Stop Asking Where I'm From

I lost my big motion. Que sera, blah, blah, blah.

Written By: humarashid - Mar• 19•13

I recently argued a big motion in basically our biggest felony sex case. Big as in a whopping 35-count indictment, and 2 co-defendants. And I argued it at 26th & Cali, from a rather weak position, and I argued it the day after the verdict in the Steubenville rape case.

 

So … yep.

It wasn’t a great situation. There wasn’t really a way to spin it to become a great situation. All I could do, really, was do my best to spin it to be a not-so-terrible situation. And that was what I attempted to, and what I’m fairly certain I accomplished, despite the loss.

I thought about it all weekend, and kept writing about it until I refined my ideas and my argument, which is my normal strategy when it comes to developing this sort of thing and fleshing it out, whether I’m working on an argument or a motion.

And then, wouldn’t you know it, the morning I was to argue this big motion, the weather conspired to cause me to be (almost) late for the call. That’s what sucks about driving into the city from Naperville, but I won’t be out here much longer. In May, I’ll be living in the city, inshaAllah, so that will be nice.

Anyway, here’s what I looked like that morning (and also, here is proof that I exist as described and am not, in fact, some 47 year old man from Butte, Montana, typing all of this on a sticky keyboard).

Rest assured, I did remember to put on some damn lipstick before I walked into court.

march 18

 

Anyway, back to the important stuff. My big honking motion and big honking argument to go with it.

I did whatever I could, really. I know that. At our last status date, the State tendered about 200 pages of discovery. I went through that shit with a fine-tooth comb and wrote out a synopsis, and then went through that synopsis and wrote down what I think of as a mitigation list – bullet points about how shit that looks bad for us isn’t actually all that bad, and can be explained (as opposed to excused or justified away).

The State’s response to our motion contained a portion of the discovery tendered at the last date, and I had a few minutes to glance over that shorter report before my argument.

I knew that crap backwards and forwards. I had all the arguments plotted out in my (flowery) notebook. I had all those arguments in my head. I had my client at my side, in his prison jumpsuit, and I was ready to go. I went into my schpiel by explaining that I was going a little out of order – that is, I wasn’t going to start with the positives of the situation and the affirmative part of my motion; I was going to start with the negatives.

And then I just attacked the State’s position.

 

I went through the parts that I referred to as “an overstatement of the facts,” the parts I felt were “patently unfair” and “perhaps not wholly accurate.” After I was done attacking the motion itself, I went through the pertinent portions of discovery and the attached reports, listing as many mitigating factors as I could while doing my best not to bore the judge.

Then I moved on to the positives of my argument and my affirmative position. I went through all the actual mitigation – not the stuff trying to explain away the negative aspects of our position, but the actual mitigation meant to bolster our position. I moved on to societal arguments and wrapped it up with my prayer.

The State responded with their points, and I listened, plotted my response, and then hit back. I made almost all the points I wanted to make (said in hindsight, of course, because I am my own worse critic and am absolutely brutal in my Monday-morning-quarterbacking). And I know that the points I didn’t make were ones that the judge already knew or figured out from the way we argued it out.

I wrapped up with a reiteration of my prayer, and then suggested that if the Court were on the fence, perhaps the Court would instead consider [slightly watered down version of my prayer].

I basically threw everything I had at the wall to see what would stick, if anything. If I could plausibly say it, I did. Meanwhile, my boss (who is just an incredible litigator, an absolutely brilliant attorney), is standing behind me watching this like,

And I lost.

Which I was expecting.

And which my boss was expecting.

The kind of motion I was arguing today was one that is very, very difficult to win. It’s very, very difficult to win even with circumstances better than what I had to deal with. My boss has done hundreds of these motions, and, stunningly brilliant litigator that he is, he says he has not won many of them. They are very difficult and due to other forces acting on the situation, it’s just an incredibly uphill battle. Particularly in the famously overcrowded and brutal county system in the county in which I appeared this morning.

So my loss was predictable, and I took it in stride. I feel bad for my client, but we prepped him beforehand and explained the likelihood of the loss, and what would happen if we lost. He understood and even though I’m not happy about it and I’m not trying to make light of the situation, he will be okay.

I got beaten up, and that was okay. I’ve gotten beat up a hell of a lot worse, and I expect to get beat up many, many more times for the rest of my career as a criminal defense attorney. Comes with the territory, and all that matters, really, is how I deal with it.

So the plan is to shake it off and take it in stride (done), and do better next time. Which I absolutely will. And I’ll do better next time and still lose, and that’s just how it goes.

As for self-critique, well, that’s never been my problem. I’m my worst critic and always have been. It’s kind of amusing, because I’m so exceptionally gentle with the feelings and self-worth of others, but I’m so incredibly hard on myself. There’s not a single awful thing you could ever say to me that I have not thought about myself at one point or another.

But all things considered, it worked out well and was a good experience.

I’m POSITIVE there was a slight tremble in my voice. I’m cackling just thinking about how I must have looked and sounded. You guys know what I look like – I’m 5’1″, pretty scrawny, bespectacled, and look absolutely cartoonish peering up at a judge on the bench. And my voice wasn’t as strong as it normally is because I failed to squelch a small case of butterflies like I normally do.

But I expect that will get better in time. I will be ruthless about those butterflies the next time.

It was a good experience, though. The judge was patient and gave me a great opportunity to be heard. She yelled at the people in the gallery to shut up while I was talking. She was, I thought, rather gentle when she made her ruling.

(I have to wonder if she was worried that I’d burst into tears if she was just like, “Denied, defendant will be blah blah blah.” I mean, I wouldn’t have. I’ve already gone through that holy-crap-I-am-going-to-start-sobbing-in-front-of-this-judge-in-twenty-seconds experience, thank you.)

Afterwards, one of the courtroom sheriffs that brings inmates in and out of the holding cells in back and sits through the morning calls every day was a super sweetheart. He told me I did a great job and I was a wonderful attorney. He didn’t have to say it but it was kind of him to do so.

