Ever sensitive to the lightest breeze, we have sniffed out that the new prosecutors have arrived!
You are about to begin a journey from law student to lawyer. You are being given great responsibility, for you are not just a lawyer; you are a prosecutor. Let us give you the worst case scenario. You will lose a case because some Judge granted a motion he or she should have denied. Then because it took so long, those witnesses you needed on your next case got bored and left, so when the Judge called that case you were forced to dismiss it because you were no longer ready. You now have a defense attorney who nobody likes trying to bamboozle you into waiving a mandatory jail sentence, and cop belittling you because he has been up all night, is tired, and can’t wait for you to get to his case. It is 3:30, you haven’t had time for lunch. It is the end of the month and your measly salary is down to a few bucks. At some point, hungry, broke, angry at being yelled at, frustrated in your attempts to prosecute, someone, maybe a pro se defendant, will tell you they are innocent. You will need will power, self control, and ability to compartmentalize your frustrations and anger, to treat that statement with all the seriousness that your job empowers you to do.
You are being entrusted with great power, and you are being given a great opportunity. The Dade State Attorneys Office has produced some of the great lawyers in Miami, Florida, and the Country. You have accepted a job that requires a sacrifice of salary and personal time. And yet, you competed against hundreds of other lawyers to get this spot. The best advice we can give you is that the best part is now starting. Squeeze every available drop of experience out of this opportunity.
While more than most people you prosecute are guilty, don’t forget that some are not. More importantly, you will need to learn the lesson of perspective. What do we mean by that? We mean that just because someone is guilty, and you can seek the most severe punishment for them, doesn’t mean you should. People lie, cheat, hit, hurt, and steal for more reasons than you can ever imagine. Perspective means working hard to get a conviction, and then seeking justice, not vengeance because some obnoxious defense attorney like us has made you work hard for that conviction. Understand the Constitution works only when we both do our job. Rolling over and pleading guilty just because you have a good case is not the way our justice system was meant to be. If we make you work for it, understand that you were chosen for this job because someone believed you had the ability to fight hard and win.
You will confront crossroads. Some colleagues and some police officers may someday to ask you to look the other way. A judge may put you on the spot and ask you a difficult question, where the truthful answer may damage a case, or deprive a victim of what you are sure is justice. Learn to recognize those moments for what they are: crossroads at which the fabric of what you are made of is revealed. Make the easy choices and you may end up regretting them for the rest of your life. A reputation earned over decades can be erased by one bad choice. Janet Reno always told her prosecutors to do the right thing. By that she meant always be honest and ethical and damn the consequences of what those honest and ethical choices may mean. Just look at the tough choices she made as Attorney General. No one could ever accuse her of playing politics.
So, welcome to our little world. In each class of new ASAs and PDs there are one or two people who find out that they have found the place where they want to make a life. It’s not a bad choice. But you don’t have to stay 20 years. Three good years of hard work and experience can set you on a path to legal success in whatever career you end up seeking.
And just remember that at some point, some inconspicuous humble lawyer may be watching what you say and do. Being on the blog can be a good thing or a difficult experience. It’s your choice.
Welcome. (And if you’re not from Miami, watch the Cuban coffee. Too much caffeine and sugar may seem like a good thing at the moment, but it will catch up with you. And watch out for those mojitos and models on South Beach. Too much of that can also lead to unintended consequences.)
See You In Court. Watching.