A New Year Begins


I suppose I will never stop reckoning years like a student. Some part of me still believes that the year begins right after summer vacation. Thus, today marks the beginning of another year. I returned to the office this morning after a month away. Just as when I was a student, the new year excites and terrifies. I always wondered then, as I do now, whether I would be able to meet the challenges ahead.

It's funny how little things change, even after the passage of so many years. But the fact is I spent more than a quarter of a century on the student's clock. I completed grade school, junior high school and high school in Chicago and Detroit. Then it was on to college, graduate school and then law school. Some part of me is still a student: the other night a new textbook arrived in the mail on the use of DNA evidence in litigation. I performed the by now ancient ritual that comes with the arrival of each new textbook: I looked at the table of contents, and then leafed through the book, looking at the illustrations, tables and charts. The thought that I might master this material excited me; the work it would take to get from my present state of ignorance to that distant goal intimidated me. I can do all that is required, I reminded myself; I just cannot do it all at once.

Life is a lot more challenging now than it was as a student. Then all I had to worry about was passing tests, a task that was easy enough in retrospect. Now the tasks are more complex. I represent people in conflicts that often define them for the rest of their lives. There is no textbook I can survey on the eve of a new year to see where the road ahead leads. The road ahead is open, even if experience suggests the sorts of destinations I can be expected to visit each year. This year will bring heartache, joy and fatigue. It will be a year like many others.

A few nights ago, I sat in something like dread and sorrow. I didn't know whether I could walk into the tornado of grief that comes of running a small practice devoted to criminal defense and civil rights. So few of the folks who come to see me bear glad tidings. Most are afraid, or angry. I am in my office on a Sunday morning with appointments scheduled, a familiar ritual. Strangers will come and tell me their woe; I will tell them what I think can be done for them. We will negotiate fees. Listening takes courage.

But after entertaining fear, an old and odd resilience returned. I could almost feel it seeping into me, just below the radar of what I can easily perceive. I know how to fight, and I am good at it. People come to me because I am, like all trial lawyers are, a prize fighter. The fights most of my clients are engaged in are not fights they chose; they ask me to fight for their liberty and for their dignity. I am flattered and stunned that someone would trust me with something so valuable. I may not have the larger truths of a priest to dispense, but I am entrusted nonetheless with something sacred: I am a criminal defense lawyer, the keeper of another's hope. From small sparks I am expected to fan great flames without becoming consumed in the conflagration: No wonder I face each new year with anxious trepidation.

But the new year has begun. It started about an hour ago. I am lucky to have had the past month to find peace, solace and joy in my wife and our dogs. They have given me much by way of internal strength. Comes now the time to share what strength I possess. Comes now another year of warfare, joy and sorrow. Comes now another in a seemingly endless series of years that I know will someday end. But not today. Today is for fighting.

Comments: (3)

  • Siddhartha Gautama? Jesus Christ? Patrick Henry?
    ...
    Siddhartha Gautama? Jesus Christ? Patrick Henry?
    Dr. Martin Luther King? I give up! Maybe some defendant in CT,... Michael Ross?
    Posted on August 3, 2010 at 9:56 am by William Doriss
  • Today is as good a day as any to die. Someone onc...
    Today is as good a day as any to die. Someone once said that. Any idea who it was?
    Posted on August 3, 2010 at 9:06 am by mirriam
  • Comes now the time to put the nail in the coffin o...
    Comes now the time to put the nail in the coffin of the Ct State criminal 'justice' system, a state-sponsored criminal enterprise operating in violation of applicable RICO statutes ,... and the U.S. Constitution, for at least the duration of Rowland/Rell.
    It really is not all that difficult. Just look at the records, the transcripts, etc. Just go to the courthouses and observe the abominable, outrageous proceedings which pass for 'justice', go on every day and make no sense whatsoever. How can these outrages not be obvious? Inquiring Minds want to know the answers to these questions.
    I had the privilege of discussing the Canadian justice system today with a Canadian national. This was regarding the bogus, false conviction of Christopher McCowen in Barnstable Co. Court, 2006. I was in attendance for five weeks as a member of the press corps, and am now pushing a book re: this case. The Canadian said the judicial system in Canada was nothing like the U.S. I said, "I hope not."
    McCowen was was falsely convicted thru the illegal and unlawful actions of prejudiced Judge Gary A. Nickerson, who co-conspired with the Commonwealth to railroad the defendant into three totally false convictions, in violation of well-established due process protections and the guarantees of the Bill of Rights, U.S.A.
    How do I know this? Well, I was in attendance, not at the scene of the 'crime' mind you, but at the scene of the criminal proceedings against McCowen by the DA's office of the Commonwealth.
    McCowen now rots in prison under a life sentence, when he has family and children to take care of. This is an abomination. What is wrong with us!? Are we stewpid, or just plain ignorant? Why cannot we fix these things?
    I sympathize with your Sisyphean task, Norm, most sincerely. Better you than me! I would be disbarred already, were I in your shoes, if not held in contempt and locked up myself. This is a total outrage. Keep up the good work. The Last shall be First, and the First shall be Last.
    No, former Governor Rowland was nowhere in evidence this weekend. I was looking forward to Round 2. Maybe I scared him off Cape. He can run, but he cannot hide. Sorry, Governor! But you had choices, and you guessed WRONG, Wrong, wrong. Need I say more? May you recognize the errors of your ways in this lifetime. May you someday realize how many lives you have irrevocably altered and/or destroyed without warrant or true probable cause,... because of your aberrant, deviant political ambitions?
    Next? Oh, hi Charlie Rangel. Please step into my office. We have some questions regarding 'alleged' unethical activities by you in the great State of New York... You have the right to remain silent and retain counsel, and you are not compelled by this committee to incriminate yourself...
    Posted on August 1, 2010 at 12:40 pm by William Doriss

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