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Mastering the Art of Embarrassing Myself

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 19, 2014 in Fail

I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Superior Court for a solo who’s only been licensed for about a year and 9 months now. While most of that has been on the civil side of the courthouse, it encompasses a handful or two of criminal cases as well.1

But in one of those weird coincidences of life, all of those clients have had last names falling in the first few letters of the alphabet — all “A”s and “C”s before today.

So I’m down in Wake County for Superior Court calendar call today, on behalf of three folks convicted as part of the misguided prosecutions of last year’s Moral Monday protestors.

One of them has a last name starting with H, so about thirty minutes or so into calendar call I note my appearance on his behalf and get a new court date.

Another hour or so goes by, and we’re only to L. I look at my watch and realize I need to go add time to the parking meter so I don’t end up with yet another parking ticket.2 My next client’s last name is Smith, so I figure I’ve got time.

I go downstairs, throw a couple more quarters in the meter, come back to the courtroom… and see everyone streaming out :surprised:

Panicked that I just missed calendar call for two of my clients, I rush up to the ADA and apologize and quickly explain that I had to go add time to the meter…

…before thinking that maybe there was still more to calendar call to go. Sure enough, she replies “oh that was just the first half. We’ve got a 10-minute break before we do N through Z.” :beatup:

Some days I truly question whether I have the competence to do this for a living…

  1. Including one of the “boneheaded decisions” I wrote about during my Year 1 Recap. []
  2. I still get them with annoying frequency, just like when I was in undergrad :mad: []

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Warm fuzzies… despite losing a case

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 30, 2014 in The After-3L Life

I thought about making this another “Things TDot Likes” entry, but after just posting one of those on Monday I figured it would be a little repetitive.

(And it would also have been the third flattery-related entry in the series :beatup: )

I’ve mentioned in a trio of older entries (here and here and here) that I’m representing a few dozen folks arrested as part of the left-wing Moral Mondays protests down at the North Carolina General Assembly.1

The group effort trying to defend these taxpayers took a downhill turn about a month ago, when it became apparent that the single judge responsible for hearing all 900+ of these cases at the District Court level was totally unconvinced of the Constitution-based arguments being advanced.2

I was particularly annoyed because, out of all the trials I’d sat in on,3 the various Assistant District Attorneys misstated the relevant case law.

Every. single. time.

So when my next batch of folks were up for trial — two ministers from the mountains, and a retired schoolteacher from the coast — my preparation focused on rejiggering my closing arguments to cut through the bullsh*t and get right to the core of the First Amendment issues.4

And then we lost anyway.5 :(

Well yesterday I got this note from one of them despite the conviction :surprised:

I’ve included the text for those of you who can’t read the image (chunks redacted to avoid any issues with attorney-client confidentiality):

The highlight of my Tuesday

The highlight of my Tuesday

April 21, 2014

Dear Greg,

[Redacted] and I cannot thank you enough for the generous gift of your time, your positive and upbeat spirit, and your outstanding efforts on our behalf [redacted] as you defended us in court!

Even though it was pretty much a foregone conclusion before we ever got started that the judge would find us guilty, that did not deter you from giving us your best efforts; and Indeed, in our minds, we thought your closing arguments were worthy of presentation to the Supreme Court!

In short, [redacted] (and [redacted], too!) felt extremely well cared for and extremely well represented. And I felt especially grateful to you for your role in helping us say why we chose to do what we did — which, after all, was the point of doing it in the first place.

So the bottom line is this: THANKS! Thanks for volunteering to do all this at no charge. Thanks for your good lawyering and brilliant closing arguments. And thanks for leading us through this strange (to us) process with patience, kindness and respect. It was a joy working with you and getting to know you, not just as a competent lawyer but as a real person!

[Redacted]. We hope our paths cross again in the future (not necessarily in the courtroom!), and we wish you all the best in every way.

Gratefully and sincerely,

[Redacted]

I may or may not have gotten a smidge misty-eyed for an ever-so-brief moment. But mostly just smiled like a goober :spin:

I hate losing. Hate it. Haaaaaaate it. And I know the odds are good my win-loss record is going to get blown to smithereens with these cases.

But these are still good folks (even if I totally disagree with their politics). I’m honored to represent them. And I’m going to continue working my ass off to try and rack up some Ws for them.

