Quitting while you’re ahead

When we first start to practice law, many attorneys dabble in several areas to see what field we’d like to pursue.  At law school, I focused on employment law–unions, at-will, even interned at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Miami. But for one reason and another, I didn’t get a job in that field, so I went back to Homestead and opened my own practice, doing a bit of this and a bit of that.

One field I tried very briefly was criminal defense of alcohol-related offenses, taking two cases in succession, both while I was pregnant with K. (Which I thinks explains my insanity in doing it at all–hormones.)

The first was an adorable old Australian man named Tom, who charmed me with his accent right off, and convinced me I could handle his case. Even though, as I came to find out, he had four prior DUIs. And even more to the point, when I got the police report, I found that he had crashed his car into a concrete abutment, and when the officer came up to the car, my client’s direct quote was, “I’m as drunk as a G*ddamed monkey.”

Fabulous. Apparently he had been, because he hadn’t remembered to mention that to me.

So I hoped that because of his age, and his health, I could at least ameliorate some sort of sentence for him, because he was a really nice guy.

But I won.

In the busy Miami courts, the state gets two chances to proceed. If the officer doesn’t show up for two consecutive hearings, the case is dismissed. He didn’t. Voila! I had pulled a rabbit out of the proverbial hat (or substitute a more personal euphemism), and he walked. He was so grateful he brought us the most delicious amaretto cake I’ve ever had. We corresponded for a number of years after we moved north, and he stayed out of trouble thereafter, having realized he’d received a real gift that day.

The second one came after a call late one night from my doctor, who was also a friend. His son had been arrested and charged with DUI, could I help him out, etc.? Fresh from my consummate victory, I assured him I could, and went to work.

This case was more interesting in that this man had Morphan’s Syndrome, a condition that affects the spine and the ability to move, making it nearly impossible for him to walk a straight line.  No wonder he failed the test! I gathered up the appropriate doctor’s deposition demonstrating this condition, and also had a photographer friend take pictures of the scene, which showed that the officer was mistaken on a number of details in his report–why not this one?

We’d gone to one hearing where the officer hadn’t showed up, and I was so excited that morning of Sept. 27, 1988, when we went downtown to court, that I’d roll the dice again and win.  But no such luck.  The state attorney was conferring with a number of police when I checked in, including my officer. Bummer. But that was okay, I was prepared.

Until the first labor pain set in.

I wasn’t officially due until the next week, but apparently K thought it was time. (She always has been a little contrary like that.) The room was packed, probably 100+ defendants on the call of the list, so we waited our turn, but over that hour, it became clear it was not just Braxton-Hicks, or general kicking discomfort, it was the real thing.

When the judge called us forward, I caught her look at my bulging stomach before she asked the SA if she was ready to proceed. She said she was. The judge turned to me and asked the same.

“I think I’m going to have to ask for a continuance,” I finally said.

“Because?”

“Because I’m in labor.” Another contraction came about then and I leaned over the table a moment. There was a silence and then a general hubbub broke out.

“Go on!” the judge said, waving me away from the bench. “Get out of here!” She had the bailiff clear a path for me, and my client brought my briefcase as we went down the long aisle, several defendants taking the chance to ask if I could be their lawyer for the day so they could have a continuance too.

I drove straight to the hospital, 25 miles home. (Yes, I know, that’s crazy. But my doctor and husband were there. What was I going to do?) They sent me home to wait awhile, and sure enough, by the next morning, we had a 9 lb. 1 oz. bouncing baby girl.

The case was rescheduled, of course, without further continuances. I presented my evidence, and the officer presented his, and the judge, not quite sure, withheld a finding of DUI and just sentenced my client to some alcohol education classes. So I considered it a win, and hung up my DUI gloves, with a record of 2-0.

Besides, I’m pretty sure that “In-labor” defense isn’t going to work again. Ever.

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16 thoughts on “Quitting while you’re ahead

  1. That’s such a great story! My son came early too – I went into labor my last day of work. But I wasn’t in a courtroom – that’s pretty dramatic! I like how you handled it – and congrats on winning those cases!

  2. Hahahaha!! I loved this story. Wish I could get out of my hearing tomorrow morning. It is scheduled for 11:20am and Obama gets sworn in at midday. What am I going to do? I’m optimistic she’ll have a TV.

  3. I’m glad that the first guy was so appreciative that he stopped drinking and driving. My husband’s side of the family has 4 lawyers within and who all specialize in different things…so it is always interesting to hear their stories and their criticisms too–and always fighting!!!

  4. Love your blogs. Now we pray you win the one for us next Wed. in Crawford (motions) the good Lord knows we need you!

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