The special prosecutor was lovely, too, despite the fact that I basically repeatedly called her a liar. (That was what the whole, “not wholly accurate,” “overstatement of the facts,” etc stuff was about. It’s how lawyers yell, LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE SITTING ON A TELEPHONE WIRE. See the landmark ruling in the case of Sticks v. Stones.)

She spoke to me briefly afterward and said I did a great job and my presentation was good (HAHA NO IT WASN’T MAYBE NEXT TIME I WON’T BE SUCH A NERVOUS NELLY) and I delivered it strongly and such. I was glad to hear it, and it was very sweet of her. She’s a nice woman and I like her quite well on a personal level. She’s sweet and friendly, and a good attorney, totally on the ball, and a consummate professional. She’s fair and shoots from the hip, but is not a softie by any means. It was very nice of her to say what she did.

Although, honestly, I don’t mean to sound like a total jag, but at the end of the day, I don’t really care what anyone else thinks of my lawyering. I basically only care what my boss thinks – especially if he happened to be there while I was doing it. He’s my employer, sure, but he’s also my mentor and an absolutely brilliant attorney. If he says I did well, which he did – repeatedly – then I know he’s not just stroking me and that he actually means it.

And he was very happy with me (though he had a critique, too, obviously, which I always appreciate), and that’s what matters to me.

Today reminded me that I’ve been pretty fortunate so far in terms of colleagues – and by that I mean opposing counsel.

Yes, I’m often bitter and gnashing my teeth over the jerk-prosecutors that are entirely dismissive and condescending as hell – perhaps because I’m a woman, perhaps because I look 18, perhaps because I’m an associate that’s not the lead on the case and they feel they’re wasting their precious time acknowledging my existence. I don’t know. Whatever. It’s their problem.

But in general, when it comes to the few prosecutors that I deal with regularly – either if I’m handling a case solo from start to finish, or if I’m handling status dates solo, or if we’re communicating back and forth because we’re trying to get our ducks in a row and I just happen to be the one that does it instead of my boss – they’re pretty great.

For prosecutors.

:P

No, I’m kidding. They’re professionals, and on the personal level, they’re nice people.

There’s a prosecutor on one of our child porn cases who, due to my boss’s conflicts in federal court, has had to deal with me for the past couple of dates. He’s a nice man who’s never once talked down to me. We’ve run around trying to get a protective order and expanded bond in place, he’s handed over a shit-ton of contraband to me, and we’ve sat down and discussed an offer when he indicated his willingness to make one.

There’s another special on another child porn case of ours who I’ve had similar interactions with, and he’s never condescended to me, either. He’s been a total professional, even when the two of us were playing phone tag trying to nail down a time to get together, and he’s even swung by the office and hung out for a while when delivering some contraband, and he sent over some helpful stuff regarding probation terms, too. (Even though he’s gunning for jail time.) It’s always a pleasure to see him and work with him.

There’s an AAG on one of our child porn cases who’s opposed my boss on this case for about two years now, who was actually quite welcoming when I skipped into the courthouse, initially all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed with absolutely no clue what was going on. (Of course, now I know more about child porn than I ever thought I would, but that’s neither here nor there.)

He even gave me a pep talk, from one established attorney to a brand frigging new one, which was actually kind of sweet. Of course, I badly misread him and initially thought he was being dismissive and a jerk, only to later figure out that, no, he was instead trying to be nice to me. In my defense, though, if someone makes very little eye contact with me WHILE he’s talking to me and instead looks around the room over my head, I tend to read it as that person being dismissive and only talking to me because he feels obligated to do so.

Also, add to all that the fact that I’m kind of socially awkward and can’t read men at all, and it’s not a surprise that I misread him.

There are even prosecutors who will call up and have no problem speaking to me about the case, new as I am to the firm, because they’re confident that I know all about the case and where it’s positioned, and that I know what they’re talking about.

I appreciate all of this, especially since for all of these well-mannered prosecutors, there are the jerks who won’t deign to waste a minute of their precious time with me, or tell me a damn thing about whatever’s going on despite the fact that I know that given case backwards and forwards.

I realize I’m rambling, but today’s loss reminded me that I’m fortunate to work with other attorneys who aren’t assholes, basically.

In certain ways, I’m still finding my footing. I’m grateful that I’m surrounded by people who don’t mind in the least, and will actually encourage me and help me get better, rather than exploiting the situation. I expect that sort of patience and encouragement from my boss, and I’ve always received it.

But it really is  an unexpected and appreciated surprise to receive that same kindness from opposing counsel.

*shrug*

I realize that this all sounds incredibly naive of me, but, really, I’m not that dumb. No one is going to clam bakes with opposing counsel any time soon, I promise. We’re not sitting around a campfire holding hands, either. I promise I’m not that oblivious to how an adversarial relationship works. Besides, if you jerks have learned anything about me since I started this blog back in law school, it’s that I have no problem sticking to my guns in the face of opposition. So, no worries. Despite the fact that you could probably come down with diabetes from the last few paragraphs.

Ugh. This has become far too saccharine for my liking. WAT. I feel like I barely know who I am anymore. I have to go put my fist through a wall now just to feel more like myself.

Whatever. The game plan now? To keep being awesome.

 

Office Shenanigans: A slow day, for once.

Written By: humarashid - Mar• 13•13

So you nerds are often yelling at me to post more about the random crap I do around the office, so, fine, I’ll indulge you. My day today is super boring, though, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

(Well, I shouldn’t say it’s super boring. All my days here are legit really interesting. I’m only saying it’s super boring because right now I am sleepy and vainly trying to resist the 24-pack of Dr. Pepper sitting five feet away from me. I’m taking bets on whether or not I’ll make it!)

I got here five minutes late and walked in on my boss and our paralegal discussing something with great focus and concentration. So that’s always super awkward – walking in on something like that and then having to have them backtrack and explain what we’re doing.

But it was administrative stuff, so nothing legally pressing or anything that would throw the morning into a tailspin, so that was good.

