On neutralizing hecklers, and overcoming purported home court advantage
Fairfax DWI/criminal defense attorney pursuing the best defense. Since 1991
One day as a ten year old summer camper, I thought it a fun idea to talk nonsense from my cabin’s bathroom to the counselor below drinking from the water fountain. This counselor whom I had never before met seemed to ignore me, until he finished at the fountain, quickly stood up, looked straight at me, with excellent aim sprayed his mouthful of water on me through the screen, and wordlessly walked away.
In other words, when someone tries sending feces your way, do anything necessary to avoid the feces, whether that means neutralizing it or even throwing the feces straight into the feces-thrower’s mouth or eyes, which of course can be fun but must not be the point of the battle unless meant as effective psychological warfare.
The goal in all battles is to achieve harmony, rather than to lower oneself to the heckler’s or any other opponent’s level in a game of tit-for-tat. In fact, one of the best ways to scare the crap out of an opponent is for the opponent to never to know when, where or how to expect a response, particularly if that response might be when the opponent is at his or her weakest, for instance when s/he is asleep.
In the courthouse, plenty of prosecutors, cops and other opposing witnesses try to heckle, but where does that really get them when the real test is in the courtroom, where heckling is hard to get away with before the judge, and when the cops no longer have their buddies to blend with, but other forms of psychological warfare might take hold?
All courthouse and other battle requires the fighter to be as much in harmony as possible, which is why I practice taijiquan daily. An important aspect of effective battle is to feel at home in one’s skin, at all times, and in all places.
Professional athletes regularly face hecklers and the opponents’ home court advantage, with varying levels of success or not.
How much of an advantage does the home court advantage really need to be? Clearly, it is important for any trial lawyer to gather the necessary intelligence on the assigned judge and prosecutor, and to learn the relevant courthouse procedural quirks that never are found in writing. Unless one is a prosecutor or public defender daily in the same courthouse, a lawyer is not going to know every single thing there is to know about a particular judge. Moreover, my view is that I am a better lawyer for having experience in different courthouses, as it keeps me on my toes all the more and gives me a better variety of challenges.
Classic lessons of dealing with home court advantages come from American soldiers’ struggles in Vietnam during the war there. The American military blundered not only by going to war in Vietnam in the first place at the direction of politicians and politics too unfamiliar with the ways of warfare, but by sending in soldiers who were insufficiently trained, insufficiently experienced with life and warfare, forced by the draft to fight, resentful of wealthier youngsters who avoided the draft with college deferments, unprepared for the hot and tropical and new terrain while overburdened with hardware rather than with relevant cunning and ability, freaked out by guerrilla warfare, bogged down by the absence of a clear and workable plan to win and depart, and, with too many of them, raping, murdering, and causing other atrocities there. Most of the American soldiers in Vietnam did not want to be there, and even plenty who volunteered for another tour of duty in Vietnam did so because they could not face readjustment to civilian life in the United States where so many antiwar activists called them baby killers and other names, and where working at a job for an hourly wage could be all the more mind-numbing compared to all the adrenaline from being in the middle of warfare.
Taking a page or more from Sun Tzu, the Viet Cong travelled light, blended with the terrain, and traveled effortlessly in secret tunnels so narrow that they had to be widened for plenty of tourists in Vietnam to pass through. Moreover, plenty of Viet Cong had a true sense of purpose in their fighting, as they were on their own turf every step of the way.
Certainly, it is important to have relevant intelligence on the judge and prosecutor in a criminal defense lawyer’s case. However, in the end, what matters most is the fighter’s ability to fight, focus on the fight, and ability not to flinch at curveballs, whether those seeming curveballs are from heckling, home court advantage or anything else. When it is showtime, it is showtime, which Russell Crowe’s Maximus Gladiator character so wonderfully shows us.
Finally, a fighter needs to be careful about how and when s/he exults over a victory (see minute 4:20 from this Creepshow excerpt), rather than keeping eyes on the prize of preserving that victory and on the next battle.