The Maggie McNeill Incident

When I write at Fault Lines I usually do so from a very serious perspective. This is because keeping the cracks in our criminal justice system visible and educating the public about the law is serious. When the weekend comes, we usually loosen our belts, let our hair down, and have fun. My mischief caught the attention of Maggie McNeill this week, and the whole story is a great lesson in communication.

Every Friday afternoon at Fault Lines I usually post something I find funny or interesting.  This week’s post was a “suggestion” we make it a felony should a car seat manufacturer create a child safety seat that’s so complex it requires a special certification or rocket science degree to install.  This happened because of an incident I experienced this week installing my son’s new ReCaro car seat and nearly devolved into a murderous rage over it.  Fault Lines gives me a national soapbox and a chance to tell some really bad jokes, so I made it a point to find a story about car seats being a “public health crisis” and suggest criminalizing every car seat manufacturer that produced a seat responsible for a death.

One of the nicer perks of being a Fault Lines contributor is that when someone links to my posts, I get an email notification.  This time it was from the Honest Courtesan blog, and the link stunned me a little bit.

“Solution to “public health crises” used to be vaccination; now it’s prison.”

This was not good.  I had to do something to instill a little clarity here.  Maggie McNeill is one of the most interesting people on the web, if you don’t read her work regularly.  She’s a writer, an academic, and a sex worker.  This is not someone you want to get into a fight with when it comes to criminalization of conduct in any way, shape, or form.  It’s not that I’m afraid of a good verbal spar with Maggie, I just know my limits and I know if I stray into certain areas (like sex work) with her, I’m probably going to be in for a twelve round, judges’ decision level fight.  I had to at least clue her in on the gig, so I tweeted Maggie and told her it was a joke.

About three PM Eastern she replies with an apology and says she had no idea Fault Lines posted anything but 100% dead serious content.  I respond by linking her my “Modest St. Paddy’s Day” proposal and showing her some of the reactions from last week’s skewering of Nick Fuhst’s conduct at a local Hooters.  My boss doesn’t exactly like it when I throw out puns, so I’d made it a point to write for my audience with those bits of business.

My editor did jump to my defense, and I appreciate his support sincerely.  Maggie’s blog is one of the cooler places on the web to go, and she’s quite accessible on social media.  I just had no desire to piss her off, so when I saw the link hit from the beginning I knew I’d have to take some action.

I also appreciate Maggie letting her readership know I’m not on the side of over-criminalization.  The fact this escaped her here, when she’s linked to my work in the past concerning kids and the way the system treats children, makes me wonder just what communication error was in play here.  She had the guts to tell me the joke bombed, which I respect, but did I really come across as someone who found such a drastic action worthy of legislative consideration?  Regardless, it’s definitely something I’m going to have to consider going forward as I write what we affectionately term our “Friday Funnies.”  It’s my one outlet for stand-up comedy since I don’t really do open mics consistently anymore, and I want to see Fault Lines’ readers end their weeks with a laugh and not wondering whether I support some creep’s behavior.

There’s good to come from all of this, though.   If you’re not following Maggie McNeill on Twitter, do so.  And read her blog, “The Honest Courtesan.”  If you’re coming here from Maggie’s socials and blog, do me a solid, follow me @clsesq on Twitter, on Instagram, and clsesq on Snapchat.  And sign up for Fault Lines’ newsletter, so you can see all my bad jokes at the end of the week in your email inbox.

Compound Communication Update: Blab

I’ve been a naughty boy in neglecting Mediation is Dead lately. Those of you who know me outside my online presence know of my upswing in work hours, as well as my continued attempts at finding new ways to improve my practice and work through efficient means. As I write this, I’m attempting to work on a show idea for a new platform called “Blab” I just recently learned about. This will allow better interaction with my audience, as well as allow me to have on guests from time to time. I liked the Collaborative Compound Podcasts, but i’m still figuring a lot of shit out. This will, if people dig it enough, be the new method of bringing you content outside the site.

