to be filed via ECF. Poking around The Google, I found a suggestion that I save it first as a Postscript file, then open that with Preview.
After trying that, and other things in the same vein, I found a better solution: save the file as a .doc file (Word ’97–2004 format), then save that as a PDF, all within MS Word. Here’s how a smaller document sizes out:
The document (three and a half pages) saved in .DOC format takes up 37 kilobytes; the PDF of that document is even smaller, at 27 KB.
Save it as a .DOCX instead, and it bloats to 118 KB. Save that to PDF and three and a half pages of text take up a staggering 494 KB—more than eighteen times as big as it needs to be.
Astounding. What the hell is wrong with Microsoft?Copyright © 2012 Houston criminal-defense lawyer Mark Bennett. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this feed on other websites breaches copyright. If this content is not in your news reader, the page you are viewing infringes the copyright. (Digital Fingerprint: 9fddc86334d71f22cfdb4b70fe23bb0e.)
It’s good enough for Rand Paul:
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney quoted from the letter that Holder sent to Paul today. “Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on an American soil?” Holder wrote, per Carney. “The answer is no.”
Paul said that was good enough for him. “I’m quite happy with the answer,” he said during a CNN interview. “I’m disappointed it took a month and a half and a root canal to get it, but we did get the answer.”
Carney added that, “if the United States were under attack, there were an imminent threat,” the president has the authority to protect the country from that assault.
But it is not good enough.
Carney invokes “imminent threats.” What does that mean? This administration has already sought and received lawyerly advice (in the Murder Rationalization Paper) that “the threat posed by al-Qa’ida and its associated forces demands a broader concept of imminence in judging when a person continually planning terror attacks presents an imminent threat, making the use of force appropriate.”
If a broader concept of imminence, why not a broader concept of “engaged in combat”? After all, according to the Murder Rationalization Paper “a terrorist ‘war’…is a drawn out, patient, sporadic pattern of attacks.” Who’s to say that the cappuccino-sipping dissident blogging against the state from a café in Seattle is not “engaged in [drawn out, patient, sporadic] combat”?
The lawyerly Murder Rationalization Paper has an answer to that “who’s to say” question: “an informed, high-level official of the U.S. Government.”
I enjoyed watching the filibuster, but I am disappointed in Rand Paul. At the end of the day, his thirteen hours on his feet were nothing more than entertainment. He got a non-answer to his question, and then declared victory: “In response, Paul said Thursday that ‘we’re proud to announce that the president is not going to kill unarmed Americans on American soil.’” (Fox News.)
That’s not what they said. Not at all. The administration still takes the position it took in the Murder Rationalization Paper: that it may kill you if an informed high-level official determines that you are an imminent threat. They do not disclaim the legal authority to do this to anyone anyone—including a U.S. Citizen—anywhere—including in the US—without due process. If the president wants you dead, you are dead.
Where the administration’s lawyers make up new meanings for words to justify tomorrow what yesterday was a murder, it’s hard to imagine an answer should have satisfied Paul. But this is not it.Copyright © 2012 Houston criminal-defense lawyer Mark Bennett. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this feed on other websites breaches copyright. If this content is not in your news reader, the page you are viewing infringes the copyright. (Digital Fingerprint: 9fddc86334d71f22cfdb4b70fe23bb0e.)
Letter from Bobby Mims of Tyler, President of the Texas Criminal-Defense Lawyers Association, to the sponsor of Texas Senate Bill 91 and his Chief of Staff:
Senator Rodney Ellis & Mr. Brandon Dudley:
I appreciate the time that you and Sen. Ellis invested in today’s analysis of the SB91. We the members of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association understand and appreciate Senator Ellis’ dedication to the cause of justice in Texas. Senator Ellis has an unblemished record standing on behalf of the citizen accused for over 20 years. Senator Ellis is one of the Texas patriots for justice in Texas for Texans. The 3200 members of criminal defense lawyers are unwavering in the defense of the Constitution and to the protection of due process and will not be compromised for the sake of political expediency.
I am directed by the Board of Directors of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association to advise that any form of reciprocal discovery in criminal cases is unacceptable to the 3200 members of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and to most of the criminal defense trial lawyers of Texas. By participating in a meeting of 12 independent individuals to “mark up” a proposed bill should not be interpreted in any way to endorse this measure in any form by TCDLA.
Any legislation that requires the defendant to produce any evidence or disclose anything in the defense lawyer’s file is an anathema to justice and to a free and independent people.
You personally and in your role as a State Senator have been a bulwark against an overbearing state in protection of the most vulnerable in our society for many years. You, Senator Ellis, have stood for right vs. wrong and your reputation is stainless and your constituents depend and count upon you for justice.
Recently, there has been a movement to “compromise” by certain interests groups purporting to speak for the criminal defense bar and for the accused by individuals who have an interest that is obtained by interests outside of the State of Texas. The Texas Defender Service seeks, for some reason, a reciprocal discovery bill to be passed by the legislature. They do not speak for TCDLA nor for any other criminal defense group other than themselves.