And I’d only walked over to the water cooler to top off my tumblr of green tea with some boiling water when I hear my boss say, “You gotta eat more, hon. You’re getting too skinny. Also, you ain’t gettin’ any taller.”

:|

HAHAHAHA.

I admit, I do look pretty skinny today. Probably in a super grotesque way, because I have a very small waist and if it’s at all accentuated, then I look emaciated. I actually think I look desiccated because, while my skirt is an A-line, my sweater is silhouette-skimming. And by that I mean, probably tighter than it should be, but it’s still comfortable and not clingy, so I can’t be bothered by it.

I tend to dress by that rule: if I’m wearing A-line skirts that tend to obscure the shape and curve of my hips, I’ll wear something a little more fitted on top. It balances out my shape and keeps me from looking like I’m just drowning in fabric. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am.

I’m basically never wrong, you guys.

hugh laurie woman

 

(Yes, that’s Hugh Laurie. It’s from the sketch comedy he did with his BFF. It’s called “A Bit of Fry and Laurie,” and if you haven’t seen it, I’m pretty sure all four seasons are available on Netflix.)

Whatever.

Anyway, if you want to see what I look like and what I’m wearing today, as you nerds supposedly do, I took some super awkward pictures and cobbled them together! Yay, me!

outfit

Yeah. See what I mean about awkward? I don’t know what’s going on in the bottom picture, but I wanted to be able to show the color scheme for my outfit. You know, seeing as how this used to be a (super lame) business casual fashion blog.

So as you jerks can see, I’m finally doing what I’ve been preaching and dressing in things OTHER than skinny jeans, tees, and Converses. Progress. I’ve got on a bright red long-sleeve sweater, and the neckline is scandalously low-cut, at least for this repressed Muslim girl, so I threw on a cami underneath.

Rest assured, though, that if my grandmother ever saw me like this, she’d say that I “might as well be naked.” She has said that to me when I was wearing a top that was cut considerably higher than what I’m wearing in the above picture, and I came in the next day and vented to my boss like, “you know that awesome green top I was wearing the other day that you said was pretty? DO YOU KNOW WHAT MY GRANDMOTHER SAID ABOUT IT?!”

So now the fact that I “might as well be naked” has become a running joke in our office. Whenever I come in looking unbelievably gorgeous which, let’s face it, is basically every day and twice on Saturdays, my boss takes one look at me and goes, “Ugh, you might as well be naked.”

…I like how in real life I am super awkward about receiving physical compliments (I always want to yell, ARE YOU MAKING FUN OF ME?! IS THIS A JOKE?!), but on here, god, you’d think I was Cindy Crawford or something, the way I talk about myself.

I’m glad we have this sort of relationship, you guys.

<3

Anyway, back to my day, since apparently y’all care about this sort of thing.

I spent the morning writing client letters and then had lunch with our paralegal, Nicole. I have a client coming in for a meeting in which we’ll go over the discovery in his case, including some audio material, and discuss his options as the case moves forward now that the State is basically done tendering discovery.

After that, a special prosecutor who’s on one of my child pornography cases is scheduled to drop by with some contraband from the case, so I’ll basically sign for it, lock it up with all the other porn, and talk to him about where we have the case positioned, etc.

Then I plan to do some research for a motion in limine I’m doing for one of our federal cases. I have to see where the case law stands on the inclusion of the contents of a change of plea hearing when the case goes to trial. So that will be interesting.

And then I’m going home to examine my life.

Or just fool around on Tumblr. Either or. Although sometimes they’re the same…?

Deep thoughts, you guys. Deep thoughts.

Deep thoughts from a dangerously awkward young woman.

Court Chronicles: Jail Visits! And Also Why Kanye West Ain’t Never Writing Another “College Dropout.”

Written By: humarashid - Mar• 12•13

The other day, my boss, Raymond Wigell, and I made the trip out to the detention center in Baked Potato Soup county to visit three of our federal inmates that, as luck of would have it, are all together there now. They used to be spread out pretty far, with one actually in Amsterdam until he was extradited a little over a week ago.

This jail visit was kind of spontaneous. We had it planned for the next day since it was an office day and we could spare the long drive and the several hours there that it would take. But with a bad snow storm coming, we decided we’d work almost a full day at the office and head out at 3PM to the jail. We didn’t leave until past dark, so that was an experience. My boss and I were both yawning on the way back and struggling to discuss the trip.

Oh! I found a picture on my phone from the visit! This is what I looked like that day. It was just an office day, so I wasn’t in a suit. I was just wearing a green top, a black skirt, these awesome green heels, and basically the slouchiest, scratchiest gray sweater I own that I keep at the office because the temperature swings wildly there throughout the day.

So without further ado, here is my face.

jail visit

…My hair looks so damn blue sometimes. Doesn’t it? Black-blue, that is. Not blue-blue.

Anyway.

We do occasional jail visits with our clients in custody, even if there isn’t anything immediately pressing to report or discuss, just because we want to touch base fairly regularly and communicate with them. This meeting was the first in a series of meetings that we’re going to have because each case is starting to move out of a holding pattern. We’ll be preparing for sentencing in two of the cases, and the other one is actually going to trial in the summer, which is very exciting because trials at the federal level are rather rare.

I can’t really show that I’m too excited about it, because these are very serious charges, and a very disturbing factual basis, and a man’s freedom hangs in the balance, and this is all super serious business and I am a super serious professional, you guys, obviously.

…But on the inside, I’m basically like,

Minions excited

You guys! A federal trial! A federal trial, you guys!

(Ugh, I have no idea why WordPress/BlueHost is messing up my gifs. Blergh.)

Do you know how RARE it is for a criminal case to go to trial at the federal level? Approximately 97% of federal criminal cases are resolved by guilty pleas. ALSO. I have been a criminal defense attorney for, like, four months. According to my boss, I’ve done an excellent job and I have great lawyerly instincts and I’m an amazing writer, but still. Four months. And I’m going to be second chair in a federal criminal trial. Most criminal lawyers don’t see this kind of action until, like, 5-10 years into their practice.

I’m just so, so excited.

