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The wind of a prosecutor’s condescending words

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icon-copyright One day I was speaking with a taijiquan teacher about yelling people. He replied: “Why try to figure them out? It is just wind.” That advice is great for staying powerfully calm and unrattled in the face of someone exploding in an unjustified tirade. However, more is needed than just considering the yelling as merely wind. The wind may be fetid, so might call for removing oneself from the fetid situation or disinfecting it.

When a judge is the person yelling, I do my best to remember the sage words of my teacher Steve Rench: With difficult judges, trial master Steve Rench applies the basic and effective lesson of the magic mirror. If a judge knows s/he has a poor reputation with lawyers, that presents all the more a reason for the lawyer to empty the mind of any such thoughts, and to give the judge a clean slate that day. Oversimplistically, it is like trying to find the thorn in the lion’s sole and to pull it out, rather than trying to slay the lion. T’ai chi master Cheng Man Ching believed conflicts should be addressed by harmonizing the situation, and emptying ourselves of any tension, anger, or fear, which all weaken us in any battle. I have found no better way to do this than the daily practice of t’ai chi — physically AND mentally — over the last twenty-one years.

Recently, I was in a courthouse where it is rare for a prosecutor to agree to plead guilty to an offense lower than the originally-charged DWI. I had nothing to lose to try anyway, and the prosecutor responded with a stream of condescension. He was rather new to the job and had never met with me before. I replied: “You don’t know me nor perhaps about my experience. Your condescension might work with less experienced criminal defense lawyers, but not with me.” That got us beyond the condescending words, and the prosecutor then spoke to me as a human, explaining that with a post-arrest breath alcohol reading of my client as high as it was, his office preferred to risk losing at trial than offering to reduce the charge. Fair enough. Now, for trial, the prosecutor was less likely to act underhanded nor with condescension.

My case got sent to a less busy judge and a new prosecutor, who did not want to discuss my renewed settlement offer to plead guilty to a lesser, non-jailable charge. I won the trial. I do not win them all, but certainly my having been non-angry at all times with the prosecutors removed a potential barrier to victory.