I can assure you that the 3200 members through the TCDLA will vigorously oppose any such legislation and assure you that the Texas Defenders Service and their spokeswoman does not speak for the TCDLA nor any significant number of actual defenders of citizens. Indeed, they are supposed to be an resource group to assist capital defense counsel in capital murder cases. They are very good at this assistance but they rarely to trial level representation of capital cases. Their advice on capital murder defense is valuable as a resource. However, it is the criminal defense trial lawyers who have the difficult mission of defending the citizen accused in Texas courtrooms. The proposed discovery bill promoted by the TDS will make this important mission even more difficult. However, the purpose of the justice system is to convict the guilty and acquit the innocent. The prospects of wrongful convictions will be increased under this bill rather than lessened.
I am requesting that you consider and vigorously oppose any measure that would mandate any rule or law or regulation that would invade the file or province of the counsel for the defendant in a criminal case. After all we must stand for something and this is the “something”!
I can assure you that if a reciprocal discovery statute is adopted by the State of Texas legislature that the members of the TCDLA will do everything possible to comply until it invades the province of counsel, the constitutional rights of a defendant and the right to present a defense…and frankly this is all unnecessary merely to merely assuage the need of a certain interest group to justify their existence to an outside contributor of a grant to “clean up Texas.”
I can expand on the purported issue that this legislation seeks to address at your convenience…suffice it to say that this seeks to cure an ill and impose on prosecutors a remedy for something that the prosecutors of Texas are curing themselves without the intervention of the legislature…
Thank you very much for your service to Texas and to justice.Copyright © 2012 Houston criminal-defense lawyer Mark Bennett. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this feed on other websites breaches copyright. If this content is not in your news reader, the page you are viewing infringes the copyright. (Digital Fingerprint: 9fddc86334d71f22cfdb4b70fe23bb0e.)
My guy was taking a five-year prison sentence, and had arranged for a few weeks to get his affairs in order. The deal was that if he didn’t show up on the appointed day the judge could consider the full (five-to-life) range of punishment.
He showed up late.
The judge gave him six years.
Me: Judge, is being five minutes late really worth a year in prison?
Judge: He was fifteen minutes late.
Me: Okay. Judge, is being fifteen minutes late really worth a year in prison?
Judge: Yes. On sentencing day it is.
No. No, it really isn’t. Sentencing this guy to six years, taking away a year of his life for such a minor infraction, was mean of the judge: shabby, ungenerous, and vicious.
Could the judge legally do it? Probably. It was a violation of our deal, but there wasn’t a whole lot that I could see to do about it, other than keep my cool, hope for the judge to relent, and start planning my 2014 primary campaign for this bench.
It didn’t take long. Within minutes my office paged me: the judge wanted me back in court; she had changed her mind and reduced the sentence to the agreed-upon five years.
When I got back to court, the judge was not on the bench.
The best interpretation of the judge’s actions is that she found in herself an appropriate sense of shame, realized that she had been wrong, and promptly fixed it. While there was no apology forthcoming, I choose to believe that is what happened.
The alternative is this: that she intended all along to sentence my client to a nickel, but used him, his wife, and his family to teach the other defendants in the audience a lesson about timeliness. If so, then instead of a moment of ill-considered meanness the judge is guilty of deliberate cruelty. That is not impossible; I just choose not to believe it.Copyright © 2012 Houston criminal-defense lawyer Mark Bennett. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this feed on other websites breaches copyright. If this content is not in your news reader, the page you are viewing infringes the copyright. (Digital Fingerprint: 9fddc86334d71f22cfdb4b70fe23bb0e.)
Rob Kepple giving a pep talk, under the guise of “ethics,” to the Harris County DA’s Office:
Now let’s go back to my original analogy because I really want to wrap this up and bring it around, because I really do think that it shows the difference between what we do every day as a prosecutor and what everybody else does and what everybody else thinks, and that’s kind of what makes you all so special. Prosecutor exceptionalism really does mean something to me, and it is different and it takes education because a lot of people just think you’re a lawyer out there trying to win cases. They really don’t understand, and largely because they’ve been taught that if you can get away with it you’re supposed to. That’s kind of our culture. If you can get away with it you’re supposed to and that’s kind of what everybody thinks everybody else does and that’s the problem you face as a prosecutor because you know that’s not it.
“Prosecutor exceptionalism really does mean something to me.”
Yeah, according to Wikipedia that’s about right.
But isn’t that the problem that keeps putting innocent people in prison? That prosecutors think they are “superheroes” (Kepple’s word) who don’t need to conform to normal rules or general principles?Houston criminal-defense lawyer Mark Bennett. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this feed on other websites breaches copyright. If this content is not in your news reader, the page you are viewing infringes the copyright. (Digital Fingerprint: 9fddc86334d71f22cfdb4b70fe23bb0e.)