So that was what we discussed with our first client. We just touched base with him and let him know where we all were procedurally and what was coming up.

Our next client for the day was … quite interesting. I mean, he’s suspected of being the kingpin of an international drug ring, and suspected of running the largest heroin operation into the United States. The government has been after him for fifteen years. I was a mere 10 years old when they first started formally investigating him.

The charge against him is money laundering, because that’s usually how they try to get people that they suspect of these kinds of activities, so that’s what we’re working on.

This case isn’t going to trial. It’s a plea agreement, and since he was actually initially convicted of money laundering in the Netherlands and extradited from there after he tried a crapload of appeals, the procedural aspect is really, really interesting. In the course of looking at his case, I’ve learned all sorts of crazy things and enjoyed every minute of it.

Our last client, OMG.

OMG, you guys. You guys, OMG.

This was a case that originally started out as a death penalty. My boss worked with his BFF Andrea Lyon, one of the women who inspired me to want to be a criminal defense attorney, and got it “de-deathed.” We are now in the sentencing phase and just got back a copy of the PSIR (Pre-Sentencing Investigative Report, usually called a PSI on the state level).

We had a good meeting with the client, who was recently moved over from another facility, and he’s an intensely charismatic man. I just love him to bits. He’s very charming and very warm and friendly and personable, and just brilliant. A brilliant, brilliant man. He’s also suspected of being the second commander of one of Chicago’s most notorious gangs, so there’s that.

At the end of our visit, he mentioned that he was working on a bunch of songs, and he wasn’t writing them down, but just keeping them in his head and he’d be happy to perform one for us.

Now obviously, I was REALLY excited about this.

:D

really happy dog

 

That was basically my face.

So since there was no music, obviously, he performed it as spoken word, and it was amazing. It was the length of a normal track of its kind, and the structure was tight, the rhymes were sharp, the message was pointed. They were the words of a smart, tortured, disenfranchised, brilliant man with bad memories. It was a great song.

And do you know what it reminded me of?

kanye-west-bear

 

YES.

SHUT UP.

It TOTALLY reminded me of ‘Ye’s College Dropout album.

And if you jerks would shut up for just one minute and think about it, you’d start to get what I mean.

Who was Kanye when he wrote College Dropout?

He was a young Black man in Chicago, growing up as the son of a single mother, a man without a lot of resources, but a fierce drive and a world of ambition. He was a Black man in Chicago. Really, that says it all right there. He saw personal and institutional racism all around him every single day and he channeled that and his struggles into his music and wrote College Dropout.

That’s why I kind of want to just slap his critics who whine about how 808s and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy were phony and faux-artistics and too far removed from his roots and too complex in theory and execution and how they wish he’d just write a College Dropout 2.0.

No. Shut up. If you honestly think that about 808s and MBDTF, it’s not because they’re ‘faux-artistic’ or ‘too far removed.’ It’s because you don’t *get* them. And I’m not trying to be an ass about this – I didn’t get 808s at first, either. I was like, what is this crap? Give me more Graduation!

(I also really loved Late Registration. Who am I kidding? I love EVERY album! He could probably say something in his sleep and I’d record it and then go hunt down each and every Grammy voter and sit outside their houses with a torch and a pitchfork until they agreed to reward him for those slurred, sleepy words. I’m kind of unhinged, you guys.)

It took me a few listens to understand 808s, to see how it fit together and how it flowed and to start to grasp what it meant. And then I loved it to bits, start to finish. When MBDTF came out, I was prepared to ‘not get it’ until I listened to it a few times, so I was really excited to have my mind blown by Yeezus. And I was not disappointed.

The Kanye that wrote College Dropout no longer exists. He will never again exist. That Kanye that struggled as a young Black man in Chicago is gone. That is not at all to say that he doesn’t still struggle as a young Black man. He absolutely does. But he’s different now. His experiences are different.

Our client, though, is similarly situated to the College-Dropout-Yeezy in many important ways. And when he let loose with that awesome performance in a freezing contact room at a detention center, I definitely heard Kanye West. I heard the voice and the words of a young Kanye West who is a native son, who survived on the streets because he’s fucking brilliant, who is locked up away from his family and his children and his friends, and won’t be out for many years.

kanye runaway

 

Seriously, it was wonderful.

It was one of those experiences that doesn’t sound really impressive, and part of that is my failure to describe it in a particularly moving way. Also I would have LOVED to have a text version of it for myself, not to share here or anything, but to have. I think I’ll ask him to write it down for me the next time we talk.

So I know that it doesn’t sound like a whole lot. Huma sat in a freezing cold visitation room right next to a prisoner and he sang a song.

But it’s one of those things I will remember for a long, long time. His words, the way he looked, the way it sounded and flowed, and how it felt. I’ll remember that for a very long time.

 

What do attorneys do on snow days?

Written By: humarashid - Mar• 05•13

Welp, I can’t speak for all attorneys, obviously, but I’m definitely calling it a snow day today, and I’ve got a ton of crap to do. I woke up this morning for Tahajjud and Fajr prayers and knew the storm was on its way, even though everything was fine. So I texted my boss, Raymond Wigell (the man doesn’t sleep) at 5AM and told him that since it was supposed to really start coming down around 11AM or noon, I wasn’t coming in and would just work from home. My work day starts at 10AM, and I leave at 9AM to get there on time, so it would have been two hours of driving for barely two hours at work, and wouldn’t have been all that productive.

I was on the money, because the cul de sac is just blanketed. I’m looking out there and thinking that going out in this mess is not at all advisable. Plus, the roads are horrible and I have to drive an hour to get to work. Nah, man.

a horrible decision

 

So I decided to work from home, and I have a ton to do. Which is obviously while I’m blogging. But that’s on my list of things to do, so THINGS WORK OUT.

dog

Now, all of our client files are at the office, on our network. I don’t know that there’s a way to access them remotely. I mean, there probably is, but I don’t know, so screw that. I had a few closing letters to write for matters that were recently wrapped up, but that can wait a little longer.

