Monthly Archives: April 2012

Studying and the Art of Procrastination

It’s Saturday and I’m stuck in the library *not* studying because, frankly, I’m just not that into it.  Instead there are zillions of things I’d rather be doing which explains why I am so easily distracted (Oh look, something shiny!!) AND why I’m here writing a blog post.  The fact that this is my FINAL set of finals makes it even harder to get motivated.

I still have a few days before my first exam and I justify my distractedness with the fact that in a few weeks I’ll start my bar prep and literally my ENTIRE summer will be spent studying 8-12 hours a day until the end of July.  I deserve a little time to just veg out, right?   Better now than later because once studying for the bar commences, I know I cannot, WILL not, let myself get distracted from the goal.  Burning bar prep days like I’m burning this study day is literally the kiss of death.

Last night I did my obligatory “nesting” in my office.  I came home from the library and my mom had bought me a new bookcase.  I am expecting my stack of bar prep books to show up next week (picture of said books will be forthcoming soon) and so I was stressing out over the clutter in my office and where I’d put this mountain of new stuff once it arrived.  The bookshelf is awesome, but that started a chain reaction.  I couldn’t move in a new bookshelf until I’d vacuumed the carpet and I couldn’t vacuum the carpet until I dusted the furniture.  I couldn’t dust the furniture and not rearrange it.

When it was finally all done most everything was in its place and more importantly, I have a clear desk top.  To study.   Right after I make a trip to IKEA today and get some wicker baskets for the bookshelves because right now there’s a lot of loose paper, letters, envelopes and stuff I need, but don’t need to see. Then I’ll study.

So yesterday I did get more work done than I’ve gotten done today.  That’s also why I don’t feel so bad about taking it easy on myself now.  Being here in this library serves two purposes because besides studying (sort of) I’m trying to find a good place to study all summer for the bar.  This community college is near my home and pretty accessible.  It’s kind of crowded right now, but I attribute that to the fact that they are having finals now as well.  I doubt that there will be too many more suckers like me locked in the library all of Summer 2012.

The differences between hanging out in a community college library and a law library are quite noticeable because people move around in here way more than they do in a law library.  Law students study for blocks of HOURS and DAYS.  We camp out.  These guys here stay for a couple hours max, and they pack up and go do whatever.

They also don’t feel the need to get up and take phone calls outside the library or at all talk in a quiet voice if they MUST take a call inside the library.  Yes, I am that girl that comes into a library as a visitor and shoots people evil looks because they lack library etiquette.  Whatever.  Right now I’m pretty calm.  Let something like this happen further on in the summer or closer to the bar exam and I just might go off the deep end.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I may not even end up studying here.  I’m not yet completely sold on it.  Besides the above etiquette issues I’ve also not found a spot that feels right.  I think the feng shui in here is all wrong—at least for me.  I can’t find one study carrel that doesn’t face the wall and force me to sit with my back out to the middle of the room.  I hate that.  I prefer being in a corner and facing out—preferably facing the door.  I like to see what’s going on in front of me rather than feel like someone can sneak up behind me when I’m deep in thought.  The feel of this room is just backwards to me.  But, I have internet access, it’s close to my home, they open early and stay open late…so, it’s a definite maybe.

Speaking of maybe…maybe I should get back to studying.  Advanced Torts is so riveting!

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The Making of a Litigator

Fifty-five minutes.  That’s the amount of time that I spent on “jury duty” (excluding the fact that I had to get up early, drive downtown and find parking—which as it turns out, is not an issue IF you get there early).

I did have to go through the metal detector and (of course) I ‘dinged’ and so I had to then get wanded.  My laptop and purse went through the x-ray, but there wasn’t a line or even a crowd like I’m used to at the district or criminal court houses I’ve frequented before.  AND, I didn’t have to take off my shoes.   So that’s a plus.

There were 26 of us called and by show time, 24 were present and accounted for.  When I got there and signed in, I noticed that I was “Juror #24.”  At that moment, I knew I was off the hook.  The fact that I am nearly a law school grad, currently work for the DA in Tarrant County, and previously worked for the City of Austin was irrelevant.  Why?  This was a municipal trial requiring only a six person jury.  I was three rows back and knew even if both sides used all their peremptory challenges and there were a handful of additional legitimate challenges for cause, I was way too far back.  So I quickly lost interest. And, sure enough, we were released after a short voir dire.

