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The Biggest Courtroom
We’d been working the case for weeks, but due to the juvenile nature of the crime, it was difficult to get anybody to care enough to give up the videos and evidence we needed. So, we gathered all we could in advance of the court date and hoped it would be enough. I was already nervous about it. Then, on the day of the hearing, my superior called in sick, and I realized I would be facing the codefendants’ five highly experienced lawyers on my own in front of a judge who was already frustrated with the proceedings, without much of the evidence I needed to succeed. It went pretty much as you’d expect, considering the circumstances. The team of defense attorneys, a couple of them with 20–30 years’ experience, pulled every trick in the book against me, the underprepared rookie prosecutor. I was left grasping at straws, trying to find my footing in this hell I’d found myself in. But thank goodness it had been juvenile court, so it wasn’t in front of a jury. To his credit, Judge Solomon looked at the clear evidence that the kids had been the perpetrators and convicted them. So I emerged from the courtroom, battered, but at least proud of having done my job. Though my dignity was pretty mangled at that point, I picked myself up, brushed myself off, and got back into the fray as soon as possible. As they say, you live and learn. By now I’ve weathered enough storms to carry myself confidently through all kinds of legal proceedings, and to know precisely what to do in nearly every circumstance that comes up. Sometimes, though, it’s gratifying to look back at those early days, when I was a fresh face in the courtroom, and admire how far I’ve come. -William F. “Trey” Underwood, III Beat Down I’ve Ever Received THE STORY OF MY FIRST SOLO HEARING
O ver the years, I’ve come a long way as an attorney. By now, it feels like I’ve practically seen it all. So, when a new client comes in with a workers’ comp case or an injury weighing them down, I know exactly what to do to secure them the compensation they need. But when you’ve been in the game as long as I have, you don’t get to where you are without a couple of learning experiences along the way. And in fact, the toughest, most demoralizing courtroom beat down I’ve ever received was the first case I ever handled by myself, blindsided fresh out of law school with a juvenile court case that was a true perfect storm of legal messes. Shortly after I left law school, I worked at the DA’s office under the Graduate Practice Act, doing legal work for the department while I waited for my bar results. Until my bar results came through, I legally had to work under the watchful eye of my superiors, doing hearings and other things with them basically on standby the entire time. But one day, immediately after I received my license, the lawyer who was monitoring called in sick on the date of a juvenile detention hearing. I was left twisting in the wind. It all started with some bad press. Five 16-year-olds had wreaked havoc around town, boosting a bunch of vehicles in a cocaine- fueled frenzy and smashing up a local car dealership. Somehow, the detention hearing hadn’t happened in the mandatory 72 hours, so the hellions were initially released without even a slap on the wrist. The word was that Judge Solomon, who still oversees the Albany juvenile court, had let them off easy, when really his hands had been tied. After being bad-mouthed in the local media, he was pretty understandably upset.
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