Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Winning, Losing, and Still Celebrating

This was a week of winning, losing, and still celebrating.

My win was a small one, but a great victory for the victim.

I'm not sure how, but my summer jobs rarely included selling lemonade. Though, for my audience, I used to be roustabout working on an oil rig once. I remember that job clearly, always coming home smelling of what you would recognize as diesel oil and a smudgy face. I was only 17 then, working on a scorched oil field. The only thing better about that job than this one is that it actually paid more than my summer job now. Lawyers just aren't in that great of a demand in Los Angeles. Too much supply. (Incidentally, I like how the word diesel sounds. My next cat will be a cat called Diesel.) In Korean it would sound like "Dee-juhl"

My summer jobs in law tend to be criminal in nature. This summer I work for the prosecutors. Please don't hiss or spit at me. I have been getting a lot of terrible feedback about it all.

However, it's not as bad as you think. I work for the juvenile prosecutors. The experience is a good one, as I am in court everyday! I see the machinery of law. The district attorneys have even had me write one significant motion for adult court. He used it almost all in full force and effect and won his hearing.

The district attorneys and the public defenders and the judges all have one goal in common for juvenile justice, and that is: "rehabilitation." We all want to make sure that these youths reform. The question is how to accomplish this. Everyone has a different perspective on this. The defenders want the juveniles to go home. The judges want to make sure that they really change. I think the prosecutors do too, except they do believe in having the youth pay for consequences for their actions. All in all, I'd rather be a prosecutor for juvenile justice than a public defender. We've already seen one kid shot by being sent back home to parents who have no control over their delinquent youth.

I suppose, a big part of why I like the prosecutor's office in juvenile is that they are training me in prosecuting sex criminals, rapists and the like. I had my first hearing, where the victim was abused sexually by the 16 year old jock. As a result, the victim had to relocate. I was able to win the hearing with help from the prosecutor, and get her financially compensated for all the Hell they went through. There was no better feeling to shake the hand of the victim's mother and smile and say, "I did my best." She smiled back and said, "I know you did."

Of course, the private attorney, who was most likely making $10,000-$15,000 USD on the case was angry and even yelled at me in the court, "He's just unreasonable!" Of course, I asked for the most amount of money I could. The attorney training me later said, "I wouldn't have asked for that much, but I'm glad you did. Shows how aggressive you are."

Onto losses now. I had my hearing. I was so confident, the night before, I would win my hearing against the City's motion to dismiss my case. The City had a pathetic brief with pathetic case law supporting them.

Everyone in the court room was interested when the speaker voice called out: "Paul Cook in pro versus the Mayor of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles, the Chief of Police, and the City Council." The defendant attorney started his argument.

I said, "Your Honor, this is just a waste of everybody's time. Your time. My time. The defendant hasn't prepared a brief with only one case, and that case he cites cites only to dicta. [dicta means it's just words, not actual rule of law.]"

The judge then said, "How do you respond to that?"

And like an easy judo spar, I was putting tremendous pressure against the opponent. It was time for the "Coup de gras (finishing move)"

The judge then said, "You were very persuasive both in your brief and oral argument Mr. Cook. But judgment for the defendant. Demurrer sustained without leave to amend on all causes of action." I wish I could have said I was shocked, but something in my mind said, "Get him on record Paul. Get the judge on record. It's what you've learned working for the prosecutors."

So I did, "Your honor. May I ask for the reasoning behind this ruling?"

And he, not wanting to say the reason only said, "The statute lets me dismiss it."

I collected myself. Walked out. Two people in the courtroom thanked me. The defendant attorney shook my hand and said, "I wish I got your experience at your age. Good fight." He did respect me. I could tell, but I was then angry and in shock. I said, "Well, I suppose I'll see you at appeals."

I walked out of the court house. It was raining on a Los Angeles June day. June Gloom as they call it. I called my professor - no answer. I called my mentor. He just listened to my frustration.

I had a fix it ticket I got that morning, and it made me almost late to court. So, I went to see Father. I told him I had lost. He said, "I knew you would lose. You're taking on the City. You think you can win."