Just in case I ever find myself needing to argue to the Supreme Court :)

  1. A subject for which I’ve been frequently pilloried by friends and frenemies alike. I penned this letter to the Raleigh News & Observer for those folks as an FYI. :* []
  2. In a nutshell: (i) the so-called Legislative Building Rules used as the basis for the arrests are both vague and overbroad, and thus are not valid time/place/manner restrictions under First Amendment jurisprudence; (ii) there are reams of due process issues; and (iii) there’s the little problem of that whole entire section of the North Carolina Constitution that declares (in part) the people have “a right to assemble together… to instruct their representatives and to apply to the General Assembly for redress of grievances.” []
  3. I’ve been providing tech support to the other attorneys on a regular basis so I’d seen a lot of these cases. []
  4. First noting that nearly every significant First Amendment case started with some government agent on the ground floor making a mistake, well-meaning or otherwise (the judge’s sympathy for the Police Chief has influenced her decision-making I think). Then moving to the three “decision points” in First Amendment analysis: protected vs less-protected vs unprotected speech, traditional public vs traditional non-public vs designated public fora, and then the internal vs external standard applied. It went over very well… for all of 10 seconds. []
  5. I do take some solace in knowing the ADA was caught off guard by the argument and was looking for case law on Google Scholar before her closing because she was worried I’d finally gotten through to the judge. A moral victory I guess? (Pun intended. Yes I know it was a bad one. :beatup: ) []

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The Wild Roller Coaster of Solo Practice

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 21, 2014 in The After-3L Life

Happy Monday y’all :)

It’s become a bit of a habit with these posts to note it’s been ages since I last wrote one, I’m not keeping up with my New Year’s resolution to write more, “zomg life is soooo busy!” and so on.

The underlying premise, of course, being that I really really really want to write something but I just haven’t had the time.

That’s still true — there’s been a bunch of cool stuff going on in life over the past 2 months that I wanted to write about1 — but a big chunk of the reason for my absence is that life overall has… well… kinda sucked :beatup:

If you’re one of our long-time law:/dev/null readers2, you might remember how I’d stress out as we got near the end of the semester, building up to the don’t-sleep-for-a-few-days exam week followed by a reprieve for a few weeks before things started all over again.3

6.5 calls per business day: good! Turning cases away: not so much

6.5 calls per business day: good! Turning cases away: not so much

Well running your own law firm is a bit like that. Except you never really get the reprieve (unless you’re slowly going out of business).

Things at TGD Law have been beyond busy; we’ve been averaging 6-7 calls every single day each month, there are over 1,300+ fans of the TGD Law Facebook page, and a growing number of those incoming phone calls / emails / etc have been from folks who’ve heard I kick @ss in a courtroom.

But I’ve also got more work than I can handle, and I’ve been turning away cases left and right because I refuse to let my work product slip for the folks who have already hired me.4

The catch to turning away cases, of course, is that there’s very little money coming in. That, in turn, means no staff. Which in turn means I’m stuck spending time on menial work that I’d really like to farm out to a paralegal or file clerk. Which in turn means no matter how much I work, I feel like nothing gets done.

The sense of complete and utter futility I’ve had the past few weeks is actually pretty well encapsulated in a graph of my weight loss efforts: past progress has been undone, and now I’m treading water until I can out-think my problems.

That 27lb drop? Bar prep

That 27lb drop? Bar prep

It’s led to me sleeping an awful lot, watching TV when I’d probably be better off working or blogging,5 and finding it beyond difficult to focus on things instead of my usual unproductively-trying-to-multitask-across-a-dozen-things-at-once.

So rather than blog about being blah, I figured I’d spare y’all the bellyaching until I got my sh*t together ;)

I can’t guarantee that’s happened yet of course, but fingers are firmly crossed! This past Easter weekend I brought some work home with me when I went up to visit my grandparents, and made some headway on several cases. I’ve started doing a list of a few high-priority items a day that simply must get done, and that’s helped me wrap my mind around things a smidge better.

Anyhow, I don’t have much more to write about at the moment — just wanted to let y’all know I’m not dead and I haven’t forgotten about you! :D

More blog posts sooner than later (certainly in less than 60 days).

