A Man Of Sorrows

The call shocked me. Mark Hurley has been released from prison. He’s done his time and is back at home with his family. Do I have any work for him?

            Mark is a former prosecutor. I’ve known him for many years. He drove hard bargains on behalf of the state, and I was never sure where I stood with him. He would always listen, but I sometimes had the sense he found me distasteful. I can be a bit much.

            When he was accused of embezzlement I was stunned. He took monies from the prosecutor’s union, where he enjoyed a position of trust, and used them to service gambling debt. When he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to prison time, I was heavy hearted. How had this good man gone down? Would he survive this fall from grace? And what of his wife, his children? Prison rarely does anyone any good.  We kid ourselves suggesting otherwise.

            I didn’t call Mark when his troubles struck. In part, I was angry at him for failing. It is hard to work out a criminal case. When a state’s attorney or law enforcement officer stumbles, shockwaves go throughout the system. Every defendant harbors the cruel hope that the taint will somehow rebound to their benefit. And I was vain enough to be upset that he did not call me to represent him. I am cocky enough to pit my skills against anyone’s.

            But I was also unwilling to shoulder the man’s sorrow. There is simply too much grief in the day-to-day practice of law. Clients weep, rage and become undone over the choices they must make. My greatest failings as a lawyer are in the area of client communication: I simply don’t what to do with all the pain client’s express. I prefer the legal issues, transforming tragedy into puzzles.

            But Mark is home now, I was told. He has been released from prison. Hearing those words brought tears to my eyes. I know the man and I know that he is so much more than the sum of his worst moments. And I know how cruel the world is. He’ll bear a scarlet F on his forehead. Much of the world will never give him a chance. We will indulge in hypocrisy.

            Mark has made restitution to the union. He has served his time behind bars, time served in protective custody lest an inmate he prosecuted administer some informal jailhouse justice. He is now on probation and must find a way to support his family. It will be hard, I know. I’ve seen too many clients never recover from a simple mistake. But his debt to society, whatever that means, has been paid.

            So I called Mark to wish him well.

            I wanted to reach through the phone to give him a hug. We’ve all sinned in ways large and small. Mark’s sin became a crime, his shame public, his ruin complete. But Lazarus has returned: I felt like a friend had been returned from the dead.

            It was good to talk to him. He has faced his failure and is resolute about his chances. His wife has stood by him. His mission now is to keep a roof over his children’s head. He is an ordinary man who loves and is loved.

            Late that night, the night after I called him, I saw the twinkling of a diamond in the rough. It had been cast aside by a society too foolish and punitive to realize that error is really just another of life’s many paths. Mark may not be able to practice law, but nothing prevents him from working as a paralegal. What an asset he would be to a firm representing people in trouble. He’s been there. He’s survived. He has a fine mind and legal training.

            I called him again before I went to sleep. Would he consider working for the likes of me?

    By the time you read this, we will have met and fleshed out the possibilities. If I am lucky, I will have hired the services of a man of sorrows acquainted with grief.

What tongue-clucking the self-righteous will enjoy. But tell me, truly, who among us is without sin and sorrow?

Reprinted courtesy of the Connecticut Law Tribune. 

Comments: (6)

  • I amost never reject a comment, but I have decided...
    I amost never reject a comment, but I have decided not to post an anonymous comment I received about Mark Hurley. This a note to the sender.
    First, thanks for reading. From what I gather, Hurley prosecuted you and it was not a good experience. You wish you have retained me to represent you. I may or may not have been able to do you much good. So much is determined by the character of the state's proof.
    Next, you recite particulars about the harm Hurley did when he broke the law. You recited things that I had not heard. They may be true. However, the man has pleaded guilty, done his time and is now trying to put his life back together. I take seriously the notion that once one's time has been done, the past is passed.
    Finally, my office is tries to do its best for its clients. Not all clients are happy with my results. I accept that. It is the nature of the work we do here. Mark can make a great contribution; he understands the opposition, so to speak.
    I realize entertaining the decision to hire Mark is deeply disappointing to you and may well cost me your readership. I hope you will reconsider, but if this makes me a hypocrite in your eyes, then I suspect the damage is already done.
    Thanks for reading.
    Posted on September 4, 2009 at 1:24 am by Norm Pattis
  • Mark committed many sinful acts with his embezzlem...
    Mark committed many sinful acts with his embezzlement and he will hae to answer to his maker. His actions show character flaws. My only question is, can you trust a thief? Will he return to his 'character' if given the opportunity for whatever reasons? Hire people not only based on their qualifications but character as well. You may just find yourself, one day 'pinched' by Mark and you will have no one to blame but yourself. If he was one of many committing these acts and was the only one caught, well, that's a different story. I would hope that the loophole that allowed Mark to embezzle is now given better oversight. Temptations are a 'tricky' thing for human beings; it takes ingrained integrity to partake in 'opportunities' presented when everyone else is engaging.
    You are making a business decision, you can hire a lawyer for the price of a paraleagal but you are in the business of trust. If you're not a micromanager, you are trusting your employees to represent your firm. Lots of pitfalls in this relationship without trust.
    If you trust Mark, hire him. If you're hiring him to get a lawyer at the price of a paraleagal, rethink all considerations and stop gaps you have or can have in place.
    Posted on September 8, 2009 at 7:10 am by Anonymous
  • I happen to agree with you. I have known Mark sinc...
    I happen to agree with you. I have known Mark since law school and was more hurt and saddened than angered when I learned of his theft. To his credit, he has taken responsibility for his behavior and attempted to undo the wrong he caused.
    We all need to realize that unless society intends to incarcerate a person for their natural life, they will released-hopefully to return as a productive member of society. I wish Mark well.
    Posted on September 8, 2009 at 8:20 am by SkyDog
  • America is all about second chances. I have met M...
    America is all about second chances. I have met Mark a few times over the years. I find him an intelligient person with a great legal mind. He made a mistake, he paid for it, now it is time to move on. Norm Pattis I commend you for giving him a second chance.
    Posted on September 14, 2009 at 6:17 pm by Anonymous
  • Hiring an ex-con says alot about Norm Pattis, does...
    Hiring an ex-con says alot about Norm Pattis, doesn't it? "Smart" marketing, according to the suave and sophisticated brokers of retailing image, where image is everything, must be having a good laugh at Old Norm. Wouldn't you agree? "He's done it again" they muse and chuckle. "How To Destroy Your Hard Earned Reputation As A Genius Of The Court And The Future Of Your Legal Practice Without Batting An Eye: HIRE A CONVICTED FELON AND FORMERLY IMPRISONED LAWYER, by nationally revered superlawyer, Mr. Norman Pattis, Esq." would be a cute title to a new book describing Norm's lack of business acumen. Or, so they think.
    They are wrong. Hiring Hurley broadcasts the nature of his heart, beautifully.
    One day America will wake up and realize the incredible value of being a good and decent human being.
    Posted on September 19, 2009 at 6:52 pm by Anonymous
  • Mom? Gee, thanks. When did you learn to use the I...
    Mom? Gee, thanks. When did you learn to use the Internet?
    Posted on September 20, 2009 at 12:26 am by Norm Pattis

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