I explained, "Dad, my car needs to be fixed. I got a fix-it ticket. The brake lights aren't working." He went to work fixing it. I called my mentee, Sasha, and told him I had lost. He seemed surprised too.

It was raining on both of us. My father yelled at me, "Don't you have any sense of shame. Don't tell people you lost." This was the same father who was thrilled I won my prosecution hearing. It was then, I realized he operates from a different cultural value then me. Mine operates on transparency and getting the emotions out. He operates from honor and shame.

I drove to my Hollywood home in Julia, the 1967 mustang convertible. It was drizzling. I called my support networks. My lawyer, who's like an older sister just said, "Paul, it's hard. It's hard to fight injustice. You see how the system is now."

I called my trial teacher. I asked him, "How do you deal with losing?" I think the reason I was so angry was that in my opinion, this wasn't a 50/50% win lose case. This was really a 95% to 5% win/lose probability. And the judge wouldn't even tell me why he ruled the weight he did.

My trial teacher said, "Have you ever heard of a Martini? Because that's what I had to f)(*&)(*& drink when I lost my hearing yesterday." I felt worse for him. His hearing dealt with a special education teacher's assistant, who was laid off by Los Angeles Unified School District because the District lost the assistants paperwork. After they retrieved the paperwork, the LAUSD said that it was too late, he was fired. It's the way Cities and Governments are coping with the budget cut. Then I thought, well, that would be harder for me to tell a client who unjustly lost his or her job, I lost the case. Here, I don't have a real client - except me. He didn't give me a satisfactory answer on coping with losing. I put so much time in writing that brief. How could I have lost? He only said, "Get used to it. It happens."

Then, I had to deal with telling my sponsor the bad news. I met up with my mentor. We went through it together. This is how you deliver bad news, Paul. You start with the verdict. Then you go through the reasoning. Then you lay out the options. And you give your recommendation.

The next day, I call my sponsor. I tell him, "We lost. I don't know the reason why. I asked for it on record and the judge wouldn't give it. I think he doesn't want to deal with the politics of ruling against the City of Los Angeles. Our options are do nothing or appeal. I think an appeal is a good idea because I have a good chance of winning the Appeal."

Without a hesitation, he said, "Appeal it. You've already worked this hard. You wrote an excellent brief. You have great arguments. I know you did your best."

Hey that made me feel a lot better.

My professor called me the day before. She too was very comforting about the whole thing. She's also seasoned, so she expects these kind of rulings. Today, I called an attorney who was helping me with the project. He empathized with my loss and supported the appeals. I also recruited another professor, who supports the appeal.

I told myself, when I first lost, "When you win, you have friends. When you lose, you lose alone." (Spin off of a Korean proverb.) I now know that is not true. I lost, and I did not lose alone. I lost with a community who supported me to get back up and once again fight the good fight. The grief subsidized as I began my research for the appeals process. I was moving forward, I was going to fight my way up.

I saw my gym partner on Friday and we watched X-Men together (awesome movie by the way.) My gym partner Sean says, "Come on Paul. You'll have appellate experience. How many law students can say that?" Well that's true I thought.

And on Sunday, June 19th, I took a break from it all. I was celebrating me bday. The night before my mother and I marinated Korean bbq. We went out to the beach and 8 close friends came by. We charcoal cooked the bbq. One comment, a friend made was, "Wow, this is real food at the beach. not like hot dogs and hamburgers." The food cooked fast. We had a cheesecake for my bday. We drank yummy drinks as well. They sang me happy bday. And as the 9 of us watched the beach sunset, I knew I was a wealthy person.

I turned 21 that day. =)

And that's how my week went. Busy week, aye?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Finals and Beyond

It's been awhile that I've written in my journal. Let me explain why.

From the end of April to about the end of May, I had final examinations for law school. It was a miserable time. They always are. I had a thought though. With all the examinations I've taken since age 6, this may be some of my last ones. I have one year left, that is two more rounds of finals. Then the BAR Examination. That may be the end of my testing life.

