Drunk & Disorderly

On the Docket of a Colorado Criminal Defense Attorney

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Red (-Faced) Planet

Getting so much better all the time

Getting so much better all the time


I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

It was barely a week ago that I was sitting in a Montreal café, a week after the first Presidential debate, thinking about the numbers of Americans considering moving to Canada if things don’t turn out the way they’d like in November.

Now, just two days after the second Presidential debate, the headlines are about Americans going to Mars.

I can’t wait for the third debate.

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Wake-Up Email

From Rights4Girls Website

From Rights4Girls Website


I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

Like most lawyers, I get more than my fair share of email messages. Like most lawyers (like most everyone), I ignore as many as I can.

One I get every month, and am sorry to have ignored for so long, is from an organization called Rights4Girls, whose website link you just glanced at eleven words ago.

Rights4Girls is a human rights organization working to end sex trafficking and gender-based violence in the U.S. Those folks have the temerity to believe every girl has the right to be safe, to live her life free of violence, free of exploitation, free of even the remotest possibility she may someday grow up to be one of Donald Trump’s wives.

The organization’s current campaign is to persuade the public and the government uniformly to treat girls involved in the sex trade in the United States as victims rather than perpetrators. Perhaps also customers of that trade might be given their money back to fund personal prison commissary accounts.

I mention this because today is Girls Justice Day, and they mentioned it to me, in an email I didn’t ignore. Thank heaven — for little girls, sure, and for the people who watch out for them.

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Speaking Ill of the Dead


I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

I’ve been accused (frequently) of saying things others wished they had said, but had the good sense not to say it out loud.

I guess that’s the thing about plain-speaking: the thing has to be spoken, out loud. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but it’s a thing.

When I heard about the death of a law school classmate and former law partner, I admit a survivor’s frisson. “Frisson” is a French word — and a timely one, as I write these words from French Canada — which literal meaning is “shiver or thrill.” So a shiver at the shade of this dead guy who for all I know could be standing at my shoulder frowning even now. And a thrill because I was thrilled it wasn’t me I heard about.

Though I saw him five days a week the entirety of law school, and though Colorado grows fairly cold in winter, I never knew he owned a pair of long pants until he opened his law practice. Because he wanted a criminal defense arm (leg? arm and leg?) as a revenue stream, but didn’t want to get too close to anyone who might be an actual criminal, he brought me in for a brief time. Brief, because we had different ideas about what things were ethical and what things were not.

His language was colorful — particularly so when speaking about women — but not nearly so colorful as the plumage on the gigantic parrot he kept uncaged in his office. A wonderful creature, whose only defect was shitting on the occasional client who hadn’t already been shat upon.

Like nearly everyone born into a country that economically profited by enslaving another race, he suffered the affliction of bigotry. He was perhaps more sorely afflicted than some. There were people who loved him, people who hated him. He was lonely and embittered by many of his relationships with his own species, and sublimated his hurt and anger into a remarkable affection and commitment to less judgmental animals.

A few years on, he further diversified his law practice and opened a used car lot catering to people whose bankruptcies he’d just handled. Your credit was always good with him, because who knew better what your credit was. I learned of the new business venture a couple years after we’d parted ways, in a bubbly pre-recorded telephone sales call; he’d forgotten to take me off his suckers list.

All this is to say this may be the last time I write anything here, for good or ill. Plain-speaking is fine and all, but hubris almost always gets you.

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Lost in Space



I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

Cass Sunstein is the most cited law professor in the explored universe, an expert in Constitutional law, the set of rules that bothers folks who set foot in the United States or any of its territories.

He’s also got a thing for Star Wars, which sets him in some conflict with people who have a thing for Star Trek.

He’s written a book — “The World According to Star Wars” — which manages to join his professional and fictional interests. If Yoda had been a criminal defense or human rights lawyer, he might have come up with some of the same observations Sunstein does.

The scholar claims that when he traveled to Taiwan last year, people wanted to talk about human rights, sure, but also about Star Wars.

For some reason, he Googled “Star Wars” and came up with about seven hundred twenty-eight million results — more than the Beatles, Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, and Taylor Swift put together. “Rosmarin Law” returns a paltry one hundred eighty thousand results, which I’m trying to pick my way through a few at a time.

Sunstein came late to Star Wars. I watched it, the first one, before almost anyone else. Because I was dating someone involved with someone involved with the production, I saw a rough cut, before it was scored, and confidently pronounced it a bust. This was almost as brilliant as my prediction ten years earlier that, in ten years (about the time Star Wars came out), nobody would remember the Beatles (the ones with one hundred seven million Google hits in the first half-second).

Sunstein forgives me, though, pointing out the studio had no faith in their little film either; the actors thought it ridiculous; George Lucas feared it was almost as catastrophic as his beard.

Yet it has endured, in no small part because it deals with the choice between light and dark, the focus of our criminal justice, geopolitical, and human rights systems. The choice between criminalizing human behavior and accommodating differences in moral themes. The choice between seeing an unarmed human being and firing as many bullets as you can into his big black body.

A few now, of those observations:

  • …freedom is good, oppression is bad, and public officials shouldn’t torture or choke people. But let’s hope you didn’t need Star Wars to know that.
  • On the nature and fate of rebellions: Some of the heroes of the Arab Spring have not turned out to be democracy’s friends. Thus Padmé: “What if the democracy we thought we were serving no longer exists, and the Republic has become the very evil we have been fighting to destroy?”
  • Martin Luther King Jr. was a rebel, unquestionably a Skywalker, with a little Hans and more than a little Obi-Wan. Of the Montgomery Bus Boycott: “If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of the United States is wrong. If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong. If we are wrong, justice is a lie.”
  • As a rebellion gains steam, people become less likely to accept their own lowliness. That “down look” ceases to be a part of life. Instead it becomes a symbol of oppression. A word to emperors of all kinds: beware.”
  • In law, even Jedi masters sometimes get it wrong.
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Public Defenders on the Offensive


I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

Missouri’s the Show-Me State, and public defenders there are demanding of the governor: show me the money.

Their office is so understaffed, and Governor Jay Nixon so unwilling to do anything about it, that the defenders have actually turned to the law to force his hand, and maybe his three other limbs as well.

A section of Missouri state law allows the director of defenders to lasso any active lawyer in the state — according to the director. According to the governor, no, not really, I would do anything for love of Missouri, but I won’t do that.

Governor Nixon, whose great-great-great-granddaddy was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln, has repeatedly vetoed caseload caps and blocked millions of dollars in funding for state defenders of the poor. So poorly paid and overworked are they, that if they actually worked a standard eight-hour day, their effective hourly pay rate would make them eligible for their own services.

Public defenders in Missouri — and, to be fair, in most states — handle hundreds of cases at the same time. A Missouri study showed that they’re able to put in often barely twenty percent of the hours recommended to provide, not great, but merely effective, assistance of counsel. That’s the level where you don’t get sued for being a lazy bastard.

The days are dwindling down to a precious few for the Nixon administration. It may be that, faced with days of endless idleness come 2017, the former governor may reconsider. It ain’t much, but it’s a living.

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