“What I’m Thinking About” Wednesday
June 18, 2014
I gave Donna Goodwin(1) a copy of the police report. It included copies of the prescriptions that she allegedly had filled. Goodwin explained to me that she lived on a fixed income in Detroit, her doctor’s office within walking distance of her home, and the pharmacy she filled her prescriptions with was on the corner. She had never heard of the doctor whose name was on the prescription. Until this charge, she had never been in Clinton Township. She provided me with the name of her doctor and her office location. Goodwin also told me that her state id had been stolen from her the summer before.
In February, 2008, I sat for the Michigan Bar Exam. I had left the City of Detroit to try my hand at running a business, which lasted eighteen months during the recession. I then clerked for a legendary labor arbitrator whose office was in Detroit, and with his encouragement I decided to go after the license to practice law. I swore into the Bar in May, 2008.
I took Eddie Lee and his neighbors aside to go over the police report. He was alleged to have been drunk, left the lawn chair he had been sitting on in Al’s (his neighbor) front yard, then crossed the street to where the alleged victim was sitting on the front porch of a male’s home. She claimed that Lee started hugging on her and had touched her private parts through her clothing.
Al told me that her story was complete fabrication. The woman was the neighborhood’s busybody, sticking her nose into every neighbor’s business. Al was barbequing with Lee sitting in a lawn chair. Yes, he was drunk. So drunk that Al said there was no way Lee could have walked across the street without falling face first on the ground. Ms. Busybody had walked in front of Al’s home, looked at the two men and said, “I smell marijuana.” Al told her to leave because the only thing smoking was the burgers on the grill. She walked away in a huff and joined Gerry, a known alcoholic and loud mouth, on his front porch. About twenty minutes later the police arrived and talked to Ms. Busybody. They then walked over and arrested Lee. Two of the neighbors confirmed Al’s version of the story.
The arbitrator was near the end of his career (though I wouldn’t be surprised if he was still arbitrating labor cases around the country today, six years later). I needed to consider my options. The City of Detroit Law Department was hiring in the Labor and Employment Section, where I had clerked during law school. The interview with two people I had previously worked for was promising, but the open position was for an experienced attorney, not an entry level attorney. What options were available to me, a forty-six year old male at the start of his law career?
Scott Young told me that he was driving his mother grocery shopping. He took her to a store where she purchased some groceries. However, she needed to go to a second store to get the things she needed that the first store did not have. Young dropped his mother off at the front door, then parked the car and waited for her. Thirty minutes later, Mom came out of a different door. No groceries. No cart. He drove to meet her. When she entered the car he asked her what she was doing. She insisted he drive away. They drove out of the parking lot, but was immediately pulled over by the police. According to the police report, Mom had filled a shopping cart with groceries and had pushed them past all points of sale and into the foyer between the two sets of doors leading out. (This was where the restrooms were located in the store). Two plain clothed security guards stopped her and began to question her. She claimed she needed to use the restroom, but they assumed she was trying to walk out with the cart. She abandoned the cart and left the store. The two security guards followed and alleged that Young had sped the car in their direction, almost striking them as he stopped to pick Mom up.
A guy I went to law school with, who sponsored me when I swore into the Bar, Kevin Johnson, suggested I look into criminal defense because he said that it seemed right for me. I shadowed him on his court days, then took the full day session, “A is for Attorney” held on the first day of the Fall 2008 Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan conference. That launched my criminal defense practice.
In 2000, Danny Hugel was seventeen years old. He plead to a charge of criminal sexual conduct fourth degree for touching the breasts of a thirteen year old girl without her consent. He was sentenced under Michigan’s Holmes Youthful Training Act (HYTA) which allows a defendant under the age of twenty-one to plead guilty to a charge then be sentenced to a period of probation. If the defendant successfully complete the term of probation, the case is then dismissed and becomes a non-public record. However, in 2000, the Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA) required someone convicted of a criminal sexual conduct fourth degree to register as a sex offender. The law contradicted itself. HYTA dismissed the charge, however SORA proclaimed it to be a conviction of a sex crime.
There’s the back story. That’s the “how.” You really want to know “why.” Why would I dedicate my practice to representing those people?
I’ll answer that by starting with a question. Who are those people?
Concluded next week.
(1) All clients name’s have been changed.