"All Rise!" Not For Me

If I were to tell you that I’ve engaged in soul-searching for the past few months, would you scoff? What! A trial lawyer with a soul? And me, of all people, a scrivener with a poison pen? What provoked this?

The prospect of a judgeship was dangled before my eyes. I was in New York when the question was popped: "Have you ever thought of becoming a federal judge?" The questioner’s eyes bored in, searching. My interlocutor was a person of some influence.

"Er, um, no," I said. The circumstances were such that it took me a moment to say what was really on my mind. "Are you are out of your mind? How much do you think you know about me?"

The questioner was well prepared, and recited from memory details about my education, the trajectory of my legal career, my bookstore. "The Obama administration is looking for civil rights and criminal defense lawyers for the bench," I was told. "You are very well regarded."

I called my wife immediately afterward. "You won’t believe what I just heard," I told her. And she didn’t. She was at first put off by the idea, even troubled. Her father, you see, did federal time for refusing to take a loyalty oath in the 1950s. She still recalls visiting him at the Danbury penitentiary. My father was luckier, although an illegal immigrant and sometime armed robber; he never did time. Things got sticky once when he shot a man, so he fled town with the woman he was dating and put down roots elsewhere. The couple soon became my parents.

After the shock wore off, I started to make phone calls. My first was to a wise politico in Washington, D.C., who had himself once managed judicial candidates for a U.S. Senator. "You’d be great," he said, digesting this improbable prospect. But as he described the process of appointment it looked like more than a long shot. Of all the qualified folks out there, a Senator suggests someone who helps satisfy a political debt.

"I’m a lone wolf," I said dejectedly. "I owe nothing to anyone."

"And that’s your best defense," the politico said.

I called friends and colleagues whom I know to have some regard for me, trying to see just how crazy the idea sounded. Kind words flattered my vanity, so I called people whose reaction was uncertain to me. More kind words, and a few barbs. "Well we want a diverse federal bench. You would certainly provide that," one person said. Was that an icicle I heard falling in the summer heat? A few folks looked at me with thinly veiled hostility, struggling hard to find something safe to say.

After a month or so of reality testing, I screwed up my courage and laid out my prospects to a man with clout here in Connecticut. He was gracious; even enthusiastic. Calls were made to the state’s two Senators. One office called immediately and wanted more information. But the other office was silent.

I continued making the rounds, letting folks know about my interest. "Don’t tell too many people," I was counseled. "Don’t let your enemies mobilize." And I began to wonder what life would really be like if I were left alone with the law and was not tethered to the needs and demands of clients in crisis. My wife and I are already near recluses; the prospect of social isolation did not daunt me. My only doubt was the loss of independence. I am now free to do and speak as I please. Would the robe muzzle?

The idea grew on me. Being something other than an outsider appealed. Could I be happy as something other than a resident alien among people of goodwill? I thought I might be.

It all came crashing down on me the other day. I am told that I will not enjoy the support of the Senator who matters in these things. And my congresswoman won’t extend a hand either. I am dead in the water, it seems, despite the good wishes from folks in New York.

I am not surprised, even if rejection hurts. I’ve thrown so many stones in my life it was hard to believe that some would not boomerang and come hurtling back at me. So in the trenches I remain, free to speak my mind and do as I please. Things could be worse.

Reprinted courtesy of the Connecticut Law Tribune.
Comments (2)
Posted on July 29, 2009 at 11:41 am by Anonymous
Dear Distinguished Members of the U.S. Senate and...
Dear Distinguished Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives from Connecticut, You have a unique, even precious opportunity to send Life and Integrity back into our beleagured judiciary. If you question the depth of disdain with which Americans hold her judges, spend five minutes surfing the bulging tsunsmi of criticism, sarcasm, bitterness, hatred and contempt smashing across our shores and country. If you have any decency, any common sense (and political savvy) you must conclude that Norm Pattis may be the only man in America who can restore confidence to our courts. He has earned the respect and admiration of the rich and poor, conservative and liberal, lawyers of every specialty and Joe Public. Dear God, people, we need this guy! You must see that. Even people who disagree with his legal positions, love him for his goodness and decency. And brains? Without ever flaunting his intellect, clearly he at the top, second to none. And guess what else? You will be held in high esteem by a majority of your constituents if you will get off your backsides and support his nomination and confirmation to the bench. Open your eyes and ears. Providence is trying to get your attention. Come on! Do the next right thing Senators Dodd and Lieberman, Representatives Kennelly, Gejdenson, DeLauro, Shays, Maloney and Johnson.

Christopher Dodd
444 SROB
Washington, D.C. 20510
phone 202-224-2823
fax 202-224-1083
[hidden email].gov

Joseph I. Lieberman
706 SHOB
Washington, D.C. 20510
phone 202-224-4041
fax 202-224-9750
[hidden email].gov


Barbara Kennelly - D
1st Congressional District
201 CHOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
phone 202-225-2265
fax 202-225-1031

Samuel Gejdenson - D
2nd Congressional District
1401 LHOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
phone 202-225-2076
fax 202-225-4977
[hidden email].gov

Rosa DeLauro - D
3rd Congressional District
436 CHOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
phone 202-225-3661
fax 202-225-4890

Christopher Shays - R
4th Congressional District
1502 LHOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
phone 202-225-5541
fax 202-225-9629
[hidden email].gov

James H. Maloney - D
5th Congressional District
1213 LHOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
phone 202-225-3822
fax 202-225-5746

Nancy Johnson - R
6th Congressional District
343 CHOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
phone 202-225-4476
fax 202-225-4488

Posted on July 27, 2009 at 9:38 pm by Windypundit
Even though the title gave it away, I was still pu...
Even though the title gave it away, I was still pulling for you to the end.
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About Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis is a Connecticut based trial lawyer focused on high stakes criminal cases and civil right violations. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled.

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I believe that the state is a necessary fiction and that failing to combat it is the first step toward tyranny.
– Norm Pattis


Nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice about your case. You need a lawyer who understands the context of your life and situation. What are offered here are merely suggested lines of inquiry you may explore with your lawyer.

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