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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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