  1. I was invited to be a guest at a professionalism dinner at my alma mater, served on an ABA-LSD panel on going solo, coached two NCCU Law moot court teams, judged the 1L Mary Wright Competition and the Clifton Johnson Moot Court Competition, had a trial of some of my Moral Monday folks, did a bunch more stuff I can’t recall at the moment, and at some point in the middle turned 33 years old. Life has been crazy! :crack: []
  2. **THANK YOU** btw! :* []
  3. It’s a testament to how long I’ve been away from blogging regularly that I can’t actually find the old links to the appropriate entries for that :beatup: []
  4. I’d rather be an amazing poor lawyer than a substandard rich one. []
  5. Not sure what my list of shows included before, but it’s now got The Walking Dead, Suits, Turn, Scandal, Mythbusters, and Psych reruns on it []

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My (Brief) Thoughts on the Moral Monday Prosecutions

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 5, 2013 in Unsolicited Commentary

For reasons still unknown to me — I’m assuming the resumed trial (and yesterday’s conviction) of NC NAACP chairman Rev. William Barber II — I’ve gotten near-nonstop flak this week over my involvement defending some of the 900+ people arrested by the Government during the Moral Mondays protests at the North Carolina General Assembly.

Which normally wouldn’t be that annoying (I have strongly opinionated friends ;) ), except that this go-round it’s been a bombardment from all over the political spectrum.

My conservative friends had long ago labeled me a pariah for defending “Commies, hippies, and other people who don’t bathe” as one person put it. The very first time I mentioned thinking about helping, one of my good friends from undergrad simply replied “oh you better not!”1

But then this week I’ve also had several liberals asking me “who thought everyone getting arrested was a good idea?” and “what were they thinking?” and “tell me what this all accomplished?” — as if I played any role in the protests themselves or cared an iota about the movement’s success-or-lack-thereof.

A not-uncommon query this week

A not-uncommon query this week

And there’ve even been what I’d consider the apolitical folks, who are just plain flummoxed that people can still be arrested (and convicted! :surprised: ) for things like self-evident political speech, and more flummoxed still that similarly situated protestors could end up with totally different verdicts in their respective cases.

So when I got an email over the listserv earlier today from a well-respected attorney helping with the defense, pontificating over how best to advance the politics of the Moral Mondays protests, I did one of these and typed an almost-ALLCAPS rant in response…

…then I took a few deep breaths, removed the inflammatory stuff,2 and sent the following:

From: T Greg Doucette
To: MM Lawyers Listserv
Date: December 5, 2013 @ 11:21 AM
RE: Update

I’d respectfully argue that whether “a litigious approach [is] the best way” for “helping the advancement of the MM issues” is a minor side issue, because what’s going on with these cases long ago transcended the Moral Monday stuff and is now about the bedrock principles of a free society.

Now I’ll concede up-front that (1) I’m just a baby lawyer and (2) I’m an unabashed Republican who didn’t participate in the Moral Monday protests and agrees with very very (very) few of the items the group was promoting. So take this entire email with several grains of salt as each of you sees fit.

But the whole reason I agreed to take on any of these cases was because it seemed mind-bogglingly outrageous to me that North Carolina taxpayers could be arrested en masse for obvious political speech in the very legislative building paid for by those very taxpayers for the very purpose of hashing out political issues. Even if I wholly disagreed with the content of their speech, I’d never try to have someone locked up over it (if for no other reason than I’d like to have the option of protesting one day when the political pendulum inevitably swings in the other direction).

It’s the kind of shameless abuse of power I (naïvely) figured the government would have stopped doing a long time ago after taking ConLaw in law school. It’s outrageous regardless of which party’s in power. And the Judiciary, at some level, needs to weigh in and remind the Executive Branch that jailing dissidents isn’t how we do business in the United States of America.

Anyhow, please forgive the imperious rant — thanks to everyone for their work so far, keep it up, let me know where us baby lawyers can continue helping, and let’s all pray the judges come to their respective senses on the rest of these cases :)

-T.

That about sums up my thoughts on these prosecutions: they’re an abomination.

Not to mention an audacious choice for a State that every April 12th celebrates the adoption of the Halifax Resolves — the first official action of any of the colonies calling for independence from Britain (talk about a protest!).

