“The Lateral Hire”; or “Nuckin Futs”

 Posted on January 29, 2009 in Uncategorized

Today I had the great pleasure of dealing with one of Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos's new prosecutors, hired from outside the practice of criminal law.

I was sitting in the jury room behind a felony court, hanging out with my fellow criminal lawyers (defense and prosecution), waiting for a prosecutor from the child abuse division of the DA's office to turn up so that we could discuss my client's case.

My client is accused of a talking-about-sex crime (under the unconstitutional Texas online solicitation of a minor statute). So of course there are details that might embarrass the accused but appeal to our prurience.

Anyway, I'm sitting enjoying the fellowship when in storms this loud middle-aged blonde lady calling my name. She sees me, and starts invoking one of the salient prurient details of the case. Loudly.

"Mark Bennett! You're here on the River Oaks gorilla sex case!" (That is not the detail that she actually talked about, but 'twill serve.)

"Who are you?"

"You're Mark Bennett, here on the River Oaks gorilla sex case! Big ol' gorilla in the wine cellar!"

"Yes. Who are you?"

"I'm Lateral Hire."

"Great. Where'd you come from, Lateral?"

"I used to be a family law judge. Your client was talking about sex with a big ol' gorilla in the wine cellar."

Yes, we already established that part.

One of the things that is not impressive to criminal trial lawyers is a non-criminal lawyer coming down to the criminal courthouse. Another is that the person was a family law judge (or even a criminal court judge). Another is that the person, like Ms. Hire, was not a real judge, but only an associate judge.

While she was associate judging, I - and everyone else in the room - was trying, winning, and losing criminal cases. I moved toward the door, rolling my eyes at the court's prosecutors and hoping that Ms. Hire would follow me.

When we got to a quieter spot, Ms. Hire launched into her CV for me. "I worked at the Court of Appeals after law school, then went to work for Fulbright and Jaworski in their appellate section."

I hadn't asked, but that's great; we'll add four more things to the growing list of things about you that don't impress criminal trial lawyers. Court of Appeals, BigLaw, raging insecurity, and self-promotion. While Ms. Hire was a biglaw associate working on appeals I was trying criminal cases.

"That's good," I said, "because I like to turn every case into a law school exam question; my defense in this case is that the statute is unconstitutional."

"But he's charged under two statutes.""No, he's charged twice under one statute. Unconstitutional for the same reason in both cases."

Read the law.

"So you'll want to interpret it under section mumbo-jumbo of the Government Code, and then... well, I don't want to help you any more."This has got nothing to do with fancy statutory construction, but you will never have any idea how grateful I am to you for that last bit.

"You're not going to win, but you go ahead and do what you have to since you're getting paid and blah blah blah."

Really. This "lawyer" just said "blah blah blah." Actually, she said it several times; I'm abridging.

"Blah blah blah?"

"I mean, and so forth."

I guess that makes it okay, then. When in Rome etc. "Well, let's go get a reset date and blah blah blah."

This experience was like Blawger's Christmas.

Ms. Hire lists her specialties on LinkedIn as "family, juvenile, and appellate law."

Her last gig was handling appeals for CPS.

She has been counsel of record on a grand total of six criminal cases - four appointed misdemeanors (all of which pled out) and two appointed felony appeals (both of which were affirmed).

Despite her claim to appellatey goodness, she is listed as counsel in a measly 46 appellate opinions in her 16 years of practice.

Guess what, Lateral: you're a trial lawyer now. At some point soon you're going to be expected to stand up before a jury and try to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone did something bad to a child. I can guarantee that that jury will be at least as unimpressed by your CV as I am, so you'd better get some practice trying some cases starting right now. If that's not what you signed up for, you might want to ask for a transfer to Appellate Division.

Meanwhile, I have a question for your boss:

Pat, what on Earth were you thinking?

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