About all I gleaned from the voir dire on the case was that it was for a speeding ticket and the cop showed up.  A lot of times the Defendants will play the odds that the cop won’t show up and then they can win by default.  Not this time.  As there were no other witnesses, it was he said/she said.  Also, Defendant was appearing pro se and the City was represented by counsel.

During my summer with the City we previously visited Muni court and watched other prosecutors handle speeding cases.  From that experience I know that the APD doesn’t use those old-fashioned radar guns that send out doppler waves to determine the speed of an object.  Instead they use a laser radar gun.  This allows the cop to point the laser at the exact license plate of the car they are trying to clock.  There is no “Maybe it wasn’t MY car speeding.”  Nope…these guns are calibrated before and after every shift so the officer knows they are in working order and they hit the intended target with pin point accuracy.  Although the judge said we could sit and watch the trial after we were dismissed from the panel, I pretty much knew how that was going down.

On one hand I thought of all the time, effort and money spent on a jury trial for this one little ‘ol speeding ticket, but then again, the right to a trial by jury is guaranteed in the United States Constitution and obviously the Founding Fathers thought it important enough to ensure that we Americans would always have this right.  So, more power to Ms. Defendant for making the state meet its burden and exercising her Constitutional right to a jury of her peers.   Besides, how else are new lawyers supposed to get trial experience?

Speaking of, my weeks at the DA’s office are swiftly coming to a close.  After this week, I have two more to go.  I met with the Deputy DA, Jack Strickland this week and we discussed what all I’d been doing since the last meeting and what else I had yet to do.  I asked about getting into a trial, or two, before leaving.  He suggested I try the Misdemeanor section if I really want to get into the courtroom.  So I emailed the division chief, Richard Alpert to see about making that happen.  Fingers crossed!

Meanwhile, I continue to absorb as much as I can every day I’m there.  I have tremendous respect for the Tarrant County DA’s Office and all the attorneys who have shared their time and expertise with us over the course of the semester.  I am now a firm believer that law schools need to provide more clinic opportunities to their students.  Getting in, rolling up your sleeves and working a case is way more valuable than reading about it. Doing the work alongside a great attorney-mentor is even better and this has been my experience in the Criminal Prosecution Clinic.

My only regret is that I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked with one of my supervising attorneys, Christy Jack.   I spent that memorable day back in January when we had that bizarre death penalty voir dire and a few other hours here and there, but I have the distinct feeling that I missed out on a lot by not having her around.   My immediate opinion of her was that she is smart, articulate, and funny.  I soon learned that she is also a courtroom rockstar.  She’s been back almost two weeks from her marathon death penalty trial in Johnson County and the office dynamic is completely different.  There’s no doubt that she’s one of those people to whom others are drawn—a natural leader.

I did one assignment for her on that Johnson County case:  preparing a notebook of testimony offered by the Defense’s expert witness in other cases.   She asked me to go through the testimony and mark when the state made a “point” in the cross.  At first the assignment didn’t make complete sense to me and I asked questions which she patiently answered.  As I started reading the transcripts I saw what she was doing.  She was reviewing past cases and looking at what lines of cross examination worked and didn’t work on this witness.  She was de-constructing his testimony to construct her own cross.  It was brilliant; lots of work, but brilliant.  THAT is how you prepare a case.  I have no doubt she knew that witness inside and out by show time.   Seeing an established attorney put in this level of work on a case does wonders to inspire the others around to work just as hard.  I know I wanted my notebook to be flawless for her and she came back later and said that it had been very helpful.  Knowing that  your boss is putting in as many or more hours than you builds loyalty and support unlike anything else. It’s teaching by modeling.

