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Commentary and analysis of Ohio criminal law and whatever else comes to mind, served with a dash of snark.  Continue Reading »

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My expertise

I offered the county a deal one time with my appointed criminal cases:  I'd forego billing for the stuff I actually did, if they'd take the caps off and I got to charge them for all the time I spent sitting around waiting for something to happen.  Sadly, they turned it down, or I'd be writing this from Hawaii or some other paradise to which I'd long ago retired.

I was reminded of that as I was sitting in court yesterday afternoon.  I was waiting for my turn before the judge, but there were several sentencings ahead of me.  I wouldn't have minded so much if the events ahead of me were pleas, like mine.  Those generally have a finite duration:  the prosecutor recites the deal, I say, yeah, that's it, the judge goes through the guy's rights, the client says he's guilty, and it's time to move on to the next case. 

Not so much with sentencing; like snowflakes, they came in myriad shapes and forms.  In this one, an attractive young lady lawyer felt compelled to share with the judge every detail of her client's descent into the hell of drug addiction, and halting climb therefrom, a climb, the attorney assured the court, which would be aided by the strict monitoring that community control sanctions would assure.  As I listened to the lawyer regale the judge with her client's litany of woe, I sensed a feeling very much like the one I get when the woman ahead of me in the grocery line has a bunch of coupons.  I found the lawyer's presentation polished and articulate, and it was all I could do to keep from going up and strangling her with my bare hands, just to get things moving.

The second sentencing was shorter, and more amusing.  Another drug case -- quelle surprise -- and the defendant had been promised at the time of his plea that he'd get probation if he did some simple things, like start going to Narcotics Anonymous meetings and stay off of drugs.  Alas, that was asking too much.  What's more, the defendant apparently subscribed to the theory that if one must fail, one should fail spectacularly:  with each answer to the judge's questions, it became clear that the defendant not only hadn't abided by the judge's instructions, but was supremely disinterested in doing so.  The judge tried his best to talk him back down off the ledge, to no avail.

A little while later, I ran into the attorney who'd handled the case, and we commiserated on the extent to which our clients will do their utmost to talk themselves into prison.  "The best part," the lawyer told me, "is that as he's being led away, the guy asked me to get his belongings from the back of the courtroom.  So I did.  Coat, keys, cigarettes... and a box of condoms."

"Looks like you're gonna have a fun afternoon," I said. 

Speaking of criminal law, I've noticed that almost all of my posts lately have dealt with the subject.  There's always been a pronounced tilt in that direction on this blog, but I usually have sprinkled in an occasional discussion of some aspect of civil law.  Haven't done that in a while.

Which is surprising, considering I'm an expert on the subject.  At least, Lexis thinks so.  A couple months back, I got an email from them, saying that they were going to be offering a new feature -- "Expert Commentary" -- and they'd seen my blog and figured that I'd be perfect for the part.  Five commentaries, two to four pages each, each on a case involving some aspect of civil procedure or evidence.  They'd pay me three hundred dollars a pop, which, they acknowledged, was not market rate for the time it would take (then again, there's not exactly a line forming outside my door of people wanting to pay me to write these blog posts), but, they assured me, the big thing wasn't the money, it was the prestige of having people click on a particular case and seeing "Expert Commentary by Russ Bensing."

Figuring that, along with the proverbial three-fifty, would get me a cup of the Caramel Frappucino at the nearest Starbucks, I went along with it.  For my first commentary, I picked Hayes v. Oakridge Home, a case on arbitration out of the 8th District.  (If you've got Lexis, click on the get document feature and use the cite 2008 Ohio 787.)  I put together a nice little piece explaining the law in this rapidly-developing area, little of which makes any sense, but it sure did after I got done with it.  I sent it off, and the guy at Lexis -- I guess he'd be called my handler, if he worked for the DEA and I was his snitch -- sent back an email telling me it was very well written and exactly what they were looking for.

So I sat back and waited for the phone to ring off the hook with people demanding my expertise.  A few weeks later, when it hadn't, I decided to check out the Hayes decision on-line and see how my work had been handled.  Sure enough, there it was, just a few lines under the caption:  "Russ Bensing on Hayes v. Oakridge Homes and Enforcement of Contractual Arbitration Provisions," in big bold print.

And in equally big bold print, a "($)" sign next to the "Expert Commentary" right above that.  Turns out that unless you're one of those big law firms who have signed up for every database and feature that Lexis offers, to the point where they even come out and do your laundry once a week, you're not going to be able to read my words of wisdom unless you pony up $50.

In fact, I can't read my words of wisdom unless I want to shell out the money.  What's worse, they edited the "teaser" -- the couple of sentences you get to read for free -- so that it doesn't make any sense.

Fifty bucks was what I made for sitting around for an hour in court yesterday afternoon for my plea.  I think I'll wait 'til my expert commentaries hit video.

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