Friday, April 23, 2010

Ten Things I've Learned at the DA's Office...

Next week is my very last week at the DA's office.  And I'm more than a little sad about it.

This experience has been one of the best in my life.  I've learned so much about myself, and I have learned so much about people, in general - some of it good, and some of it very, very bad.

And because I love lists, I'll tell you ten things I've discovered at the courthouse.

1. Criminal behavior is addictive.
When I pick up a new file, I know exactly what I'm going to find inside:  a big, fat list of prior offenses.  

A person who steals once will probably steal again.  A person who gets caught with drugs today will almost definitely get caught using again.  

It's sometimes disheartening, but I just refuse to become jaded.  I'll keep believing the best in people because my God can change any heart. :)

2. Police officers are really, really good at their jobs.
Obviously not every cop is perfect, but for the most part I have been incredibly impressed by how dedicated and intuitive police officers are.  I've also discovered that traffic stops are often a ruse because the police suspect that some other criminal activity is going on... and most of the time they're right. 

3.  Prostitutes... er... um... sell themselves short?
You'd be SHOCKED at how little a prostitute costs these days.  And that's all I'm going to say about that.

4. Playing with rubber bands in the courtroom isn't a great idea. 

5.  Juries are worshiped.
If you've ever been called for jury duty, you should know that the attorneys for both sides were agonizing over every detail of your life (at least with respect to those things you filled out on your juror information card).  They were watching your body language.  They were watching your eyes.  They were trying to figure out every single thing they could about you, so that they could decide whether you'd be a good juror. 

And then, if you were actually picked, they spent countless hours trying to figure out how to make you trust and believe them.  They prayed that you were paying attention.  They hoped you understood everything they said.  And then they sat, in absolute torture, waiting for you to come to a decision. 

The moral of the story? 

Jury service is important.  Go and feel honored to get to serve your community in that way.

6.  Prosecutors are overworked and underpaid.
I'm sure this one is obvious, but I was pretty surprised to find out just how hard prosecutors work on a daily basis and how much is expected of them.  During my law firm experiences, the lawyers were pretty pampered, and they didn't do any sort of administrative work - they had someone to run their copies, make their phone calls, and even do legal research for them.  

It's a whole different story here.  

There simply isn't enough money to hire enough people to do the work, especially in this economy.  So be satisfied that your tax dollars are being spent efficiently and responsibly - there's not so much as a free plastic cup for water in this place!

7.  Victims are often unwilling to talk about it. 
A big, big aspect of my job is to call and speak to victims.  I ask them what happened.  I ask them about their injuries.  I ask them about restitution.  And I also ask them how they feel about punishment - whether they're comfortable with the idea of jail time for the defendant or if they prefer probation, etc.

These phone calls are the most interesting/frustrating/surprising part of the job.  Often, the victims don't even want to talk to me.  They're scared.  Or ashamed.  Or crazy.  I get a lot of crazies.

And a lot of the time, especially in family violence cases, the victims will straight up say it didn't happen and tell me to dismiss the case.  Those conversations are the hardest for me, because I know if the defendant is released, he's going right back to the victim, and it's likely that he will will hurt her again. 

8.  I now have a slight fear of elevators. 
I have never been the slightest bit claustrophobic, but after a few months at the courthouse, where there aren't enough elevators and people cram into them like sardines, I can now say that I would be happy if I never had to get on another elevator for the rest of my life.

9. Judges are people. 
I got a glimpse of this during my internships with Judge Werlein and Judge Elrod, but it has become even more clear that judges are just like the rest of us.  I happen to know one particular judge who has Converse tennis shoes and tattoo-covered arms under his robes.

They bring their own life experiences, and their own biases, to the bench, and the best judges are those who are dedicated enough to ignore those things and apply the law neutrally.

10.  You never know what you'll find in the courthouse. 
I walked into the courthouse yesterday morning and saw this randomly sitting on top of a trash can.

Classy, right? ;)

1 comment:

Alix said...

Great List! I worked in a Public Defender's Office this past summer and could not believe how much the experience changed the way I think about certain things! I could not agree with you more on points 1, 3, 6, and 8- I had the SAME experiences!
Kudos on a job that is very frustrating, and VERY intensive! Never have I had a job that I left at the end of the day so emotionally wrecked by what I saw. Here's to hoping for a job in Civil Litigation!
Best of Luck during finals and finishing up!

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