And while the initial arrests were wrong, I’d argue the prosecutions are worse; unlike police, District Attorneys are lawyers who (at least theoretically) had to learn about the Constitution and the First Amendment in order to pass the bar exam.

With the guilty convictions racking up, it seems obvious the decisions have already been made at the meat-grinder/District Court level. I just hope the Superior Court — or the appellate courts if it comes to that — correct this particular abuse of power and as a result send a message about future abuses.

Because moreso than global warming or eeeevil 1%ers or any of the other boogeymen the political Left insists will lead to my demise, this is the type of thing that causes me to lose sleep at night.

—===—

From the law:/dev/null “Excellence in Government” archives:

From the law:/dev/null Unsolicited Commentary archives:

  1. And then scowled at me when I said it was more a statement than a request for her advice. I’m not renowned for my tactfulness. :beatup: []
  2. The guy had been practicing for 34+ years after all. I respect my elders. :P []

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Yep, I’m still here

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 30, 2013 in The After-3L Life

Hey y’all :)

At least a couple folks felt “punk’d” by my last entry, where I mentioned there’d be more “tomorrow” (as in June 21st) and then disappeared for two months.

I had an actual defense this time though! I did have a plan for a “tomorrow” post, but life decided to intervene, put me in an eminently crabby mood, and I figured y’all wouldn’t want to read me ranting and raving about any of it until I had a chance to reflect ;)

Quite a bit has happened over the past two months:

  • More W’s: The law practice has been proceeding apace, with court appearances on a fairly regular basis and -0- new losses. In particular I thoroughly obliterated opposing counsel and saved a woman’s home from a wrongful foreclosure out in Wilson County back in June.1 For more details, see the second-from-last entry in this list. :D

  • The Chicago trip itself: We’ve all heard the word “clusterf*ck”.2 Well my Chicago trip was like a cluster*ck club, with several slices of awesome sandwiched between two pieces of near-unmitigated disaster — including yet another run-in with the TSA. I did get to catch up with several old classmates though, including one of my best friends from my UNCASG days during my layover in Atlanta, so overall it was a pretty great experience. I’ve got some notes and will (hopefully) work on an entry about it at some point down the road.

  • Church: A few weeks back I went to a Sunday service for the first time since 1999. Back over the summer I had a conversation with a former classmate who was studying for the bar and struggling with the daily grind of studying. Somehow the topic shifted to the more general issue of doing things we need but don’t necessarily like, which in turn shifted to a question asking when had been the last time I set foot into a church. So I agreed that I’d join him after he got past the bar exam, and that’s where I went the first Sunday after the exam.

    My odometer, as I sat in the parking lot of the first church I attended in 14 years (08/04/13)

    My odometer, as I sat in the parking lot of the first church I attended in 14 years (08/04/13)

    It must have been a day when folks were concerned for my soul, because as I was walking out the door that morning I got an email from a client inviting me to join her family at church too.

    Then a few minutes later, while I was sitting in the church parking lot waiting on my classmate and texting away on my phone, I looked up and saw my odometer had tripped over to exactly 170,000 miles. Which is also the first time I’ve ever noticed when it flipped over in the 11 years that I’ve had the car. :crack:

    I’m not saying it’s a burning bush or anything, but it was definitely an odd coincidence. So I went to my client’s church the week after, then went to one of the churches near NCCU the week after that. I still haven’t figured out where my church “home” is going to be yet, or even if I’m going to find one at all, but I’m thinking of making it a regular part of my weekly routine again.

  • Moral Monday defense: From my “This Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time” files, I agreed to take on the defense of 20 folks arrested as part of civil disobedience in North Carolina’s Moral Monday protests led by the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP. While I agree with all of about 0% of what the protestors are protesting about,3 I thought the arrests were egregiously over the top and reflected the very worst of government abuses.

    And frankly I have a long-standing distaste and dislike of government, even if my “side” is in power.4 Especially when it comes to protests.5

    So I signed up to be part of the group of volunteer attorneys, and when asked “Can you take 20?” I replied with “sure”… without really thinking about the logistical implications of expanding my client base by 25% overnight without a commensurate increase in revenue or staff :beatup:

    A judicious use of technology picked up during my computer science years has helped me stay on top of things so far, but it will be interesting to see how it turns out when I’m trying to juggle 20 different trials on different days in October / November / December while still serving my pre-existing clients.