A big focus point for me is getting the message and site content out as frequently as I would like. Unfortunately, due to work obligations and time spent writing elsewhere I don’t always accomplish that goal. The end result is spreading my message of litigation versus mediation and a “conflict free” life may suffer as a result. Fortunately for me, I have the blessing of several great mentors and friends who provide me with the tools to have a national (and sometimes international) voice on issues I care about. The Compound, and this site, are still my babies. It’s my platform for personal expression and sharing my views, so I can’t allow this to continue without more daily content.

The Blab show will go live soon. You’ll need the Blab app to view and take part. There isn’t an Android app, but you can go to this site and check out the show.

I look forward to seeing you all soon.

Spring Cleaning At The Compound

Today I’m working, and Mrs. S. lets me know something that apparently slipped my mind.  Today was the day we did our “spring cleaning” and changed what was my office into our son’s new bedroom.

So I came home early, and helped get the bookshelves re-arranged and the baby bed in its new location.  I went through the mountain of garbage the office had collected.  I jettisoned old bits of my life that I didn’t need anymore (like 1L BarBri CDs), and re-organized the stuff I did need (now my deck indexes are easy to locate).

It was also fun finding a few things I missed.  I’d been searching for a wallet I’d bought about a year ago to house the coins I use for coin tricks.  By going through all the stuff I had to throw away or keep, I managed to find it, and it’s going to work better than the cheap gimmick I referred to as “Little Murray Sparkles.”

It was good to re-organize and get the house in order again.  Now, if I want to put something away I can just walk into one room and get it.  When I come home I can put all my stuff in the bedroom and not worry about where it might or might not be.  Everything’s in a great place, and it’s all organized for easy location.

On top of that, the cleaning meant I got to go through our book collection and re-organize the library.  My wife did a great job, but when it comes to organizing books I managed that like a hoss.  All my magic texts are in one place now, and all our really nice volumes of classic literature on another shelf.  The photo albums I let her sort, because that’s her thing.

In the end, my son has his own room, I can walk into my bedroom and get anything I need with a moment’s notice, and no peace in the house gets disturbed.  It was worth taking some time off today to get a little spring cleaning accomplished.

But this gives me some pause. I threw a lot away today.  Stuff some people would normally save, or try to rationalize as something to sell at a “yard sale.”  Why did I just jettison it, turn it into a situation where I got rid of this stuff when others wouldn’t let it go?  Simple:  Because I can move past that which makes me uncomfortable.  Others cannot.  I can lose the past life stuff that most people want to hang on to.

Take some time and take stock of not only your physical possessions, but also that baggage you’re carrying emotionally right now.  Take some time and do your own “spring cleaning” that will make your life easier, less cluttered.  You just might find yourself better for it.

The Task Force: Doing What Needed To Be Done

By now if you’re in or around Knoxville you’ve probably heard about my incendiary remarks to the Indigent Representation Task Force.  You may have read the Knoxville News-Sentinel article regarding Chairman William Koch’s attempts at backpedaling on a letter he sent me in February, claiming any attempts to raise rates of funding for indigent defense attorneys would be dead on arrival.  If you read Simple Justice or Fault Lines, you’ve seen the coverage of the “Listening Tour’s” stop and know I looked Bill Koch in the eye and told him the entire Task Force was a “sham,” designed to create the veneer of caring while doing as little as possible to fund indigent defense.  Someone had to do this, because none of you would.

When the legislature announced the “Indigent Representation Task Force,” everyone said “Great job” and held out hope things might actually change.  I have five years worth of material proving it wouldn’t, and I called the task force out on it. When they got upset and responded to me, I tried to be as civil as possible regarding the entire matter until I learned the amount of work the Task Force wanted to accomplish would amount to no change at all, since our state’s legislature cares more about criminalizing its citizens and saving money for taxpayers than ensuring every person accused of a crime gets a full, fair, effective defense.

