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Owning the courtroom and the competition

Nov 06, 2013 Owning the courtroom and the competition

During the Vietnam War, the United States government drafted a slew of people not long past high school age who were ill-prepared to go to war. Plenty had little real-world experience. Plenty had never been on a plane, let alone one to halfway around the world. Plenty would be overwhelmed by the heat and terrain, let alone by being fired upon and seeing fellow solders’ limbs flying in all directions in surroundings completely different from their hometowns. Plenty were unable to withstand committing atrocities.

Consequently, does being on an unfamiliar battlefield spell a weakened soldier? Does being fired on by the opposition mean being emasculated? No, at least not when the cause is a non-violent and noble one. My clients and witnesses need to know this, especially those who feel like fish out of water in court. I must remind myself of this, for me to be as strong as possible for my clients in and out of court, and to inspire them to be fearless in court. Today’s blog entry, then, continues from my November 1 blog entry on presenting powerful testimony in court.

My November 1 blog entry, confirms that there is no out there for the mind. Robert Thurman echoes the same concept in his new book with Sharon Salzber, Love Your Enemies (see here, too), saying that we actually have no enemies, because our sense of well being or lack thereof comes from within us rather than from outside of us. Easier said than done, but the sooner my clients and witnesses recognize that cross-examining prosecutors and judges are our teachers and not our enemies, the sooner that their very presence and words will improve to make their message more persuasive and powerful.

Not only do we have no enemies, but we also should see everywhere we go as a hospitable place, and not a land of culture shock, a land of home team advantage, nor a sea of landmines to negotiate for the first time. I have had moments of weakness myself where I half jokingly said that living in Virginia is a culture shock to my experience growing up in the North. However, at its core, I am not living in culture shock, despite Virginia’s virulently racist and segregationist past, despite [Robert E.] Lee Highway’s stretching over one hundred miles to Georgetown’s doorstep, and despite the rifle-toting Confederate soldier statute greeting visitors to the Loudoun County, Virginia, courthouse with nothing to offset it other than one sidewalk tile around fifty yards away honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

When we realize that we are home and grounded wherever we go, and that we always have our human heart and spirit everywhere that we walk, we can feel more comfortable — and, therefore be more powerful — wherever we go. For some people, such symbols or approaches as silent chants, a meaningful photo in one’s wallet, or meditating in one’s car or other place nearby the courthouse helps achieve the powerfully grounded and persuasive feeling of being home. Whatever works. 

What is the alternative to not seeing anyone as enemies? Bob Thurman learned that the hard way in his younger years, as he was bullied by his brother and reacted with fury, addicting himself to anger. What good does addiction to anger do beyond making one’s opponents happy?

Very powerful, then, is to feel at home no matter how close or far we travel from our bedrooms. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, "I have arrived. I am home." That approach brings one closer to owning the courtroom and the competition.

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