Updating the Blog Roll
I’ve been trying to update the blogroll and clean up the site a bit. If you’re not listed on the right hand bar, please let me know and I’ll add you. You know who you are.
Last night, at a birthday party for two Section 3 peeps, I was taken to task for letting my blogging slip. Actually, I had a kind of incident that I wanted to sit on for a bit before blogging, and that post became my placeholder – I felt I couldn’t blog, even on unrelated issues, until I’d resolved that initial issue/post. But it’s done and I’m back on track. Anyone ever experience that kind of blogging quasi-paralysis?
Crim Law Blogging
This might be a good time to discuss blogging about the Clinic and legal stuff in general.
First off, I’ve added a disclaimer to my blog’s right hand bar. I won’t directly respond to legal questions beyond to say that you ought to go contact a lawyer who can help you. There are lots of reasons for that response – but basically it’s because the law is a subtle and tricky thing that varies from place to place. If you really need legal advice to help you make any kind of decision or advise anyone, you’re best off going to someone who is familiar in that area of the law, establishing a confidential relationship, and getting sound advice. Think of lawyers like medical specialists. You don’t ask your dentist about nerve trouble in your legs. Sure, the dentist might know *something* about it, but what you really ought to be doing is talking to a specialist.
What you will find on the blog are my (mediated) reflections on my legal experiences, partially fictionalized and elided to shield my clients. I think that sharing these reflections is important for several reasons.
On the most basic level, I love to slay assumptions and myths, especially those that “professionals” perpetuate in an effort to cultivate some kind of mystique or create barriers between themselves and the unwashed masses. I’ve long done this with poetry – the blog reflects that to a degree. While I don’t doubt that poets need *some* ambiguity in discourse and some metaphorical reflection on what they do, I draw the line at what I think is smoke-blowing. I like to challenge poetics – specifically, I like to see how well they’re put together and if they do what people say/think they do. A better understanding of how things *actually are* can only improve what we bring to future processes – where we sink our resources and why, what we choose to value and why. It’s a basic “kick the tires” philosophy.
As far as the law goes, there are a lot of assumptions and myths out there. The law and legal processes are fertile fiction-making ground. However, the problem with this is that the need for equity and justice is fundamental to our make up, some would argue it’s actually a biological imperative. When there’s bad data fed into our need for fairness and equity, say, in the form of too many stories about X, our society often errs and creates injustice in the pursuit of justice. This is especially true when we’re dealing with situations/crimes that strike a deep emotional/moral chord within us.
For example, our societal/collective emotional reaction to child molesters (whetted by all the media stories and hard vituperative commentary) *greatly exceeds* our emotional reaction to corporate criminals. I’m not saying one shouldn’t be thought of as worse, but the fact remains that one is an easy emotionalized target in the mass media and one is not. This ease in emotionalization means it’s relatively easy to write the TV show where the gritty cops struggle to save a small child from a monster. It’s harder (although it’s been done) to write a script for a TV show that shows the diffuse harm created by someone destroying companies in the pursuit of the capitalistic dream. There are no easy images for the mind to latch on to. We haven’t invested our cultural and artistic resources in creating those kind of images, in mythologizing those figures.
Should we give a *relatively* free pass to someone who, by manipulating financial systems, destroys tens of thousands of people’s security and thus systemically creates the stressors which intensify the chances for depression, suicide, domestic violence (which could create a child molester) and substance abuse? What about the “enablers” for those corporate criminals – those who tacitly encourage activity by, say, telling the right jokes, or who openly engage in shady but not illegal practices? They’re off the radar, even though the collective harm they create is arguably far greater than the lone molester.
Consider the *amount* of coverage given to Carr recently, the sheer amount of human thought wasted on a wanna-be molester and his circle of acquaintances. Our society is too complex for single issues to dominate public discourse.
I think one way of reclaiming some of the public discourse or societal thinking space is to simply talk about issues. I’d like to add my voice to the many who are already out there (see crim law blawgs on the right) to report on what I see, counter assumptions, broaden a few perspectives, throw some clichés under the bus.
Blogging is a good way to do that. Even if it’s only an audience of new 10 random persons a day, you have the chance to present your arguments to someone who may fully read through a post and do some thinking. That kind of incremental change is worth my time. Certainly, if any of those people are ever going to sit on a jury in their lives.
If lawyers, per The American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct, have a moral obligation to engage in public interest legal service, one aspect of which is educating the public about legal matters, then blogging seems a very important and effective way to do this.
Of course, the problem with just openly blogging about my experiences in the criminal justice system and letting people make up their minds about what I’m relating is that there’s an issue of client confidentiality.
People need to be able to trust their lawyers – when only one person stands between you and the state locking you up, that person should have all the information they can about “things,” and that information should be sealed, locked, and sacrosanct. Thus there are some things I can never blog about.
So, unfortunately, many PD bloggers often settle for not writing about their client’s cases, or to linking to news articles about criminal law matters. I’m not here to criticize that practice, although I do think it may be a bit more cautious than is necessary.
I’m going to explore the ethics of blogging about client cases further and may change some of my practices in the future. But for a first rough cut, I think I ought to worry about client confidentiality/trust, ex parte contact, unauthorized practice of law, admissions (which can be used against my client or myself).
Obviously, I can’t ethically reveal any embarrassing information about my clients. Nor can I divulge their confidences. Nor do I wish to divulge their identities. So I should shield my clients on the blog.
The odd thing about this is that so much of what I should be shielding (as an ethical matter) is public information. While, anyone can go to (or call up) a courthouse and get information on pending cases, at least *I* as the client’s counsel, am not revealing it.
I think that actively obscuring client identities, using their cases to talk about “that type” of case in general, and, of course, simply refraining from revealing problematic details, is a good fit. I think I can go with “public” facts – i.e., whatever anyone in the courtroom could have seen or heard – but I think I have to be careful about selecting those as well, insofar as they might say anything about my trial strategy, or hi-light any information that could potentially come back to haunt a client, etc.
So, what does that leave? Mostly my impressions from my end. Some general discussion about types of cases. Should be enough.
What does this have to do with Vegetarian Haggis? Nothing. Except I have some in my fridge. Actually, it’s even Vegan, if you can believe it. Mushrooms, nuts, quorn (great stuff), oatmeal, olive oil, black/white/red pepper and some of the more savory spices. I made up a batch in the slow cooker, along with some potatoes and turnips, for no reason at all. I got the fire, but the smokiness and richness is lacking.
I also made some of my mock chicken soup – but not vegan since in involves egg whites. It’s a lot of food but I need the fuel. I’m riding some kind of cold/flu/achy thing. The headcold element is small, but yesterday I had trouble climbing the stairs here as I felt sluggish and light headed.
Food + sickness + long week =s lots of reading, much catching up with Battlestar Galactica Season 2 (is my stomach tight because of sickness or plot-line?), and placating El Gato Perfecto with small bits of string and fur.
There's also endless legal stuff-a-tude, which will be the subject of my next post.