When I prepared to speak on the issue, I had a few attorneys reach out to me and plead I don’t take the “Task Force” to task.  “Don’t do this,” said one attorney.  “This is Chief Justice Lee’s baby, and she’s really keen on making things better.”

Turns out that was complete bullshit, as evidenced by Jamie Satterfield’s ability to make the Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice double down on Bill Koch’s special brand of stupid.

I had to start my practice with indigent defense work.  If you don’t get an offer at a big law firm, or an offer at all, then you’re going to the trenches and practicing indigent defense.  It’s how you try cases.  It’s how you learn to be a better lawyer from the start.  You learn from your mistakes and you move forward, but the judges start to know you and what you’re capable of doing.  The DAs and States’ attorneys know more when you do indigent work, because they’ll see how you handle negotiations versus an outright plea deal.  It’s a cornerstone for young attorneys, and they get shafted for it.

Tennessee’s rates are only slightly better than Wisconsin’s for court-appointed work.  When you compare that with Dean Strang’s analysis, it amounts to kicking money to the State to prosecute your clients.  When you take that rate, and then you see your state attempt to cut the rate through asinine systems like preferential contract court appointed attorneys, then you start getting into a system that violates the law, the Constitution, and forces judges into violations of the Canons of Judicial Conduct.

In 2011, when the contract system was first floated, we stopped that through a national campaign.  In 2013, we shrugged, because we knew the State would do whatever the hell it wanted through the Administrative Office of the Courts.  All this time, people grumbled about how lawyers and their clients were getting screwed.  People would get on Facebook and leave a #RaiseTheRates hash tag.  They’d privately talk about studies the Tennessee Bar Association conducted.  They’d grumble.  But no one did a damn thing.

Why didn’t you have the guts to say something besides a quiet grumble to your brothers and sisters in the local Bar association?  Was it out of fear you might get an adverse ruling from a judge?  Were you afraid Dwight Tarwater might use his connections to Governor Haslam to make sure you were run out of business?  Was the thought of upsetting Justice Lee too much for you?  Or maybe you’re comfortable in a salaried job and just didn’t care what happened.  You agreed it was better to keep people as numbers instead of treating them as actual humans.

You were afraid of what might happen, and that prevented actual change.

Did you not see those in power would exploit your fear?  Did you not think for one second they wouldn’t exploit that by making you act civil to them and offer suggestions they wouldn’t even give the time of day?  They’re the ones holding the purse strings, and they already told you before this “listening tour” started there’d be no more funding.  Yet you held out hope, and were nice, because you feared them.

The Task Force needed someone to fear, consequences be damned, if the Sixth Amendment is to mean anything in the Volunteer State.  I took that cause up because I don’t want the younger lawyers starting in Juvenile Court or Misdemeanor Sessions getting shafted because of “taxpayer savings.”  So I orchestrated a plan, with the help of someone I’m honored and privileged to call a mentor and friend.  That plan embarrassed the Task Force nationally, and we’re not done yet.

Now I am the New Face of Fear for the Indigent Representation Task Force.  I guarantee you I have no invitations to dinner parties at Bill Koch’s house forthcoming.  Dwight Tarwater won’t be asking me for donations to Governor Haslam’s re-election campaign.  I probably will suffer a few economic consequences for calling “bullshit” on their sham campaign to make people think they care about your constitutional rights.

But they’re scared.  The public knows there’s deception afoot.  And when the public knows they’re being lied to, it can get pretty ugly for those lying.

I’ll keep hammering at this until change occurs, because Gideon means something to this angry, redneck, small town lawyer.

Book Review: “Bamboozlers”

I’ve been carrying around Volumes Two and Three of “Diamond” Jim Tyler’s “Bamboozlers” series for a couple of days now, and I’m quite convinced they’re worth every penny you might spend on a copy.  I want to find a copy of Volume One, but many places I’ve checked say it’s out of print.  Regardless, if you’re shameless, carry a bit of charisma with you, and apply the bits you’ll find in the “Bamboozlers” series you will make back the money you spend on them.  That’s because each is filled with bar bets, brain teasers, and gags you can apply to win free drinks, scam your pals for money, and more.

