Daily Archives: December 10, 2011

It’s All In The Spin

A man is convicted of an armed robbery after a jury trial and sentenced to life in prison.  He had testified and said he didn’t do it.  There was video of the crime.

Oops.  Turns out he had been in jail at the time.  Wasn’t even there.  The government’s own records said so.

Here’s how the Houston Chronicle headlines the story:

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Filed under financial crisis, Judicial lying/cheating, Striking lawyers, wrongful convictions

Of Local Interest Only

Rudy LePore is north of 80 years old.  Although it is very stupid, not to mention damaging to other lawyers and their clients, for a lawyer to smuggle contraband into the jail, this is a harsh result.  If they’re going to bury official wrongdoing, they could bury this one, too.  But then Rudy is not a cop or a District Attorney.

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Filed under wrongful convictions

Client Decisions And Bright Line Rules

It’s a dogma:  the client decides whether to plead, whether to go to trial, whether to accept a compromise or settle.  Burned into the brain of every lawyer.  It’s the client’s case, after all.

In a profession that rarely commits itself to bright line rules, this is a bright line rule.  Which is typical, because whereas in theory there should be no problem or confusion about following it or not following it, in practice it is essentially a meaningless directive.  In short, one of the few bright line rules of practicing law in a litigation setting is bullshit, more or less.  The situation  is way too complicated for drawing bright lines.

In criminal cases you can sometimes represent what you might call experienced litigants.  They know the game, they know the system, and they are quite capable of rational decision making about it all.  But then there are other clients – like innocent ones – that have no idea what is happening or why.  To them it’s just Kafka’s nightmare in the flesh.  The risk reward analysis all by itself is just too much to take in.  These clients require a lot of management, and the “client makes the decision” mantra is such a poor fit it’s foolish to apply it at all, to say nothing of elevating it to a dogma of bright line drawing.

One of my early jury trials involved a personal injury.  I represented the plaintiff, of course.  An individual.  Real human being.

As is usually the case where I come from in these situations, the defendant – who is really an insurance company (i.e., non human being) as it is in nearly every personal injury case – had never made an acceptable offer of compromise prior to the trial.  After we had picked the jury and I had done a creditable job presenting the plaintiff’s case and had “rested”, the insurance company increased it’s offer of settlement by 50%.

I dutifully presented this offer to the client, who was of course right there in the courtroom during this break in the action – that is, after we had rested our case and before the defense was going to put on its evidence.

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