As far as working remotely, I like to do that with the marketing stuff. My boss is a solo practitioner, so as far as attorneys it’s just him and me. This suits my purposes wonderfully, frankly, because I get to work on almost everything that he’s working on, including some insanely complicated and awesome federal cases that most lawyers wouldn’t get to touch even five or ten years out of the gate. Raymond passes a ton of shit on to me so I get to cut my teeth and then have him review and critique things and tell me how to fix them, and I’ve learned so much that way. Plus, he gives me so much attention and I love that because, obviously, everyone should always be paying attention to me because I’m basically gallopingly fabulous.

gosling

But as a solo, we do our own marketing. And yeah, it gets in the way of the legal work sometimes. Not to the extent that we sacrifice the legal work to do the marketing stuff – never. Absolutely never. But the marketing always falls to the side in favor of actual lawyering, and it’s unfortunate because marketing is really important in terms of how we make our living. A necessary evil, my boss calls it. He absolutely hates it but there’s no way to escape it.

Part of our marketing is building up the firm’s blog a bit, and that’s my job. So far almost all of the articles on the blog (except the first two) have been written by me. I write a bunch of posts, have my boss glance at them for editing purposes, and then schedule them three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. That doesn’t always happen, just because we’re always so busy with actual lawyering, alhamdulillah.

So I use weekends and downtime to catch up on blogging, and that’s my big project for today. I have to find some crap to blog about, and I have to do little write ups about what we did in court this week. We’re in court usually 3 times a week, and we occasionally write about what we accomplished on a given court day. We’re very careful about ethics rules in terms of what we share, but it’s actually possible to share quite a bit and paint a great picture of what you did without running afoul of those rules.

So that’s my big job for today: blogging about random crap and scheduling it to post on the firm’s blog.

My other big job involves prep for one of the cases I’m handling on my own. It’s a retail theft case, and I’ve never done retail theft. My boss has done it a million times in the past, but he’s letting me handle this one.

It’s in Springfield, so I’m not looking forward to the three hour drive, six hour round-trip for EACH COURT DATE, but whatever. What can you do?

But I know very little about retail theft. I know that based on acts of legislation it’s different from general theft under Illinois law. It can’t be expunged. It’s a black mark that follows you around forever. And then of course there are all sorts of little issues like the punishment depending on the value of the items stolen, etc, which is just some number play that I need to wrap my head around even though I know the parameters as they apply to my client and the specific fact pattern I’m dealing with.

My boss, who is basically my mentor and an awesome one at that, told me how he used to deal with this stuff when he was a young lawyer. He’d go read the section of the code that dealt with his specific problem, in this case, retail theft. Then he’d read the entire section on theft so he could see how retail theft fit in, how it was different from and similar to the other kinds of theft. Then he’d go read the annotations to the statutes so he had a really good feeling for what the intent of the legislature was (so he could use that in conversations with the prosecutor, and with the judge in court), and how it all developed over time, and what the nuances of the treatment of the statute in different cases were.

So that is what I’m going to do with this retail theft thing. My job from now until the end of March is to learn everything I can about retail theft. And that’s what I intend to do.

Especially on this cozy snow day.

:)

How the heck do I buy a birthday card for someone in federal custody?

Written By: humarashid - Mar• 04•13

So my assignment this weekend (well, one of them) was simple. This week, my boss, Raymond Wigell, and I are planning on making a couple jail visits in Peach Cobbler county. There’s a federal detention center there where three of our clients are currently being held, so we’ll probably take a whole day and spend some time with each of them, since it’s too long of a drive to ignore efficiency altogether.

One of our clients there at the detention center in Peach Cobbler county has a birthday coming up this week. So my assignment this weekend was to pick up an appropriate card.

IDK, maybe I’m just overthinking it, but picking up a birthday card for a man that is allegedly the kingpin of a major international heroin ring is kind of difficult.

:|

ryan skeeved out

I just don’t really know about this, you guys. Let’s take a look at some of the problems.

1

Now, this would be fine, except he’s not our ‘special friend.’

There are plenty of clients we have that we are very close to. We care very deeply about them. We’re interested, genuinely, in things like how their dog is, or which schools they’re applying to, that their families are well. We’ll tease them about silly things like a new beard, or a goofy sweatshirt. We have great relationships with them beyond the basic attorney-client relationship.

But this client is not one of them. Our relationship with him is pretty much restricted to an attorney-client relationship. We work for him. We give him advice. We try to protect him. We relay reports back and forth between him and family members around the world. He makes the decisions. He calls us if he has problems or needs or something comes up.

So the card is fine, but he’s not our ‘special friend,’ and we’re not his.

NEXT.

2

Guys.

:|

Our client is a very dignified man.

He would not approve of birthday cards with hamsters. It would be an insult.

As for fun … I don’t know about this, you guys. He’s a nice man and he is respectful and proper, but I don’t know about fun. I’m sure he was a lot of fun once … if you were on his good side. Also, when he wasn’t in the custody of the US Marshals.

I feel like, even if you’re a fun guy, having to ask “how high?” when the Marshals tell you to jump would kind of zap you of your sense of fun.

So hamsters + fun makes for a no go.

Moving on…

3

 

Yeah, aside from the “friend” problem, I read a lot of critical race theory – and there is something in the back of my mind that is just squicked out by the idea of giving a Black man a card with a monkey on it. I don’t care if there’s only a tiny chance he will take it the wrong way. I don’t care. The comparison between Black people and monkeys is incredibly loaded and painful. See, how POC rightfully freaked out over those political cartoons in which the President and First Lady were depicted as monkeys. Fuck that shit.

Also, while I may hope it’s a very good year for him, it likely won’t be. I mean, he’s in federal custody. And I don’t want to rub it in, you know?

So this was adorable, but no.

I mean, yeah, hopefully he wouldn’t take it the wrong way and be like, that bitch, she’s telling me to have a good year when she knows I’m going to be locked up here the whole time. But still. I was sure there was a better one I could find, so I kept looking.

4

Very pretty. But a little too touchy-feely for a client, no?

