“Mr Mulvihill, you’re appointed”.
The sound of the judge’s voice speaking my name startled me from my stupor. I’d been sitting in the courtroom for an hour waiting for the District Attorney in my case to show up.
Until a moment ago, I had been bored. All criminal defense lawyers are familiar with the “hurry up and wait” endemic to the system, and today had been no different.
It was June 10 at 10.03am. I’d been in the courtroom since 8.59am, intermittently checking my phone while waiting to have my case called so I could get back to the office and address the approximately 372 things outstanding on my to-do list. With no secretary or staff, all my administrative work was my own, and it was piling up every second I waited for the DA.
“Yes, Your Honor?” Because I was too busy looking at LOLCAT memes, I hadn’t caught what the Judge said. I hoped he didn’t notice.
“You’re appointed in Commonwealth versus Barnaby Jones. Trial date to remain, July 20 for a three-day jury. Mr Mulvihill, you’re attached, and it’s must-be-tried”.
A month away?
I felt as if I’d swallowed a lead brick.
The judge then looked out to the gallery packed with unfamiliar faces— defendants and family alike—and started speaking.
“Mr Jones, your previous lawyer James Alton is removed. Mr Mulvihill is your new lawyer. He will be representing you in this case.” I looked to the gallery. I had no idea who the judge was addressing. Apparently my newest client was out there somewhere. A month to investigate and prepare for a jury wasn’t enough, was it? I had to buy time. I rose from my seat
“Your Honor, considering this especially short trial date, I request that the Commonwealth pass discovery at the bar of the Court today. And if they cannot, I request a longer trial date to afford me the opportunity to—”
“We’ll be sure to fax a copy of the discovery to Mr Mulvihill later today.” The DA in the room cut me off.
“So ordered. Trial date to remain.” Well, so much for that.
The judge continued, “And Mr Jones, you may want to speak with Mr Mulvihill today to get his information and meet with him. I am not sure to what extent you spoke with your prior counsel about this matter, but you may wish to get Mr Mulvihill up to speed on this.”
A tall, athletic, african american man with shaved head and a beard stood up. He looks to be about 30. “Yes, sir”, said the as-of-three-second-ago stranger. Now, he was my newest client. Barnaby Jones.
“…And Mr Mulvihill, this case is one of the oldest active cases in our system. It’s four years old at this point. I trust you can handle this matter”.
FOUR YEARS? I wasn’t even a lawyer four years ago!
What the hell had prior counsel been doing for the last four years? Who was this lawyer that managed to get a case continued for this long, and why wasn’t he here now? I hope he’d done some investigation at least, because I wasn’t sure a month was enough time to get a proper investigation done.
I opened my mouth to object to the date. The judge, perhaps sensing where I was going with this, looked over the rims of his glasses down at me. I got the message and changed course.
“Yes, Your Honor. Thank you. May I be excused?” Without waiting for an answer, I turned to the man standing in the gallery.
“Mr Jones, meet me outside. You and I have to talk”.
It was 10.10am when I walked out to meet my newest client. The DA still hadn’t shown for my first case. She’d have to wait.
I had work to do.