Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Big Time Lawyerin' I did!

So, I got on the train to Manhattan at 5am.

I was at Jackie's with Dani around 5pm yesterday to get Dani settled and get ready to prepare for my biggest day of court ever. Unfortunately, Dani had other plans.

Monday night, Dani had 4 shots at her 4 month visit. Apparently they hit her like a wall about 24 hours later. That means when I arrived at my friend Jackie's, Dani started to cry, and continued to cry, and wail for about 4 hours. Her right thigh had become swollen and warm at the injection site, and she had been "off" all day, but had gotten much worse. She had no fever, but threw up everything I fed her when we arrived, including the tylenol. Mommy was ready to have a breakdown.

Nevermind that I was completely unprepared for oral argument. We had arrived at Jackie's early so I would have the entire night to work. No dice. Even though Jackie was super-helpful, I was not capable of being even remotely productive while my baby wailed unconsolably.

I finally got Dani to sleep and got to work around 8-ish, I think. Had over 1,000 pages of trial docs to read as well as cases, etc. I called it a night at 11, as I had to get up before 4am to get to the train station.

Hey, I told myself, I will arrive in the city at 7:35am, and my argument's at 10am so I still have time. Reminder for next time: It's really hard to write with a pen on a moving Amtrak. I arrived at Penn station, and it was barely 8am. I walk in and go through security where I am told they will take and keep until I leave all electronic devices including cell phones and cameras. I step out to call Jackie to remind her that Big Man is now the go to emergency guy, and I turn my three (yes, I am an asshole, three but really one is my old cell with my phone book still in it because I haven't made it to a Sprint store yet to switch over my contacts so I have to bring both for now) and the other one is my work blackberry. Here's the courthouse. (outside pics are okay)

I get to the court's cafeteria and get breakfast, and then find in my purse, oops, my digital camera. I have a moment of panic--will the security guys know if I just keep it in my bag and not use it? Will they somehow know? Am I subject to arrest if I am in this courtroom with recording devices? I panic and go back to security in tears to confess my camera sin, and give it to them to keep with my other stuff. They thank me for being honest and probably mock me when I leave.

The rest of the time I spend trying to navigate the three, not really differently labeled, different, although closely located banks of elevators which each only go to certain floors. It took me 20 minutes to find someone to tell me how to find the clerk's office to file my appearance.

Then, I thought I was at the right courtroom, as I saw another lawyer there, and he said he had been waiting for some time but still no courtroom deputy. And, wasn't it odd that there was no seating etc., he said. But, hey, there was a sign that said "ceremonial courtroom" and that is where my notice told me (and him) to go, and it told me to be there by 9:30. It was now 9:20. and there was a full calendar, but where was everyone? I asked the first person that came out of a secure area when there would be a deputy, and he informed me and the other lost lawyer that we were totally at the other side of the ceremonial courtroom and needed to drop floors to switch elevator banks to go back up to the original 9th floor courtroom that I saw when I first got there.

Motherfuckers. Early on, I asked someone for directions and he was quite nice (and cute and Asian) and he also turned out to be the courtroom deputy during my argument. One of the high points.

Let's suffice to say that, prior to even getting to the courtroom, I had to file my notice of appearance, and I couldn't find the clerk's office, and then I did, and then they told me the weren't open yet, but were all at their desks, and ultimately, there were tears in the clerk's office (mine), and no phone for me to call Big Man for strength, so I just looked at the ring I was wearing on my right hand (my dad's old star sapphire ring) and took a deep breath, and thought of my dad, who is capable of handling himself in any and all situations, and got my shizzle together. And it was ON.

Then on to the courtroom, where my case was FIRST. Yep. Since my firm appealed, that meant I was going to be the first lawyer to speak. So, I couldn't see what anyone else went through before I had to go. All advice I had received was that it was a hot bench, which means that they don't let you give a predetermined argument, but rather pepper you with questions. So, I had prepared for that. And only that. Clearly I didn't have too much prep time. I stood up, and none of the judges said anything. So, I had to begin, and formulate a potentially 5 minute argument, instead of answering 5 minutes of questions in the first round. FUCK!

So, I decide to focus only on the one point I think we can actually win, and spend my first 3 minutes on it, and then, finally a question (after a technical problem where my light/timer thingie wasn't working and the court officer had to bang on it to get it to work). So I make my pitch and try to answer the questions and BAM, time's up. So then my adversary starts, and again, no questions, so he just starts addressing his argument, but he addresses a different argument, to the points I didn't discuss (because they were losers for me and I had appealed) and after about 3 minutes (of his 7 total) one judge cuts him off and says, "Aren't you going to address anything she said?" So, he did for his remaining minutes. Fortunately, I had saved 2 minutes for rebuttal, so I got to try to refute my adversary's points, answer a few more questions, and offer to submit a reference, to which the judge said I could submit 2 pages by tomorrow. So, I get to bolster my argument on paper tomorrow. Maybe we might get our rehearing? Ah, I came. I saw. I argued. And, I met a really cool cabbie on the way back to Penn Station.

Anyway, got back to Penn Station early and got an earlier train. Since it wasn't dark on the way home (it was on the way down!) I took some pics.

Also, a quick shout-out to Amtrak Business Class! The tix are only $20 more, but the seats and legroom were almost too much! Seriously, so much room I had to sit on the edge of my seat to use the table! Awesome. My only beef was the cafe car was never open!
There were lots of interesting places along the Hudson, including this "warehouse". Very early and not that far from Albany the train slowed down to drive through some kind of quarry/rock crushing place, and at that moment, I didn' t feel as bad about being a lawyer, because working hard at a dusty quarry seemed way harder.

Closer to NYC, just a neat bridge, taken from my train window.

Home now, had dinner with Big Man.

We have a hectic few days of meeting and travel, so maybe no updates until the weekend. We are headed to Saratoga Friday for the Democratic Rural Conference of the New York State Democratic Committee--which means another overnight for Dani away from home, but with us this time--I think we are going to need a Sherpa to help with all the stuff. Sunday's our committee fundraising brunch with Congressman Tonko. And, I could use some sleep.

All in all, trip to NYC was good. Felt like a career woman and power lawyer and a good mom and wife all in 12 hours. Rare. Awesome.

1 comment:

debbyk said...

i have never pictured you anything other than cool under pressure - sounds like you did fine!