One of the best aspects of the Bamboozlers series is their size and appearance.  They’re leather-bound and small enough to fit in a pocket.  I’ve easily kept both volumes I purchased in my left pants pocket for a couple of days now, but I tend to wear pants with a lot of pocket space.  Another great feature is the size of each “bit of business,” as Diamond Jim labels them.  Each takes up approximately two to three pages, so you won’t waste too much time learning each gimmick.  There’s even bookmarks in each book so if you’re working on one “bit of business” you’ll be able to mark your place without trouble and come back easily when you’re ready to learn again.

Another great aspect of the Bamboozlers series is you really don’t need much in the way of special gimmicks or gaffes to perform the stunts and gags in the books.  You may need playing cards and some change, but that’s about it.  Just about everything can be done with common items.  If you know me, you know I’m not shy of using a gimmick or gaffe, but I think it’s pretty awesome Diamond Jim created all of these bits with economy in mind.  Purchasing magic effects and books can cost quite a bit, and many times don’t always come with a return investment unless you’re actually working in magic.  Diamond Jim’s books give you the ability to get a return on investment for a decent price.

A few of my favorites from Volume Two are “Odd Coins,” the “Card Conundrum,” and the “$3.41 Challenge,” all of which I’ve abused repeatedly.  Volume Three I’m just now processing, but I dig Mental Monte, the Hitchhiker Bill, and the Faceout Five.  No matter your preference, you’re sure to find a few gags, stunts, or bets to play on your friends or unsuspecting passer by.  Just don’t go for the “Beer bonking” bit in Volume 2 unless you’re with a really good friend, because you might get slapped.

You can find Volumes 2 and 3 of Bamboozlers on Amazon.  Both are worth the price, whatever you pay.



Tim Burchette’s Budget Gaffe

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchette made a major screw-up when announcing his budget for Knox County this year.  I’m going to call him out on it.  In announcing his decision to fund the creation of a mental health facility, he made the mistake of telling the public law enforcement “had to take” the life of a mentally ill man who fired on them.  I’m not going to say this is the exact quote, but it’s damned close.

“One of the largest treatment centers for the mentally ill is the Knox County Jail, and that’s a shame.  We just had a story recently where a young man who’d come home from the war, he was mentally ill, and he opened fire on a couple of Knox County police, and they had no choice but to take his life.”

Bad move, Mayor Burchette, especially when you’re attempting to peddle your mental heath treatment facility.  It’s not the creation of such a complex that has me shaking my head.  It’s your abject decision to frame it in the context of a cop shooting, one under questionable circumstances, and use that to advance your chosen narrative of “we need better mental health facilities than a jail.”

Every time a police officer fires his or her service weapon at a person with the intent to kill, they’re making a conscientious decision to impose a death sentence on that person.  Saying they had “no choice” is a ridiculous option, especially when the cops had “less lethal” alternatives like Tasers to mitigate the incident and the individual with mental health issues.  If this person were mentally ill, perhaps suicidal, there’s a good possibility that man might have chosen to “check out” through suicide by cop.  Since police seem to be rather gun-happy these days, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the cops decided to assist in the suicide.

There is an issue with mental health in our society.  That’s not in debate.  Another important point to consider is we still stigmatize mental illness, so much to the point we can’t have honest discussions about the problem. I commend Mayor Burchette for his commitment to making sure the mentally ill aren’t locked in prison cells beside those incarcerated for actual crimes, but framing the discussion through a cop shooting isn’t the best tactic.

Richard Fausset’s Intellectual Dishonesty

Richard Fausset, author of the New York times piece discussed yesterday on Howell & Yarbrough, made an appearance today on the show to defend his op-ed virtue signaling his deference to gun control legislation and defending his “ability” to read the pulse of Knoxville in the wake of Zaevion Dobson’s tragic death.  I listened to a good portion of Fausset’s interview, and I commend Katherine Howell and Bob Yarbrough for letting Fausset have an equal platform discussing his views and why he wrote his Times Op-Ed in the fashion he chose.  Bob and Katherine are excellent, compassionate journalists and their show is worth a listen every day.  They’re also nice.  I’m not.

