Wednesday, January 05, 2005

My hands are tied

My client's master calendar hearing was this morning. I felt, in travelling to court and waiting to be called, like I was cramming for an exam, scrambling through all of my documents to find the right answers- "When the judge asks this, I answer no, when he asks if we plead to the charges, I say yes..." I twittered about my client in my back-of-the-throat French to put us both at ease. I think my attempts to dispel tension come off to him as a lack of professionalism. It also doesn't help that I look about 18 years old on a good day. This morning, in my conservative suit, I might have passed for 20 in poor light.
Asylum seekers and their attorneys circled about us as we waited. I went up to the receptionist 3 times to make sure I had done everything correctly. When the clerk called us, I stood at a podium and spoke, waveringly, into a microphone. The judge was laconic and brisk. He asked NONE of the questions that I was told to prepare for. He asked if we'd need an interpreter for the merits hearing, if I was my client's counsel, if we understood the status of the case. Yes, yes, yes.
Then he dropped the bombshell- after denying the expedited hearing (which I've been told to do 100 times), he shuffled through papers, informed us that he'd have to put us at the end of his docket, and set our trial date for May. 2006.
Over a year from now. I had promised my client time and again that he'd have to wait 6 months, 8 months at most, to get out of limbo and get on with his life. So I was wrong. Although his ever-unreadable face did not register disappointment, he refused to come back to my office for food and discussion, which I take as his way of showing how unhappy he was. And rightly so- he can't work (probably), he can't make permanent plans- his daughter will be a teenager by the time he gets her over here.
But what could I do? Should I have been more contentious with the judge? No, of course not. Should I have asked for an expedited hearing? Maybe, but what if he'd given us a date 3-4 weeks from now? How in fuck's name would I get a case together by then?
We're damned if we do, etc. If only I didn't feel like I HAVE NO FUCKING CLUE WHAT I'M DOING, maybe I'd be more confident. I got my attorney registration card the other day, and I felt like it was a joke. What is the Supreme Court of Illinois thinking, making ME an attorney? Don't they know I am absolutely ignorant, and undeserving of this public trust. Do they KNOW I basically turned my law degree into my own master's in international studies? Do they CARE that it's a fucking miracle that I passed the bar?


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