VLF Blog Post

YOU KNOW YOU HAVE A BAD LAWYER IF… Businessman Hiding Face Behind Sign Question Mark

Sentencing is not the time to realize you have a bad lawyer. Two nights ago I was reading a blog that I frequent. One of the side notes referenced Ohio basketball player, Tony Farmer, who fainted during sentencing. I clicked on the link and off I went thinking I would have a laugh. Much to my dismay there was nothing funny about the video. The video showed an 18 year old child fainting next to his attorney. You can hear the judge pronounce sentence on the teenager. The judge said I sentence you to a term of 5 years 3 in prison. The teenager goes into a panic and he looks at his lawyer in fear and whispers, “I got to do 3 years” the lawyer did not look at him, did not speak to him, did nothing to calm him down. The judge continued speaking and the teenager hears her saying he has to serve 5 years again he looks to his attorney and again no reaction, no eye contact, no reassurance. Exasperated and overcome with fear he faints to the floor. The attorney does not move to help, you hear his mother cry out from the back of the courtroom.

As an attorney, this scene was devastating to watch and once again it demonstrated why people have such a terrible perception of lawyers. There were a few things that struck me as I watched this video. Firstly, why was the teenager uninformed about his plea? There is very little that transpires during a plea that an attorney is not aware of beforehand. Why was the teenager so shocked by the judge’s words? You should never stand before a judge to enter a plea if you are not sure what you are entering a plea to and the sentence you will receive. Things move fast when you are in court but this is your life that is in the balance. If you need more time to speak to your lawyer, you should ask for it. Ideally, you should have met the lawyer in his/her office to discuss your plea ahead of time.

Now it could be that this lawyer explained the recommendation to the teenager at length and he was confused because of the way the judge was reading it. This brings me to my next point. As attorneys we are confidant, friend, counselor, and therapist. It behooves us to remember that we are dealing with people and regardless of what they have done they deserve to have someone fighting for them. They deserve a warrior who will fight to make sure that their dignity is not stripped from them. Here is an attorney dealing with a young man who has done a terrible thing for which he is being punished but the person whom he hired or was appointed to represent him, cares so little for him that a kind touch or a reassuring word was more than he could muster as this child melted down before his very eyes. As Mr. Farmer fell to the ground the lawyer’s humanity did not tell him to help his client up instead he looked straight head. This is a scene I have seen play out in courtrooms across this state.

When hiring an attorney you should be confident that the person you hire sees you as a person and not an animal, as a person and not a payday. I have people tell me stories of attorneys not returning calls, not showing up for court, cursing at them, even threatening them. I had one client tell me that an attorney said, “wow, a 42 year old black man with no criminal history that’s a surprise.” that’s a red flag. You should be confident that your attorney is working for you. Every attorney is not a good fit for every client. I often tell my clients, if you don’t trust in my ability, I am not the lawyer for you because at the end of the day you and only you suffer the consequence. It is you that has to leave your family for prison and as those cell doors close you have to be able to say that your attorney did the very best they could for you. An attorney cannot work miracles but you should always have confidence in their ability and their commitment to your cause. Sometimes that means firing an attorney! You should never be afraid to fire your attorney. Sentencing is not the time to realize you hate your attorney.