I would love to learn to be a trial lawyer from Christy.   And if those defendants knew what they were up against, they’d take the offered pleas.  Seriously.   I know I sound like I’m just in awe of her, and well, I guess I am.  Being a DA is hard enough without adding law students to the mix and carving out the time and patience to explain with particularity what’s going on and what we can do to help.  I hope that I can take all of what I’ve learned this semester from this opportunity and make a positive contribution wherever I go.  Clearly, I have been working with the Dream Team.

Juries Galore

As my last semester of law school is winding down there seems to be more and more to do.  I am going to have to work some extra hours this month to make the 180 hours I need for my Criminal Prosecution Clinic, but that’s fine.  I’ve asked, and my supervising DA has agreed to look for, anything and everything I can do that might give me an opportunity to “speak” in court or in a proceeding.  It’s been difficult to get much court time, because so many cases plea out.  I’d heard that before, but after being at the DA’s for nearly a whole semester, I’ve seen it first hand.

Anyway, I presented twelve more cases to the Grand Jury last Thursday, but didn’t get to stick around for the results because I had to dash out to class.  I think they were pretty straight forward cases:  thefts, drug possession, forgery, fraud and prostitution.  Sigh.  While many may plea out, the cases to prosecute never run out.  I’ll find out Tuesday how we did.

Meanwhile:  tomorrow I have been summoned to report for JURY DUTY at Austin Municipal Court.  I think it’s pretty funny that they would call me at this juncture in my life.   I was originally called to report on a Wednesday and told them that I was out of town on Wednesdays, so they moved me to a day when I am in town.  Thanks for that!

I pretty much know that I’m driving downtown for nothing.  I can’t see a Defense attorney taking me for a case.  Prosecution would likely be fine with me on their jury, so if I were them, I’d make Defense use one of its challenges.  Of course, they make these decisions based on the information they get about you on a questionaire, not on who you are.  Jury picking happens rather rapidly, so I’m thinking alot of the decisions they make are based on balancing risk and gut feelings.  Which man or woman would be “worse” on the jury based on the information you know and anything you can get out of them in voir dire—that’s the game.

Simply based on what I do, where I’ve worked and ahem, where I’m working NOW, my guess is that a Defense attorney would want no part of me on their jury.  But maybe I’ll be wrong.

The plan for tomorrow is to get up early, go by Starbuck’s, and get ahead of the traffic going downtown.  I’ve scoped out the parking situation via Google Maps and I know exactly where I’m going.

I plan to dress professionally, but not like a (future) lawyer.  I’m kinda bummed that I’ll have to go through the regular line, get my stuff x-rayed and have to take off my shoes.  It sure has been great to just breeze into the Tarrant County Courthouse with my DA badge.  Membership has it’s perks!

We’ll see what tomorrow has in store for me…

 

 

 

You Must Think I’m Stupid

Sometimes I just don’t understand people who do or say things without thinking them through.  I find that a quirky side-effect of four years of law school is the uncanny ability to more quickly realize when someone is blowing smoke up my nose.  Aside from the inevitable increase in my blood pressure, it’s like a mental chess game that only I know we’re playing when I am, most times, able to point out all the holes in their swiss cheese logic.

Example 1

So my mom has been trying to get a refund from the hospital for a Shingles shot she received in September.  She was told that she had to pay for the shot up front and that as soon as her insurance paid the claim, she would get a refund.

Sometime after that office visit she had a separate issue with her foot and went to another doctor for that.  The foot doctor said that she could treat the condition with one injection and that would likely be sufficient.  However, if needed, she could com back for a second injection that would cure it for sure.  As it turns out my mom was 1) unable to get back to the foot doctor because that was right about the time my dad passed away and 2) the first injection did in fact cure the foot problem.

What do these completely separate office visits for completely separate issues have to do with each other?  I have no idea.  What I do know is that the hospital business office got reimbursed for the Shingles shot by my mom’s insurance sometime at the end of last year, but continues to hold on to her $200 because (according to them) they have not yet billed for the foot shot because they are waiting for her to go back for the second one.  She’s told them she doesn’t need the second shot and has no plans to go back for it.  That’s ok, they tell her, they’re going to hold on to the money and wait for her to need their services again.  Huh?!?