Richard Fausset is a pathetic weakling who doesn’t have the guts or the temerity to view the positive steps in Knoxville following Zaevion Dobson’s passing.  He’s got an agenda the Paper of Record wants to support, so he wrote his hit piece in a fashion insulting Knoxville, the Dobson family, and everyone who doesn’t subscribe to his personal view of groupthink.

It’s not enough for Fausett that former gang members organize tributes to Zaevion with proactive steps and talent shows with a focus on eliminating gang violence in the region.  It’s not enough Knoxville as a whole took the time to have an honest discussion on how to prevent gun violence, and specifically gun violence at the heart of gang activity, to take action in the wake of Zaevion’s death.  It’s not enough Zenobia Dobson’s getting immense support from concerned Knoxville citizens to take care of her and her needs in the wake of Zaevion’s passing.  No, the most important thing is we take action President Obama wants and regulate guns through more laws we can’t even describe yet.

His interview with Bob and Katherine reeked of deference and a sign of cowardice.  While two of the best, most courteous journalists in Tennessee tried to give him a platform explaining his insipid tripe of an op-ed, Fausett did nothing more than inflame the dumpster fire that was his exploitation of Zaevion’s death to show his support for President Obama’s continued calls for gun control legislation and utter contempt for those who believe the Supreme Court got it right in D.C. v. Heller and actually follow the law.  From moment one of the interview, Fausett actually decided to take the position of “curiosity” as to why Knoxville’s citizenry would find his work anything less than completely praiseworthy.  It’s simple: when you insult a community united after a tragedy, you’re viewed as an asshole.

In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m not a fan of Richard Fausett, his integrity, or his ethical position on life.  He could have done the right thing and defended his piece in a fashion with thoughtful, intellectual commentary and engaged people on a discussion as to why his op-ed made a point worthy of discussion.  Instead, Fausett chose the mealy-mouthed approach of praising Knoxville, praising Mayor Rogero’s stance on gun control, and trying to make nice with everyone involved.  A “journalist” would have taken the time to stand by his work and make a point worthy of discussion.  Fausett’s stance reeks terribly of intellectual cowardice, and I’ll be glad to debate him on the issues he raised if he’s man enough to do it.

I realize this is short, but I’ll close with this personal note to Richard Fausett, because I find it worth mentioning.  You took a media cliche and ran with it to advance an agenda you believe merited attention.  I don’t blame you for that.  Corrupt, unethical journalists like you do that sort of thing all the time.  Your decision to advance the narrative of gun control legislation by picking Zaevion Dobson’s heroic sacrifice of his life and Zenobia Dobson’s current suffering only shows you’re the worst form of human being currently occupying this planet.  Please take some time, look in the mirror, and examine the contribution you’ve made to dividing this country over an inflammatory, sensitive issue just to get clicks for your article on the New York Times’ website.

Oh, and your mention on Howell & Yarbrough that people could view it “for free” if they so choose?  That’s a classic sign of an attention-seeking narcissist.  If I were your editor, I’d strongly consider whether keeping you on payroll was a good idea.  Without realizing it, your rhetoric pissed off an entire community and strengthened support for a cause you find “problematic.”  Maybe you need to take a cue from Professor Kingsfield in “The Paper Chase.”  Take a quarter, call your mother, and tell her you have serious reservations over whether you are qualified to be a journalist.


Dr. Joe’s Gun Control Fallacy

Today on the Howell & Yarbrough show, a frenzied discussion broke over this New York Times op-ed musing on why the death of Zaevion Dobson hadn’t sparked more gun control legislation.  Numerous points came up from the callers, all with interesting and varied viewpoints.  Regardless of my personal position on gun control, I enjoyed hearing all of the perspectives until a caller named “Dr. Joe” posed the following suggestion.  If you’re caught with a gun in the commission of a crime, you automatically get a mandatory thirty year sentence with no parole or hope for early release.  It was a bad call with terrible legal consequences, and I’m going to outline in detail just why.