Now, that I'm writing in retrospect, I can't really remember how painful it was. I think my mind's blocking it out. But I do, clearly remember staying in the library from 10am - 11pm every night. I had a permanent seat. It was here in the library tower:

I had two written exams this semester.

When I took one of them, I definitely had the thought: I can't believe that )(*&)( P*&UY@#$ PO*&U@#$, put that on the exam. I hate her!

On my second exam, it was criminal procedure. All multiple choice. That was a four hour exam. I thought the same thing - I hate him! I ran 7 miles home that day to keep myself sane.

I made finals a fasting, spiritual time. Your mind is focused. Your miserable. I gave up drinking for four weeks. I even took up running long distances. I started running 5 miles (8 kms) every other day. By the end of finals, I was running 12 miles (19.2kms) a day.

I thought, why not? In my New Year's resolution post: http://alchemistcook.blogspot.com/2011/01/new-years-resolution.html

I told myself I'd retake up martial arts. What that really meant was that I wanted to be healthier physically. What that really meant was I wanted my high school 6 pack of abs back. That was 13 years ago!

I failed so often at this goal. I wasn't fat when I started. And I knew I was actually not that far away from having awesome abs. But, I always failed at getting this. I tried several types of diets, but at the end of the day, it never worked. Dieting books don't really target my audience, an athletic guy who is at plateau at about 15% bodyfat.

But when you fail at a goal, you gain new insights and information about yourself. I was finally in a position to put it altogether to reach my goal. I sat down with a calculator, pen, and paper. I loved doing the math.

Alright, Paul, I told myself. You're at about 15% bodyfat. A 6 pack requires 10% or less. You are at 143lbs. 5% of bodyfat to you is 7.15 lbs of fat. You need to lose 2 lbs a week. If you lose less than that you'll probably go crazy from enduring at your program. At 2 lbs a week, you have about 3.5 weeks. That coincides with finals - not too bad of a time to suffer even more.

Every week, you need to create a deficit of 7,000 calories. You burn 1,500 calories a day. If you take away 500 calories a day, then you would be creating a 3,500 calories deficit. That's one pound. To lose the second one, you need to run. Your running schedule also changes as you need to burn more calories the less weight you are. Week one, you need to run about 30 miles, then 35 miles, then 42 miles a week. Yes, losing weight takes effort and work - despite what all these miracle dieting books tell you.

Week one, I lost 1.7 lbs. Week 2, I lost about the same. Ok, the math was working out. Your theoretical assumptions were right in practice. At the end of finals, I had my desired goal. it took lots of work and focus. And now, I want to lose the last four pounds to be super healthy.

The doctor took a blood sample and said, "Your blood level is at athletic levels. Keep up the fitness." So, that's good.

For the rest of my finals, I had three bloody papers.

In one, I looked at the nature of sexual abuse in male juvenile detention centers. It's sad. 1 in 8 male teenagers will be sexually abused. And it's 90% likely to happen from staff! It's the first research of its kind - so I thoroughly enjoyed doing it.

In my second paper, I wrote a brief to the Appeals Court on why Arizona should not be allowed to pull Mexican school children out of their schools and isolate them from the rest of society.

In my third paper, I wrote on the flawed approach in fixing our terrible public high school education.

I finished my brief on a Thursday. I was exhausted. I had finished two finals and three papers. A few moments after finishing my last paper, the City of Los Angeles served me in a nasty fashion. They moved to dismiss my case. It was a reminder that my break and rest would be short.

Then my editor of the Journal of Business and Strategy writes to me and says, "Get your article in."

I then had to start work four days later. This was all so much work.

But in any event, I still attempted to enjoy my few days off.

My friend Pierre and I ate some yummy food to celebrate me being done and his bday.

Notice the champagne sort of ended my fast.

And here's me driving in my toy through Beverly Hills. So much fun!

Work has started. I wear a suit. I can't stand wearing such formal attire everyday.

I finished a draft of my opposition motion against the City. I have a hearing on it June 16, 2011. I told my father about it. He said in Korean, "Fight the good fight."

So besides, fighting this law suit, writing this journal article, I wonder where should I go on holiday? It's between Indonesia or Belize now. What do my readers think?

Until next time. . .