In truth, what will probably happen if they haven’t filed a claim for that first shot is that they are outside the window to submit it.  Then, what they’ll do is help themselves to my mom’s money to pay themselves even though it was their fault for not filing her claim in a timely manner.

My mom has been round and round with them for months.  They keep putting her off and making excuses.  I went down there with her in February and they confirmed that yes, they’d been paid for the Shingles shot, and at that time a refund was supposedly requested, but “it will take 20 days to process.” (Read:  We want to hold onto this for one more month so we can get more interest off your money like we do for hundreds, if not thousands, of our patients.  We couldn’t make it without the ability to make free money off YOUR money!)

Needless to say, no refund ever materialized AND, even better, they didn’t even bother to call and tell her that they’d decided against returning the money for whatever reason.  Nope, she didn’t find out that the money was still MIA until she broke down and called them again.  This is when they came up with the whole “we’re waiting for YOU to go for your second foot shot” story.  A supervisor was supposed to call and discuss this with her…2 weeks ago.

I could write a 1000 blogs about how much I hate insurance companies and how I think they are raping thieves, but no.  Suffice it to say, I’m going to have to march down there this week with my mom and start throwing around the “F” word—FRAUD and see how we can get this resolved. I just don’t see any logic to their side of this argument.  Stay tuned for updates on this one….

Example 2

I placed a printing order online on March 3.  I opted for the order to be sent standard delivery, which according to the website, meant I’d have it in about 2-3 weeks.  I’ve checked the “status” link they sent me in my confirmation email several times in the last couple of weeks.  It provides absolutely NO status except in essence to say, “Yep, you placed an order!”

Last  week I receive an email that my order’s estimated ship date was on or before March 23.  I figured we were almost at a month and so it was fair to expect the order to show up last week.  Nope.  So by Sunday, I’m slightly agitated and since customer service is closed, I opt to use their chat feature.

Turns out that while there’s someone there to chat, he can’t give me any info because he doesn’t have access to the database.  That sets me off.

Me:  If you don’t have access to the database, what exactly are you there to chat about?

Him:  Well, our products and delivery methods.

Me:  Perfect, I want to know about the delivery of products that I’ve already ordered.

Him:  I’m sorry for the inconvenience.  What delivery method did you choose?

Me:  Standard, but I ordered this over a month ago.   Four weeks to be exact.

Him:  There is no guaranteed delivery date for items ordered with standard delivery.

Me:  That’s a stupid business model.  You sell time-sensitive products and you don’t guarantee the customer will get them in time for their function?

Him:  Well, that’s why we offer rush delivery options.

Me:  When I ordered these a month ago, there wasn’t a rush.  You’ve created the rush by sitting on this order for a month.  Why should I have to pay an extra $30 for you to get these out the door when you’ve had a month already?

Him:  It’s just that rush orders get priority.

Me:  So, even though I ordered my stuff a month ago, if a rush order comes in after mine, you stop working my order and move the rush order ahead?  What, do you do standard orders in your free time?  I ordered 60 printed items.  Even if you printed 2 per day during a lunch hour, you’ve still had enough time to get these done.  It’s been a month.

Him:  I’m really sorry for the inconvenience.

Me:  If I don’t get these this week I will call back and get a refund so I can order locally.  I’m not impressed.

……

Later via email:  Congratulations!   Your order has shipped.  Below is the tracking confirmation number….

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Why is it that people, companies, entities etc. will take advantage of people for as long as they can get away with it?  Is it too much to ask for people to just do their jobs and treat people equitably?

I try really hard to be patient with people, especially those in customer service, because I worked in customer service for many years during and right after college.  So, when I lose it with “customer service” people, they’ve pushed me to that point.  I think that people are sometimes so jaded and tired of dealing with customers that they just talk and don’t even pay attention to what they say.  If you don’t have an education, can’t speak the language, or if you don’t have an advocate, you’re just screwed.  It shouldn’t be that way.  As a society, as a legal profession, we shouldn’t be OK with people getting the shaft.

I say, hold people/entities/companies accountable.   If I strive to fully resolve my own issues and those of my family, perhaps I’m making it a little easier for the next customer that comes behind me.  I like to thinks so, anyway.

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