There’s nothing wrong with being touchy-feely with a client, to my way of thinking, as long as it’s sincere. (And doesn’t violate ethics rules. …Damn ethics rules. >:/ Always crampin’ my style.)

But if something is insincere, it’s easy to tell it’s insincere. He knows we don’t think he’s particularly ~*~special~*~. He’s going to roll his eyes and be like, WTF-ever.

Nah, I figured I could do better.

5

Now, there’s this one. It has a vibrating, singing bear inside.

It’s kind of okay, but the message isn’t so great. Our client isn’t exactly going to spend the day doing whatever he likes best. He’s not going to drink a single malt and watch his detective stories. Not exactly.

Plus, the Marshals can be really picky about what they’ll let you send back with your client. I didn’t want to take a chance with the vibrating bear.

That was a strange sentence to write.

6

Pretty, but I didn’t exactly want to rub it in that he is not exactly at liberty to go anywhere yet.

Otherwise, I really liked it. Very nice.

And then I saw this card:

7

Hm.

I’m not arguing the veracity of these statements as they pertain to my clients. I’m sure he IS an inspiration to others. I know his relatives DO love him very much.

But it’s definitely not an appropriate card for this particular birthday.

If you’ve stuck with me all the way through this non-post, this mish-mash of silliness, I commend you. Here’s the card I actually went with.

8

I think it’s tasteful and appropriate and cheerful, with a little bit of fun tossed in. I like the different languages on the cover, and I don’t mind the “world of joy” business on the inside. Joy is such an intimate, personal, self-focused feeling that it totally works here, unlike cards talking about cake or presents or scotch.

Hah.

IDK, I had fun with this. It was such a bizarre little experience, shopping for just the right birthday card for a man like our client, who the US government has been after for about 15 years. “Which birthday card would he like?” I mean, I know this was a silly post with no real point, but it just kind of made me laugh in a slightly morbid way.

At least I’m prepared, though, for our client visit in which we will also wish him a happy birthday.

Ah, my life’s a joke.

:|

Court Chronicles: It’d be great if I could avoid making a fool of myself.

Written By: humarashid - Mar• 01•13

No, seriously, you guys, it would be pretty awesome in terms of professional development if I could maybe, I don’t know, avoid making a fool of myself in the various courthouses I appear in. I mean, I don’t know, if I can somehow work not looking like a galloping moron into my schedule, I think many people would benefit, particularly me. So, you know.

Anyway, the other day I appeared in Duck Confit with Roasted Cinnamon Apples county. (Remember, all county names are food. Not because they need to be for confidentiality reasons, because that’s dumb, and everyone knows which counties I appear in if they pay attention. But it’s just in case, and because it makes me laugh.)

So in Duck Confit county, we had a couple things up day. The first was a misdemeanor Criminal Trespass to Land and Resisting Arrest. The other three were down on the main floor, since they were felonies, and took more time to get through. (In the misdemeanor courtroom, oddly, the call is so big that it moves through really fast, so it didn’t take us long at all to file an appearance and set a date. I had to wait on some copies of discovery, but it wasn’t bad at all.)

The other three were, predictably, heavier. And they were 9:30 calls that took us more than two hours to wrap up. I showed up early, as I always do, because I’m still new to the county and show up early even though nothing ever starts on time. So I dumped my stuff in one of the bigger courtrooms, in the corner of the jury box, and went about checking in, looking around for the prosecutors, looking at the call list, rounding up clients, and so on.

We had an Unlawful Use of a Weapon (by a minor) in another courtroom, and an Attempted First Degree Murder in the room where I’d ditched my stuff, and an Aggravated Cruelty to Animals charge in another courtroom. (That’s the one where various animal rights activists come and sit around for hours and glare daggers at us. It’s a lot of fun.)

So we were bouncing around and like I said, it took us more than two hours to get everything wrapped up, even though these were mostly just discovery status dates. We took some time to review and project out in one of the attorney conference rooms and then it was time to leave. I headed to the courtroom where I’d dumped my stuff that morning – where we’d been up for the Attempted First Degree – and opened the door and took several steps inside . . .

And realized I’d walked right into a trial.

:|

You guys.

I walked in on a damn trial. With a jury in the box.

DAMMIT.

I was only a couple steps in so when I realized what was going on I was like HO SHIT and backed out immediately.

And then stood there like, …What the heck do I do.

:|

But then the judge, who is a very nice woman who just moved on up from misdemeanors to felonies and replaced one of the other judges at that courthouse, waved me back in. So I walk back in and she’s like, “Counsel. Did you forget your things?”

And she’s making that face at me that my mom sometimes makes when I do something dumb, and I was like, “…Yeah.”

:/

So she laughed and said that they’d put it in the corner and pointed me to it and then waited while I gathered my crap (apologizing the whole time), and smiled when I waved goodbye to her and ran away.

OH GOD MORTIFYING.

But whatever. It’s done and I can’t change it. I’m sad that I interrupted the proceedings and I hope I didn’t mess up a fellow defense attorney’s rhythm or anything. Lord knows we fight an uphill battle in there.

I did shake my head at myself when I walked out, though. I really need to remember to check the court calendars to see if there’s a trial after the morning call, so I know to grab my stuff and take it with. I was lucky the judge was entirely pleasant about it; I’ve seen other judges not be nearly so kind about little things like that before.

But you know what it made me think? I think I get away with little faux-pas like that pretty easily just because I’m adorable. Like, seriously, I’m the most adorable person that ever adorbed. I’ve made minor derps in front of judges before and they’ve always been sweethearts about it. They’ve laughed and teased me about it, and then every time they saw me after that they’d smile because they remembered me and my little derps. The courtroom deputies are often the same way – although sometimes it’s me remembering THEIR little derps, which is pretty funny, too.

Ugh. Seriously. I get away with so much stupid shit because I’m short and petite and still have the face of a teenager. Welp, at least some good comes of the baby-fat that seems to have taken up permanent residence in my face.

