Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Fight for Second Chances

"Between the Rounds" by Thomas Eakins.
My boxing coach told Santiago, "Paul's lying. Go ask him again." At the time, I had finished jumping rope and wanted to improve on my agility: bobbing and weaving and slipping mainly.

During my break, Santiago asked me, "Are you a lawyer?"

Instead of saying, no, like last time, I said, "Why?" (Even though I told myself I was never returning back to the court battles.)

"I have a problem with my record. Because of it, I can't get a new job." 

"What's the problem?"

"I was street racing five years ago, and they charged me with a felony. I was 21. I applied for this job, but I couldn't get it because of my record."

There I was, sweaty, and in shorts, and my hands wrapped up, analyzing the case in the gym. (I should've been in a suit and tie in a swanky office.)

But what Santiago didn't know was that two months ago, I had the same kind of case up in Seattle, Washington and had learned how to do this kind of work.

"Is it a wobbler?"

"What's that?" 

I realized then I shouldn't have used the legalise. "It's when the crime charged could be either a felony or a misdemeanor." I had a feeling this was going to be a good case.

"I don't know."

"Give me your case number when you have the chance."

Santiago texted it to me. I did the research. It was a wobbler. 

I asked him to go to the courthouse and get a copy of the minute order for me.

After he did, later in the week, I went to the law library and analyzed the case. I wanted it. I knew it was a good case. I agreed to take it.

Because this case was different than my Seattle case, I had to draft a brief from scratch. I enjoyed customizing my own motion, even though it took 15 hours to write.

I filed it in court. They set the matter for calendar in two weeks. I think it took us by surprise how fast everything was happening.

* * *

Yesterday, after waiting two hours, the judge called us.

I saw a sign posted on the benches. It read, "Turn off all cell phones." I told Santiago, "How come in the movies, they never show these signs?"

He chuckled.

Then I told him, "Also, in the movies, the lawyers mainly win by what they say in open court. But in real life, generally, you win by what you wrote. So, it's really important that the judge's read my brief."

I knew immediately he read my brief. The prosecutors didn't oppose what we were asking for. The judge granted us everything we wanted. He reduced the charge to a misdemeanor. He expunged my client's record.

I tripped up on my words a little bit in open court, even though there wasn't much to say. I was fatigued. I didn't have the best sleep the night before. It was probably because I haven't been physically present in court for almost a year. Not that you forget how to do it, but I was just exhausted.

I was thinking to myself, this isn't an impact litigation case, which means you're doing a big case to change the law or society. Like Brown v. the Board of Education. 

No. But it'll change his life, and as the Talmud says, "He who saves the life of one man saves the entire world." 

I believe in giving people second chances (except when I'm too mad to think about it). And now my client will have that. Every time my brother or I passed through a significant milestone in life, my father would buy us new clothes. He said that giving new clothes to someone was like giving them a new life.

The client's family told me later that they were in this courtroom before for another family member. So, they were already familiar with the judge and the bailiff. 

But this time they were happy and relieved to see the court grant relief to my client. I wondered if it mattered for them to see that the justice system worked for them this time.

We all went out and celebrated and had lunch outside on a hot summer day. I ordered a chicken sandwich with rice.

But after I came home, I felt exhausted and miserable. I didn't realize how tiring it was to go back into law and motion. It probably took a toll on me to realize that my reputation at the boxing club was also at stake, but I didn't become aware of how draining all this was, until I fell asleep for 12 hours.

Two cases won. Two cases closed this week. Two more pending.

What my client didn't know, was that this was the first case I filed under my nonprofit corporation - Plousiouv En Pistei - which is Greek for Wealthy in Faith. It's not only a second chance for my client, but it's also been the baptism by fire my organization's been waiting for.

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