From a linguistic perspective, before we begin a constructive analysis of the proposal by “Dr. Joe,” I want all of you to see a framework present in the Paper of Record’s op-ed.  A tragedy strikes, usually one involving a gun.  The public experiences initial sadness and then outrage.  Eventually, someone will take the tragedy if it involves gun violence and ask why more isn’t done to regulate guns in America.  Most tellingly, there’s usually no solutions presented absent an outright removal and ban of all guns in the United States.

Now the issue with the mandatory minimum of thirty years for possession of a gun during commission of a crime.  First, there’s already a law in place for that in most states, and even at the Federal level.  Changing the law to mandate a thirty year sentence takes the existing legal framework and places it in the realm of absurdity.

As an example, under “Dr. Joe’s” hypothetical, if an unloaded gun were in the car of a party allegedly robbing a convenience store, and that person were caught, a conviction would result in thirty years, without parole.  The gun may have been in the car for perfectly legal reasons.  Maybe the alleged perpetrator just bought the gun from a local firearms dealer before going down the rabbit hole of committing a criminal offense and knocking over a convenience store.  Since there’s evidence out there prosecutors start by charging with the most serious offense, and negotiate down from there, a thirty year sentence sounds fantastic to the layperson and those DAs seeking reelection on a “tough on crime” platform.  In reality, all this does is create more problems for the judiciary and overcrowd overflowing prisons.

A mandatory thirty year sentence if convicted ties the judiciary’s hands when sentencing rolls around. We’ve seen how this plays out with crack cocaine, and the “ten times stronger, therefore ten times the penalty” response when mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines forced jurists’ hands to sentence a person with rock cocaine to ten years when a person with the powder variety would get one.  It took decades to reverse this and inject sense into the now “Advisory” guidelines through education and continued pushing from the bar that now those who are charged with the possession or sale of crack don’t get an added “bump” to their sentence because of a misperception in the public’s eye over how the drug works.

And the added requirement of thirty years without parole will take an already crowded jail population and just make that situation even worse. Prisons are struggling to find beds for those copping pleas or found guilty in court. The prison industry is so large it’s currently facing a highly disparate prisoner to bed ratio. If you don’t allow for early release conditions then you’re contributing to the problem.

Another factor largely ignored by those who are seeking a “tough on crime” solution like the one Dr. Joe posed is the propensity of police to arrest first and ask questions later. We’ve done a great job ignoring those who “get the ride” by passing them off as filthy dirty criminals. Attitudes change drastically when you’re the person in front of the judge. If “Dr. Joe” found himself in a spot where he got arrested over a dime bag of pot and had a sentence enhancement for merely having a newly purchased gun in his car at the time of the setup, I’d wager his tune would change quickly.

Gun violence is a problem in our country. There’s no easy solution to this, and co opting the death of a teen who sacrificed his life for another doesn’t need to be used as a taking point to further one’s political agenda. Here it happened, though, and it’s worth noting and calling to attention this saddening event before other deaths are co opted for political gain.

Brief Notes on Three Letters

Tonight I received three letters from a colleague of mine, one incredibly versed in the practice of law and with a dearth of experience in the profession.  He’s a bit of a firebrand, and one who tends to attract a good deal of controversy when he speaks up on an issue.  This time, it’s concerning indigent defense in Tennessee, a point near and dear to my heart.  That said, there’s a few things I want cleared up concerning these letters sent to a state Senator, one State Representative, and to Tennessee’s Indigent Defense Task Force.

  1. To Senator Overbey: I’d love to meet with you sometime and talk about what life is like learning to practice law absent any mentor or guidance.  I doubt you’ll ever take the time to learn what life is like from a trench lawyer’s point of view that came into the profession right when the law school bubble burst and jobs got scarce.  I’d love to get to know you, but I doubt very seriously you’ll take the time to have that conversation.

