Law in Contemporary Society

From Sundays to a Practice

-- By ValeriaFlores - 07 Apr 2021


For 20 years, I spent every Sunday at my grandmother’s house. If it was a Sunday, I would be there, along with the rest of my family. Those Sundays shaped me. Every Sunday I learned something new about myself and my family. Every Sunday was a small transition. As a kid, I spent those days playing with my cousins in my grandmother's room; what was said at the living room was grown up talk that we kids couldn't hear. Before leaving for New York, I dreaded those Sundays. I had turned into a grown-up who couldn't hide inside bedrooms anymore and I almost always disagreed with what was said in the living room. Nonetheless, the people in that house influenced me in ways I never noticed until I didn't see them every Sunday anymore.

My aunt

My aunt is absolutely crazy. When it comes to life, generally, my whole family would agree she is not very smart, or sane. Her job is where she regains her smartness and sanity. No one seems to understand how, when talking about work, she transforms into a different person. Ironically, she's a lawyer. A prosecutor. It was because of her I decided I wanted to be a lawyer, and specifically not a prosecutor.

We grew very close. All I did was ask about cases, facts, arguments, crime scenes, interrogations, everything. She answered everything I asked (not much confidentiality) and I loved everything she said. For a reason I can’t still figure out, I never quite liked her take on her cases as a prosecutor, and I always challenged her by playing the defense.

My grandfather

Most of the time, my grandfather and I talked about me. School was very important to him; he had always wanted to be a math teacher and took pride in the fact that I did well in school. A lot of my confidence, from a little girl, comes from him. He always thought I could do anything, that I was the smartest and most capable. Anything would make him proud, from winning a spelling bee in the second grade to the recent thing, Columbia. But besides the confidence he helped me build and that permeated other aspects of my life, he instilled in me something much bigger.

He had been the town’s deputy mayor and people still walked up to him to say hi. He never knew who they were, but he always engaged in conversation either way. When I told him I was moving to New York, his favorite city, he told me “The people who stop by to say hi to me and I never know who they are, they always just want to say thanks. Many of their parents now have houses and a decent life because of the work we did when I was deputy mayor. I don’t know them, but I know my work affected their lives, and so I always say hi back. Whatever you do up there, be helpful, and be useful. There is nothing more gratifying.”

My grandmother

If you were a picky eater, my grandmother would cook something special only for you. Occasionally, she came out of the kitchen to make sure nobody was eating while standing up, there is nothing she disliked more than that. If you had already eaten before going to her house, you were in big trouble. She taught me the value of family (whether you value them through cooking or else), and it wasn’t until I left that I realized I wouldn’t have those Sundays anymore, which made me value them more.

My Practice

Here’s what I know now: I want to be a defense attorney, I want to help, and I want to join my grandmother again some Sundays. Now, I need to figure out how.

Having a practice of my own, one in which I control my time and my work, will afford me the liberty to visit my family whenever I please. The difficult thing to do is figure out what I want my practice to be, and how to get there. I know I want to be a defense attorney, but I do wonder if I could be of more help as a prosecutor. I also wonder if, as a defense attorney, I would be in the “wrong side” of things.

Andrea Ruiz and Keishla Rodríguez were assassinated last week in Puerto Rico. Andrea Ruiz was killed by her ex-boyfriend, and Keishla Rodríguez was killed by her boyfriend. Their murders, which are now two ongoing publicized cases, shed light on Puerto Rico’s prevalent gender violence and have given rise to numbers of protests. Andrea Ruiz was murdered because her ex-boyfriend was obsessed with and stalking her. She reached out to the police several times about the situation and even filed a request for a protection order, which was denied. Keishla Rodríguez was murdered because she told her boyfriend she was pregnant with his child. There are people defending him and saying he did the right thing. After all, he is a famous boxer in Puerto Rico with a long and successful career ahead of him, a wife and a family of his own. He needed to get “rid of the problem an extramarital affair caused him.” I have never felt a stronger urge to be a prosecutor.

How can I have a practice where I subjectively choose who to defend? Would I be okay with defending the men who killed Andrea Ruiz an Keishla Rodríguez? I do not know the answers to these questions, but I know that, in the alternative, I do not want to prosecute. Where I will go from here and the answers to these questions, I still need to resolve.

Criminal defense counsel also find themselves angered by crimes, you can be sure, and by the illnesses in society that foster them. "A lot of people are saying he did the right thing"is why femicide happens in human society with endless, remorseless destructiveness. Public defense counsel take what they get, while private defense counsel decide how to earn their livings. That doesn't guarantee by any means that everyone is innocent, or even that the work always ends up making society better. Nor for prosecutors, as you can see. So the definition of the "why" in the practice has to lie elsewhere.

I think this is a much improved draft, both in making the personal writing more effective through brevity, and for using the recovered space to define the issues for yourself. Now you return in the fall knowing what you need to learn and what challenges you have in planning your practice.

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r5 - 22 May 2021 - 14:00:24 - EbenMoglen
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