"Rumpole- perhaps your readers would enjoy my experience at the Dade County Jail this week.
I took over a felony case from another lawyer and attempted to see my client at the Dade County Jail. Here is my story.
DAY ONE: MONDAY: I go to the jail and am cheerfully admitted through the legendary front gate. I fill out the paperwork, clear the screener (which is a new addition- for years no one bothered to check why the security machine was beeping. Just don't bring a cell phone or a lighter into the jail. Small arms and ammo were apparently completely acceptable.)
They take my paperwork and go to the computer and return and tell me I can't see my client because I am not the attorney of record. I inform them that the client just hired me. "No way Jose." If the computer doesn't say I'm his lawyer, I can't get in. Now it occurs to me at this point that in this case the client's family hired me. But what if they wanted me to see their son before hiring me? How would the jail handle that? Anyway, I am told to return with my notice of appearance.
DAY TWO: TUESDAY: I return with my notice of appearance. I enter the front gate, hand them my paper work and am promptly told that I cannot see my client. The computer does not have me listed as my client's attorney. "But I have my NOA" I say. "They told me they needed that."
Nope. If the computer doesn't have me listed as the attorney, I cannot get in.
A word about this computer. When they went to check the computer, the corrections officer could not get the mouse to work. She kept swiping it but the cursor on the screen didn't move. She then looked behind the screen to check the wire. I tried to lean down and talk through that little 16 inch opening in the security glass and tell her that the mouse was wired into the computer but not the screen. She ignored me. Then she started yelling to her compatriot that she couldn't check the computer because the mouse wasn't hooked up to the screen. "The computer, the computer !" I tried to yell. "Check the mouse wires to the computer." Another corrections officer arrived. Then another. They picked up the screen. They looked behind it. All the time tugging on the wire to the mouse that led down through a hole in the table and to the computer. Finally, and this is true- they put the screen down- one corrections officer held it- and another smacked it with a radio. Lo and behold! The mouse started working. The computer was checked and it dutifully spit out "NO" in my request to see my client.
DAY THREE :WEDNESDAY: Now things are going to get fun. I return with a copy of a certified copy of my motion for substitution of counsel. I fill out my paperwork. I present it to the corrections officer. "What's this?" "It's an order that says I am the new lawyer on the case. I bring it with me on the extraordinarily slim possibility your computer does not say that I am the lawyer on the case. " "Hold on." I wait several minutes. "You can't come in." "Why?" "The computer says you're not the lawyer on the case." "Aha. That's why I brought you an order. See, it's stamped just about ten days ago, saying the client switched lawyers. " "Hold on." I wait several more minutes. "You can't come in. " "Why." "My supervisor says this doesn't have red ink on it. It's not an official copy." They had me there. I made the fatal mistake of copying my certified copy, and not bringing the original one. I was beaten yet again. I left.
DAY FOUR: THURSDAY. If I was the subject of a reality TV show and had a TV crew following me, I would have the material for a top rated show. Today's attempt to see my client was truly frightening. I arrived at the legendary front gate fully armed for battle. I walk in. I clear the screener. I have my original certified copy of the motion for substitution of counsel. I cannot lose. I fill out my paper work, I smugly slide my original certified copy through the 16 inch slot, and while I was not looking Rod Serling was off to the side slyly informing his viewers to behold the over worked criminal defense attorney vainly trying for four days to see his client. Only today, unbeknownst to him, he was about to enter the twilight zone.
"You can't see the defendant." "Why not?" "The computer says you're not his lawyer." "Aha. But I have an order saying I am the new lawyer. And it has the red ink stamp on it as well."
"Huh?" "The order. You have it in your hand. It says I am the new lawyer." The corrections officer spends several minutes reading it. I am now quoting exactly the conversation that ensued, as I began to take notes. My recitation will also closely approximate the phonetic sounds of the words I heard:
"It don't say dat." "Yes it does." "Where?" "Can I see it for a moment." "No. hang on." I wait as a second corrections officer arrives. 2nd Officer: "What jew want?" Me: "Huh?" 2nd Corrections Officer: "You ain't seeing no one who you no be the lawyer for." Me: "Hang on a sec- that's a lot of negatives. I need to get this down." I take a deep breath. "Officers. I have an order saying that I am the new lawyer on this case. I know the computer doesn't think I am the new lawyer, but I assure you I am." First Corrections Officer: "Where it say dat on dis?" Me: "Right there. XXX shall be substituted as the attorney for YYY." First Corrections Office to Second: "See. He say dis say he da new lawyer. But this don't no say dat. Dis say substitute. Nothing about being a new lawyer." " Second Corrections Officer: "So he like working with the first one right?"
Me: "I'm right here. I can answer that question." First Corrections Officer: "Hold on."
Both corrections Officers disappear and after ten minutes or so, a third one arrives.
She authoritatively holds up the Order: "If you be working with some lawyer we need a letter from that lawyer saying you can see the client."
Me. "But I'm not working with the lawyer. I'm the new lawyer. I don't think any of you understand what "substitutes" means.
First Corrections Officer to Second and Third: "There he go again thinking he smarter than us cause he a lawyer."
Me: Bending down to talk through the 16 inch slot. "I never said that! All I'm saying is that if you don't understand the order, try reading the next line where it says that lawyer YYY shall be relieved from any further obligations in the case. "
Second Corrections Officer: "Why don't you try getting an order that say you da new lawyer. It ain't that hard."
Me. "I'm beginning to see your point. Can I speak with the shift commander? "
First Corrections Officer to second and third under her breath "I knew that was coming." Then to me: "He on break. You need to come back."
Post script :I went back on Thursday afternoon, spoke to the shift commander, was granted access to the jail, only to be told the floor was on lock down.
On Friday afternoon I went back to the jail and was promptly admitted and saw my client. I am by nature curious, so I asked the woman at the front desk why she didn't check the computer to see if I was the lawyer. "Too much trouble" she said. "The mouse never works and the information is always out of date."
Please Rumpole- please print this so the next time some sneering and condescending Judge who has never been in private practice wants to know why we didn't promptly see our client in jail, they will have some understanding of the troubles we go though. It's not just like we walk in, are given a cup of coffee and seated in a comfortable chair whilst out client is brought to us.
Rumpole says: Wow!