Thursday, December 31, 2009

Going forward

Then we came to the end of another dull and lurid year.
That's how Americana, Don DeLillo's first novel, begins.
It was an incandescent night in Times Square. All manner of humanity engaged in vintage decadence.
That's the start of a DeLillo short story, "In the Men's Room of the Sixteenth Century."

It's New Year's Eve that draws me to this stuff.

Fellow blawgers Rick Horowitz, Gideon, Norm Pattis, Scott Greenfield, and Mark Draughn (among lots of others) have looked back. (Rick said it was almost obligatory to do such a post.) Collectively over the past 36 hours, we've talked about Satan and Abdiel and Sisyphus, quoted and paraphrased Milton and Shakespeare and Marlowe, Camus and Loren Eiseley.

In looking back, they all looked forward. Brian Tannebaum, with new year's resolutions was more explicit about the forward look (as opposed simply to the recognition that we must go there) than most. But it's all of a piece.

With a narrower focus, Terry Lenamon forced the recollection of who's been murdered by the government and who's been released with strong evidence of innocence. Meanwhile, Matt Kelley found six states where legislative abolition seems within reach in 2010 or 2011.

And so it's time to look back and forward, to emulate the two-faced god, Janus.

I started this blawg in May mostly because I like to write and like to mouth off. This seemed a way. I'm not sure I ever thought there would be readers, but it turns out there are. I'm quite sure I didn't understand that there's a community of us, of serious, committed, criminal defense lawyers who are doing this, reading and learning and drawing strength from each other.

Oh, I knew criminal defense lawyers did that. I didn't know about this subset. We're more insular, I think, than we sometimes realize. The madness in Maricopa County reveals that. We write and write, express our outrage, and wonder how it can be that the mainstream media hasn't taken this up. But the mainstream media obviously doesn't much think that what a dozen or so criminal defense lawyers with an internet presence find important is the test of newsworthiness.


So we've gone through the year recognizing that wins are few and often relative (LWOP in a death penalty case, fergodssake). Most of our clients are factually guilty. Most will end up convicted of something. Like a batter who's doing great if he gets a hit 30% of the time, we've mostly fought losing battles.

Remember that traditional lawyers advice?
  • If you don't have the facts, pound the law.
  • If you don't have the law, pound the facts.
  • If you don't have the facts or the law, pound the table.
We pound a lot of tables.

And beginning tomorrow, we'll do it again in 2010. It's who we are.

Once more into the breach. Into the valley of death. We few, we proud.

Aw, fuck. You know, I'm not a glass-half full kind of guy. And I'm old enough that the bones ache when I climb out of bed in the morning. But we go on. Because it's what we do. And who we are.
Day after day. Not with hope exactly but with something like determination.

In the end, we can't help ourselves.

Thank you. See you next year.

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