Saturday, June 20, 2009


The summer class in which I am enrolled requires me to journal about my work experience. I thought I could also share it on the blog because nothing says fun like more blather from me.

Some quick-hitters first though:

Kat and I went to a Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar last night. It was community theater, but it was still pretty good. Plus, we had Dunkin' Donuts munchkins with us, which always makes anything better!

Tonight, the plan is to go see the Tucson Toros independent league baseball team in action against the Yuma Scorpions. One of the interesting parts of Julius Caesar last night was the intermittent crowd noise and even fireworks from the baseball stadium across the park. Tonight, we'll see how baseball is affected by occasional mentions of "Durst did he not!" and "Aye, be that it were!"

Not much else is going on, so forthwith, here is my first "journal" entry, with a few redactions to make it seem that much more like a federal government document:

I started at the (redacted) in (redacted) on June 5. I was scheduled to start June 1, but my (redacted) was a little slow. I speculate that my (redacted) was so lacking in interesting details that the (redacted) employee just could not manage to complete it.

But now that I am working, I have found that I really enjoy it. My assignments have been varied – some straight research, some memos and right now I am working on a (redacted) for an appeal to the (redacted) (redacted) Court of (redacted). I do not want to make my part of the appeal process sound more impressive than it is. I am simply drafting an attempt at the statement of facts and the argument so that the attorney writing the (redacted) does not have to do as much work. My hope is that what I turn in helps at least in some way and does not actually create more work for the attorney. We shall see!

I have attended some court hearings as well. I attended a hearing in a case involving former U.S. Congressman Rick Renzi, who was indicted on conspiracy, fraud and money laundering charges. The hearing was about how the FBI conducted its wiretap investigation of Renzi’s cellular phone calls. As an avid fan of “The Wire” on HBO, it became quite clear that, even for all of the attention to detail in the television show, presenting the real minutiae of a wiretap investigation would probably be too boring to hold anyone’s attention. I also attended a hearing on whether or not to require pretrial detention for a suspect who allegedly set off a bomb behind a (redacted) bar, blowing his own arm off in the process. These examples are simply proof that if you cannot find anything good on television on a weekday – and who can during the summer? – you can always come on down to your taxpayer-funded federal court and you are likely to find something to pique your interest—and free air conditioning.

Some of the hearings I have attended have been on the testy side. A hearing I attended for a drug case featured the attorneys sniping at each other like my parents trying to decide what time to go to the airport. Some hearings seem like they have been testy for almost no reason. But I think when the same attorneys butt heads repeatedly over the same issues and disagreements, after awhile they stop offering the little courtesies. I think that is why it is best, when one can, to go up against different attorneys in different courts before different judges. I think, at least in certain courts, familiarity does breed contempt. While there is often a lot of work to do, I aim to keep attending hearings and trials to get a flavor of what cases are like on a day-to-day basis in federal court.

My mother has been a high school teacher for more than 30 years, and, not coincidentally, is bordering on mentally ill. However, one thing she has always told her students has started to ring somewhat true for me over the last two weeks. She always tells her students that they should aim to find jobs that they would do for free. She says she feels this way about being a high school teacher, which I submit is just more proof of her festering mental illness. When she would unleash this little gem on me, I treated it as a thought experiment; I never had any intention of actually testing the theory. However, I now find myself doing work for free, and although I find it almost too earnest to really say it, I get up each day excited to go to work and have not minded the fact that I am not getting paid. While I do not think working for nothing for my entire life is a sustainable option (and I think the Civil War Amendments might have something to say about it!), this experience has shown me how legal work can be fun, frustrating and fulfilling, all at the same time.

In closing, I am writing this after a pretty good day at work, and I think that could be coloring the tone of this journal entry. If I reread this following a less than stellar day I will probably sneer disdainfully or vomit – for my sake, I hope the former. But despite the fact that I keep getting lost in the building, keep getting blisters from my new shoes, and keep forgetting whether case names are or are not italicized, I like what I am doing and I am learning a lot about new areas of the law. Each day has been good so far. I hope it keeps up.