    That said, if you’re really that interested in talking, I definitely think someone on your staff needs to be ready to explain the comments my pal discussed when you poo-poohed the idea of raising indigent defense rates because it was an issue of “supply and demand,” and as long as there were enough hungry lawyers willing to take cases at a $40/hour rate then you wouldn’t be keen on raising rates of compensation for indigent defense attorneys.  I’ve seen Knoxville’s budgets for the last couple of years.  I’ve seen the State’s budgets for the last couple of years.  When you devote enough time to moving funds from a “diversity and inclusion” office at the University of Tennessee to putting “In God We Trust” stickers on cop cars, you’ve got the time and energy to come up with the funds for better pay on indigent defense.

You’ve got no one on your staff at the firm you run who relies on money from court appointed counsel.  One big reason I stopped attending Knoxville Bar Association “Barrister’s” events was listening to your Gay Street associates muse over whether they should enter their respective firms’ “Health and Wellness” programs for an extra $5,000 bonus.  You may write it off, but those of us who are running solo practices don’t.  Those of us who are in General Sessions on arraignment day or on Division Street looking for work are in agreement this isn’t a good look for you or your positions.

However “caustic” my language may be, I’m always willing to talk, Senator.  As long as we’re talking, we’re working for a solution.

2. With regards to Representative Lundberg, I have faith in his desire to see indigent defense bettered through the creation of the Task Force.  I want to make an unequivocal statement that at no point did he ever make any sort of statements that he wanted to “ruin my career” or otherwise.  I do take issue, respectfully, with the fact he’s got no one on the Task Force that has skin in the game when it comes to court appointed work.  I also take issue with his comments this Task Force was created to make sure “people with money hired lawyers instead of asking the state for a free one” and that he knew no rates of pay would ever raise for counsel in Tennessee. Finally, I take issue with the formation of the Task Force as currently constructed with no person relying on indigent defense work to keep the lights on.

3. The case my pal speaks of, in all fairness, was a stinker for him.  He’s a great lawyer in his own right, but sometimes we as lawyers have to attempt making chicken salad out of chicken shit.  That said, he’s right: I’ve had no mentors on which I could rely since I started practicing law, and have only recently managed to expand my sphere of influence and connections to a point where if I need help with an issue, or if I need to refer a client to someone, I can do that.  It took me five years to get there, but I’m grateful for the experience and the chance to become as resourceful as I am when dealing with cases.

4. I actually agree with a few of the points made by the Task Force, Chairman Koch, Representative Lundberg, and others.  There’s a problem with indigent defense funding when some counties hand out court appointed attorneys like candy and others stringently check to see if a person truly cannot afford reasonable attorney fees.

5. Despite my pal’s “brief” to the Task Force, I don’t take indigent cases anymore.  I think the work’s important, but I reached a point in my career where I had to make a decision between doing work I hated and not getting paid or actually doing work I loved and getting paid.  That jump meant going from taking every court appointed case I could find to spending more time marketing, networking, and learning about the way business actually works.

That said, we’re reaching a tipping point in this state when it comes to indigent defense.  New Orleans is the proverbial canary in the coal mine when it comes to this crisis.  Right now they’re so strapped for effective representation the Public Defender’s office has stopped taking cases.  That led to one judge releasing several people accused of violent crimes and a suit by the ACLU.  This is an issue to which the State of Tennessee cannot, and must not turn a blind eye.

To my readers in Knoxville or the surrounding areas: I’ll be speaking at the University of Tennessee, Room 132, starting at 11:00 AM on Friday, May 20 about the big issues facing the Task Force.  If you’re a lawyer reading this, you might want to consider coming to see the Task Force explain why rates of pay will never get raised.  If you’re a non-lawyer, you might want to attend to see just how the State views you if you’re charged with any offense.  It’ll be an interesting discussion.