Sep 19, 2017 How to remain powerfully calm on the road to courtroom victory
No matter how often I discuss techniques for remaining powerfully calm on the way to courtroom victory, the topic needs to be revisited and crystallized occasionally. As a Virginia criminal lawyer, I still have some clients who tell me about the sleep they lose anticipating their court date, but plenty get desirable results, and realize the worry was all for naught.
The following approaches should help.
For starters, many clients and others ask how I can keep my calmness and groundedness with the criminal defense work I do, and my answers often are variations on the below themes. The days sometimes go virtually non-stop from the moment I awake to the moment I go to sleep, only interspersed with some evening time with my family, quick meals, exercise and sometimes meditation. Some of the most troubling human drama is at play with my clients’ cases. Plenty of judges, prosecutors, and police numb themselves to treating criminal defendants as the humans they are, and to giving them the time and attention that should be their due. I am here to humanize them and to obtain the best possible results for them.
I eat up criminal defense work. My life has been quite a ride from an early age, from trading insults to trading blows before we were old enough to send people to the hospital with our fists, to fighting for human rights and civil liberties. This is my milieu. Rarefied work and workplaces do not suit me. Suits do not even suit me, though I wear them for my clients so that my message is noticed rather than my clothing. Nonetheless, while criminal court for me is like riding a bicycle, for some of my clients it may seem more like riding a unicycle while juggling sharp flaming swords.
– The lawyer and criminal defendant need to be fully prepared for courtroom battle, working together as a team.
– Never get angry. Anger is based on fear, and therefore weakens us.
– Avoid blaming others and outside forces for unfairness, hurdles and predicaments. The only way out of any hole we find ourselves in is to dig ourselves out. Blaming takes us away from personal responsibility and self-empowerment.
– Never beat yourself up, as underlined by Claude AnShin Thomas. Plenty of my clients have made errors from the foolish to heinous. The past cannot be reversed. We only have the present to rectify matters. Thich Nhat Hanh once met an American Vietnam veteran who admitted having booby-trapped sandwiches for village children to eat, in retaliation for the ambush deaths of his fellow soldiers. He watched them as they writhed and died in excruciating pain. With compassion beyond my own ability, Thich Nhat Hanh responded that the veteran now had a chance to help children in need who were still living. Despite our misdeeds and mistakes, we only can move forward.
– The criminal defense lawyer should never judge his or her client. Otherwise, the lawyer belongs in another line of business. The lawyer can help make the client grounded by the lawyer’s becoming grounded, showing full caring for the client, and showing full battle readiness for the client.
– Focus on the breath. Our breath is our powerful life force. Focusing on the breath is the start of powerful mindfulness practice.
– Overcome fear and worry. As Shantideva said, “If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?”
– In Hagakure, the book of the Samurai, Yamamoto Tsunetomo repeatedly discusses the power of the moment, including:
— “There is nothing outside the thought of the immediate moment.”
— “A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment.”
— “Be true to the thought of the moment and avoid distraction. Other than continuing to exert yourself, enter into nothing else, but go to the extent of living single thought by single thought.”
– “A Japanese warrior was captured by his enemies and thrown into prison. That night he was unable to sleep because he feared that the next day he would be interrogated, tortured, and executed. Then the words of his Zen master came to him, ‘Tomorrow is not real. It is an illusion. The only reality is now.’ Heeding these words, the warrior became peaceful and fell asleep.”
– Swordmaster Yagyu Tajima no kami Munenori said “The ultimate secret of swordsmanship lies in being released from the thought of death.”
– Rather than feeling like a fish out of water in the courthouse, criminal defendants can reconnect with their own strengths. In the Tea Master story, a tea master who is at first freaked out at being challenged to a swordfight by a swordsman who has just slayed a few opponents before the teamaster’s eyes, ultimately convinces his opponent to sheath his sword by the tea master’s being as powerfully calm with his sword as being at one with the tea ceremony.
My daily practice of taijiquan and courtroom defense encompasses all of the foregoing lessons.
Virginia criminal lawyer/ Fairfax DWI attorney Jon Katz has been successfully defending thousands of criminal clients since 1991. For a confidential discussion with Jon, please call his staff at 703-383-1100.