  • NC SPICE is official: 14 months after submitting the Form 1023 application, the IRS finally sent me a letter granting 501(c)(3) status to the North Carolina Small Practice Incubator and Collaboration Environment :spin: I have to figure out how to recover from the momentum lost by the year+ delay, but it feels damn good having all that work actually result in something.

  • Joined Class of 2016/17 Orientation: Way back in the halcyon days of 2009, back when law:/dev/null was in its infancy and people were still struggling to figure out what the blog’s name even meant,6 I mentioned in Part 3 of the Orientation Retrospective that we had a reception with the Day+Evening Programs and local alumni followed by a session on professionalism.

    Well now that I’m one of those local alumni I got invited to participate :D I knew the event was going to be fun anyway (there are few things I enjoy more than going back to the school and talking with the students), and it got even more fun when I discovered several of my friends from N.C. State are now part of the Legal Eagle family.

    But then it got downright surreal.7 One of the 1Ls came up to me and goes “You’re T.! My wife is gonna get such a kick out of me meeting you, we read your blog over the summer before I came here!” And then a young lady came up to tell me how she appreciated the entries from 1L year. Then two more came up to say hi and that they had read every entry here. And so on it went for the rest of the night, even until just before everyone had left when a guy walked up and shook my hand, saying “I just wanted to say ‘thank you’.”

    You want to turn me from a borderline-arrogant litigator par excellence to a near-blubbering bundle of emotion, just let me find out something I did actually helped someone else.8 Had to wipe away a tear or two when I got back to the car… but only after struggling to fit my now-even-more-overinflated ego inside :spin:

  • “I have to renew already??”: With 1L Orientation happening, that means I’ve actually been a player in this lawyer game for almost a year now — meaning it’s time to renew (and pay more for) my legal malpractice insurance :beatup:

    I’ve gotta pull some statistics together for the renewal app declaring what practices areas accounted for what percentage of my law firm’s income. It should make for an interesting look back, so I’ll post a pie chart or something when I hit the one year mark.

  • Collating 28 exhibits took forever...

    Collating 28 exhibits took forever…

  • New mega-suit filed: Speaking of practice areas, it’s no secret that I love litigation regardless of topic.

    And after saving a lady’s home from downright crooked mortgage practices, on her behalf I spent the better part of two months gathering info, doing research, interviewing folks, and typing up what is by far the biggest lawsuit I’ve ever played a role in drafting/filing. :angel:

    If you’re interested in reading the details, check out this PDF hosted on the TGD Law website: Hayes v. Self-Help Credit Union et al.

    I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out!

  • 2013 Bar results released: And this past Thursday the NC Board of Law Examiners mailed out the results for the July 2013 bar exam. Just like last year, some very close friends didn’t quite make it. But several of my mentees are now officially lawyers, and I’m told by folks who know that NCCU Law‘s overall pass rate went up this go-round — putting us ahead of both (far more expensive) Charlotte Law and Elon Law.9 :D

    I’ll have a new post up rehashing some of this entry to help walk the folks who passed through the process of getting sworn in and such :)

I realize this entry has gotten well past verbose, so I’ll wrap it up here. *THANK YOU* as always for reading and have a great night y’all! :D

  1. Beat him so bad that his last line of argument was, essentially, that I “must be” lying to the Court (no reference to the 100+ pages of unedited documentation in the trial binders I distributed). I ever-so-briefly thought about jumping over the counsel table and beating him down, but then the Judge ruled in our favor and I instead took solace in knowing he had a 3.5-hour trip back to Charlotte to marinate on his loss :angel: []
  2. If you haven’t, check Urban Dictionary. ;) []
  3. Politically they’re almost like an older, upscale version of the unwashed aspiring hippies who did Occupy Wall Street []
  4. See here and here and here, plus a new entry for the NC Department of Commerce and my “privilege license” last year that I never got around to writing about []
  5. See this entry from law school for insight into my views on governments restricting speech in so-called “protected areas” []
  6. If you’re still wondering, go to the first question in this Mailbag entry :) []
  7. And by “surreal” I mean awesome :D []
  8. Coincidentally the subject of a pair of old entries here and here []
  9. The official stats should be publicly released next week []

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