Practicing Law Can Be Frustrating

There’s a scene in Clerks when Randle explains, “this job would be great, if it wasn’t for all the fucking customers.” Practicing law is a wonderful job (I think so, anyway) that allows you to do interesting work that has real impact in peoples’ lives. It can also be frustrating, particularly when you’re working with a difficult client. Indeed, sometimes it seems like a great job, but for the clients. Rigid procedural rules don’t help, either. Sometimes they make the perfect storm

Imagine you represent a client charged with a federal crime. You manage to get him out a bond but, in a flash, he takes off. Disappears. Neither you nor law enforcement has any idea where he is. Nonetheless, the world moves on and the codefendant in your case makes a routine motion to continue the trial date. Local rules require that you inform the court of whether your client objects to this or not – your client who is currently on the lamb. How do you deal with this impossible task? By deploying some weapons grade snark:

’As this Court is well aware, Mr. Jeffs is currently not available to inform his counsel whether or not he agrees to the Continuance. Whether his absence is based on absconding, as oft alleged by the Government in their filings, or whether he was taken and secreted against his will, or whether he experienced the miracle of rapture is unknown to counsel,’ Kathryn Nester wrote. ‘However, his absence prevents counsel from obtaining his approval and thus further prevents counsel from filing a joinder with the Motion to Continue Current Trial Date in compliance with the local rules.’

Now, I don’t think I’d get quite that snarky in a legal pleading, but Kathy Nester is the Federal Public Defender in Utah. If she’s done it, she’s probably earned the right to do it through her years of work before that court. Must have felt good to type that, though.

Here’s the funny thing – I didn’t hear about this on a legal blog or through the Federal Defender grapevine. I found it over at PZ Myers’s blog, where he plays up the silliness of someone “arguing” that their client was raptured in court. Problem is, it’s pretty clear she’s joking. That someone or something has been “raptured” is a running joke in my house, after all (my wife and I lose things constantly – maybe it’s gnomes? *).

Neither Myers, nor the immediate post he linked to at RawStory, use the full quote. Specifically, they don’t have the last line about “compliance with the local rules.” Nester was required, by an inflexible rule, to answer a question she cannot answer – what does her client think about continuing the case? It’s an absurd situation that calls for a similarly absurd response.

I think we can safely say that she’s not going to try and spin this into a alibi defense, you know?

* That’s a joke, too. Seriously.


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