>:/

Business Casual Superstar #506: What I Wore To Court Today

Written By: humarashid - Feb• 28•13

Whoops! I initially tried to post this right from my iPhone, but got ahead of myself and posted the picture without text. Which is never a good thing because obviously any picture needs to be accompanied by at least a thousand words to qualify and mitigate it. Obviously. ANYWAY. I know I said that it was my goal to include more pictures of what I’m wearing to court, since you jerks are always asking me about it on Twitter. Super nosey of you. Really. It’s just too much.

But whatever. I have to put up with you guys, so here we go.

I will refer to all counties as food. Because I like food. And just to be extra safe. Not that I always disguise the county I’m in, and not that I even need to (unless I was saying something super revealing about a case, in which case the county name would be the least of the problem). But you know.

So I was in Sour Gummy Worms County this morning, and it was a really light call. We were up on Possession of Child Pornography, as well as Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault. Not a whole lot happened, mostly because of where we are procedurally in the case. Both dates were discovery status, and were continued because the State needed more time to procure and tender discovery.

This is what I wore. I looked adorable, predictably.

20130228-151211.jpg

 

And the best part? I wasn’t mistaken for a student today!

Also, it has just come to my attention that I do not look nearly as adorable in this picture as I do/did in real life. This is immensely troubling, for obvious reasons. My excuse is that fluorescent lighting does me few favors, especially when I’m not wearing makeup.

The fact that I’m too lazy to put on makeup is entirely beside the point, I assure you. I spend exactly five minutes doing my hair and makeup in the mornings (AND IT SHOWS), and I would like to keep it that way.

>:/

Quit trying to change me, you guys. That’s super rude.

None of these women are asking for it

Written By: humarashid - Feb• 24•13

hijab

 

Source

I’m not going to bother repeating the same old points about consent. There’s no excuse to NOT know that shit already. Consent, consent, consent. The woman on the far right is certainly not asking for it any more than the woman on the far left is.

But there’s another point I want to address here. The woman on the far left is very obviously Muslim. She is wearing a hijab to cover her hair, and her jilbab is the robe that covers the rest of her. The garments are loose and cover everything but her face, feet, and hands, and are most often associated with practicing Muslim women.

The point that needs to be made is this: hijab and/or jilbab are not some kind of magical shield.

Hijab and/or jilbab do NOT protect women from rape.

Saying that they do presupposes that rape is about lust. It’s not. Rape is about power and control. There is a sexual aspect to it, of course. But it is fundamentally about power and control. A rapist is far more likely to pick a target that he knows he can easily overpower and penetrate. Women of all shapes and sizes and races and social classes are raped, and women wearing all manner of clothing are raped.

Furthermore, making the argument that a scantily clad woman is asking to be raped whereas a fully clothed woman like the jilbabi on the left is not, also simultaneously argues that a man’s natural state is that of a rapist. Cover everything up, and he realizes he can’t stick it in you if you don’t want him to. Show some skin and he forgets all that and becomes little more than a rutting animal who has no concept of concept.

Obviously, this is not true. To repeat: a man’s natural state is decidedly NOT that of a rapist, and making these false arguments and equivalencies about how much skin is being shown is entirely disingenuous and insulting to both genders.

I cannot tell you how many times people – educated, sensible people – have told me that we Muslim women wear hijab and/or jilbab to protect us from rape.

We do not.

I am not a hijabi, much less a jilbabi, but I wear hijab when I pray at home, and I wear hijab to the masjid, and I cover my hair with a dupatta when I visit the homes of certain family friends (this is more cultural than religious, and shouldn’t be confused even though it very frequently is). So I cannot speak as a hijabi or a jilbabi, but I can speak as a woman who does occasionally cover her hair in public for both religious and cultural reasons.

Hijab and jilbab are NOT about protection from the ubiquitous male gaze. Hijab and jilbab are about a woman’s own personal connection with God, and her interpretation of the Quranic verses that are read by many as mandating hijab.

(Some interpret those verses to mandate hijab AND jilbab; some interpret those same verses as mandating hijab, jilbab, AND niqab, which leaves only the eyes uncovered. It depends on the person and how they interpret the text.)

Hijab, jilbab, and niqab are not some kind of magical shield that will protect Muslim women against rape, and I cannot even articulate how fucking sick I am of hearing that nonsense. Hijabis, jilbabis, and niqabis get harassed, sexually molested, and raped just like the women that do not wear those articles of clothing. Pretending that this isn’t the case is to ignore the reality of the situation. You might as well bury your head in the sand and pretend that the countless studies and statistics and reports on the sexual harassment and assault of covered Muslim women don’t exist.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a seventeen year old kid not that long ago. We were discussing this topic more generally and he said something that kind of stuck with me ever since. He said, “It’s not like, if girls covered up more, straight guys would suddenly stop liking girls. We’ll want to do ’em no matter what they’re wearing – if they show up in a turtleneck and baggy jeans, or in a tank top and those tiny shorts. Men will still want to do women.”

I also want to note that it is possible for a woman to be a rapist as well, and men and boys are victims of rape, too. And this discussion applies to heteronormativity.

Seriously, though, if I hear one more person – just ONE more person – tell me that hijab or jilbab really does protect women from being raped, I will strangle someone.

We are changing focus; I hope you don’t mind.

Written By: humarashid - Feb• 16•13

I’ve been gone awhile, and it’s been despite my best intentions. I used to love blogging in law school because it kept me sane and gave me an outlet to be silly and frivolous and creative, when my real life was filled with academic drudgery. I wanted to keep going with it, but after I graduated from law school, I kind of lost my sense of direction with this thing.

Did I want to continue it as a fashion blog? Well, with 500-some posts, I was kind of burned out. I mean, I still enjoy it and I will still keep up with the fashion aspect of my life as a fancy attorney, but it’s not where my focus is.

Did I want to limit it to personal stuff? Well, maybe, but it wasn’t a personal blog. I wasn’t using it as a platform to air my personal problems or fears or aspirations or the day-to-day events of my life focusing on what kind of soup I had for lunch or that funny noise my car was making. I am not good at sharing personal stuff with anyone, much less on the Internet.

I know that if you follow this blog and follow me on Twitter, I seem to share a lot of personal shit. I really don’t. Whatever I do share – and yes, it’s quite a bit – it’s all meaningless. That’s not important stuff. It’s not going to give you some grand insight into who I am. It is carefully written stuff calculated to be frivolous and amusing and not very revealing at all. It’s why people who know me online are almost always surprised to meet me in real life. They always so, “Oh, but you’re so different in real life!” Well, of course I am. Did you really think you got an accurate snapshot of who I was from the stupid crap I tweet? I’m a much more serious, focused, careful person in real life. I’m actually quite an introvert. My online persona is just scripted differently because that’s how I enjoy it.

So if I didn’t want it to be personal, did I want it to be focused on op-ed type articles about racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, and so on? Well, yes and no. I enjoy writing about that sort of thing, but it’s also really depressing. It’s exhausting and draining and I don’t know how people who actually focus on that stuff manage to do so consistently. Props to them, because I’m not that strong. After about a month of talking about nothing but bigotry and institutionalized racism, yeah, good luck getting me to even come out from under my bed.

So as you can see, I was kind of floundering in terms of what I wanted to do with this thing. I didn’t want to let it die, that was for sure. Well. It’s for sure NOW. I know I don’t want to let it die. This was a big part of my memory of law school, and it was truthfully a big part of what kept me sane. (Debatable. But you know.)

But I think I have it figured out.

This is my plan, and you can check it out and see if you want to stick around. I won’t mind if you don’t, even if you’ve been a loyal reader in the past. Whatever, it’s your decision, your preference.

  • Law stories. Stuff from the trenches. My first jail visit. A federal proffer. A change of plea gone awry. (OH MAN.) That sort of thing. I’ve basically stumbled into my dream job, and I want to be able to talk about it. Because I have EXCELLENT stories, and I think they’re wildly interesting. I will always go above and beyond not to reveal any sensitive or identifying information, or to only refer to things that are of  public record, to protect myself and my clients. But I would love to share some experiences from my day because every day is so different and exciting and I love it all to bits.
  • Book reviews. I enjoy reading, even though I don’t have as much time now to read for fun as I used to, or as I would like. I constantly check out books from the library, borrow books from friends, buy books, and get sent books to review. I will only be reviewing, for the purposes of this blog, books that I REALLY enjoy that I also think a lot of my readers would enjoy, and books that publishers send me to read and review. Part of that is personal – I want to share what I enjoy that I think intersects with the interests of a lot of my readers here. Part of it is business – I am sent books because I have a blog that people read, and publishers are entitled to expect me to share my review on the blog that inspired them to send me review copies. So I hope you enjoy that.
  • Personal fashion posts. What am I wearing to court? What did I just buy to wear to court? What do I WANT to buy to wear to court? What am I waffling about wearing to court? All of that will be up here, inshaAllah. I don’t know if I’ll do “Business Casual Superstar” posts specifically, with the $100 outfits, but I might. But I will definitely be posting pictures of myself and my clothes and my ensembles so you can get a sense of what I dress like, and what I dress like as an attorney. That was missing on my blog before – rather conspicuously. I don’t think I ever posted pictures of myself and my body. I just didn’t feel comfortable with that. I still don’t, but I’ll get past that and snap a picture of the shoes I just bought to wear to court, and so on. People on Twitter love it when I share that sort of thing, so I figured I’d do it on the blog because that was a main theme under which this blog initially developed.
  • Articles. These will be the same op-ed style articles I’ve written in the past about a bunch of different issues. I can predict that they will focus mostly on racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, politics, law and legislature, crime, and popular culture. Basically, any intersection of what was just mentioned. I think it’ll be fun, and maybe it’ll spark discussion. Who knows? I will also be linking to articles I thought were interesting and doing brief write-ups about those, and if/when I start blogging for HuffPo and other publications, that will all be linked here.
  • Moar pictures. I talked about this a little bit in relation to the fashion posts. I will be posting more pictures of, say, a pretty new blazer I bought (with details as to where and how much, since people seem to like that, and I’m great at finding designer deals). But I will also just be posting more pictures of me. I might snap a pretty picture of a courthouse that I often practice in. I might share a picture of me and some of my colleagues (particularly my furry, four-legged co-counsels). I might add fun photos from a Bar event or something like that. People seem to enjoy getting a better look at the woman behind the words, and I can do that without venturing outside my comfort zone. So I will. I won’t spam this blog with my face, naturally, because that’s not my style anyway. But I want to open it up a bit more and offer more of a glimpse at me and into my life.

This is what I have so far. This is what I think this blog will be about. I hope you’ll stick around and continue to find what I have to say to be of interest. If not, that’s fine. I did pretty much switch focus from what this blog had been for a quite a while, and I understand if you’re not interested any longer.

But it’s definitely time to make some changes. My life has changed in huge, unimaginable ways, and I can’t just keep doing the same things I was doing before, even if I’m just referring to a blog that I kept up with in my spare time. It’s definitely time this blog, if it was to keep being a part of my life, reflected my new life.

Stay tuned! I’m determined and eager to build this blog back up now that I know where I’m going. And please don’t mind if you see this blog acting funky at some point in the near future – I’ll be playing with the layout and the banner and that sort of thing.

Reinvention, man. Reinvention.

Business Casual Superstar #505: I Need These For Court, Obviously

Written By: humarashid - Feb• 03•13

Guys.

You guys.

Seriously.

Take a look at these earrings.

You guys, I am seriously.

:|

$29.99

 

Seriously, how awesome are these earrings?! They’re daggers, with a red Swarovski crystal. Obviously, I need these earrings to wear to court. OBVIOUSLY.

(I wonder if I could get away with it, though. Hahaha.)

But on a more serious note, they’re not worth it, in my opinion. I just put this up as a fun post so we could all share a little laugh. You know how it says $30 up there? Yeah, that’s for ONE earring.

As in, if you want two, one on each ear, you’ll be forking over $60.

Yeah, totally not worth it.

But at least we all got a nice chuckle out of it.