On Mirriam Seddiq and the “Not Guilty No Way” Blog

Jamison KoehlerCriminal Law Bloggers, Law Marketing/Networking

There are two fairly new criminal law blogs that have recently been given a lot of attention in the blawgosphere: Liberty and Justice for Y’All and Affirmative Links. In both cases the attention is deserved. Each blog is written by a group of criminal defense attorneys. And each blog is able to maintain a consistent voice while benefitting from the different experiences of multiple lawyers.

Both blogs are smart and well-written. My only concern is that in launching Affirmative Links, Jamie Spencer seems to be neglecting one of my other favorite blogs, Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer. Hey, I’m still a relative newcomer to both writing and reading blogs. But I do know that you eventually lose interest if your favorite blogger doesn’t feed your daily addiction.

But all of that is beside the point.  The purpose of today’s entry is to highlight not a new blog but an old blog that has recently come back to life after an 18-month hiatus:  Mirriam Seddiq’s Not Guilty No Way.  Anyone who has ever participated in a Fantasy Football league with me (and has beaten one of my many teams named “Not Guilty”) knows that “Not Guilty” are my two favorite words in the English language. Could there be two sweeter words to a defense attorney’s ears? But that’s not why I like this blog.

I first met Mirriam Seddiq at the monthly get-together of Solosez lawyers in the D.C. area.  I was struck by her calm and straight-forward participation in the discussion.  I was impressed that she speaks Pashto (she came over with her family from Afghanistan when she was a young girl and has been actively involved in any matters affecting her native land, particularly issues affecting women). And I was intrigued when she said that she does both criminal and immigration law. Because I often struggle with the complex immigration issues that sometimes affect my clients, I was looking for the help of a good immigration lawyer who also understands criminal law.

Not Guilty No Way reads like a very good novel.  I originally read a few of the more recent posts.  When I liked what I saw, I went back to the beginning and read the blog almost the entire way through.

Although she began her legal career as an Assistant Attorney General in Albany,  Seddiq begins her blog in 2004. At that time, she is working at a criminal defense firm she mysteriously calls K&S.  (Although she promises to reveal the real name of the firm as soon as she leaves it, she apparently reconsiders this promise because she never does tell us.)

Seddiq and her husband decide not to build their dream house on two acres in Avril Park, a decision she says she still sometimes regrets. Instead, for reasons she never quite explains (“just ’cause”), they quit their jobs and move to Baltimore where Seddiq is unemployed for 9 months while they live off of their savings. She works briefly doing document review. She gets a number of job offers but turns them all down until she finds work at a firm doing criminal defense. When she realizes that she has been hired to be an overpaid paralegal, she quits this job and, with another member of that firm, sets up her own practice. She eventually gets pregnant “and distracted” and has a falling out with her partner. She and her husband move again, this time to Northern Virginia, presumably to be closer to her family who live in this area.

While Seddiq currently practices immigration law almost exclusively, she writes of her re-kindled interest in doing criminal law. As a result, Seddiq is now applying to waive into the D.C. bar and preparing to take the Virginia bar in July.  And, as she informs us in her most recent post, she has just leased office space in Maryland so that she can finally practice criminal law again:  “I’ve made a full on commitment to get back into this mess.”  And then, as if to describe her entire experience since leaving Albany, she adds, “and what a lovely mess it is.”

Seddiq meets the two criteria I believe are essential to a good blogger.  She writes well.  And she is honest.  She takes you through the past six or seven years with a sense of humor and without taking herself too seriously.  She continually jokes, for example, about not wanting to disappoint “all five” of her loyal readers.

And then, in September 2008, she suddenly stopped posting. It is clear even before that time that her interest in maintaining the blog is waning, a change I assume was influenced by the arrival of twin boys. And now, after this hiatus, she is back.

Since I could not do justice to her writing by trying to describe it, I will leave you with excerpts from two of my favorite entries, both from her time in New York.  In the first entry, entitled “The Lady of the Manor,” Seddiq and her husband have had trouble selling their house and are trying to rent it out.

Then, after Drue came home we got the second round of visitors. This time there were three girls, probably in their early twenties. All of them with low slung jeans, tattoos, and bra bearing tops. My initial impression was uh uh, no way. (seems I’m not so much racist as ageist) Drue went to hide in the kitchen because either (a) he was was going to make an idiot of himself at the sight of them (and really, I couldn’t blame him because they were pretty good looking) or (b) he thought it was really “funny” that three young girls wanted to rent our house (that’s what he says and I don’t buy it. I’m going with a). Well, it turns out they were really quite nice and want a nice quiet place to live. Hmmm. . . .it all sounds a bit suspicious to me but then I think of myself at 22 and then I think HOLY SHIT!!! Drue reminded me, though, that tears and vomit don’t ruin a house. I think he just wants to be able to come back to ‘check up on things’ while they live there. Preferably at midnight during a slumber party pillow fight. Because you know, that’s really what happens when girls live together.

The second entry, entitled “No Exit,” requires no introduction:

My client was charged with sodomizing and kidnapping a 14 year old boy. Well, he kidnapped him first then. . . whatever. So, I was cross-examining the sexual assault nurse examiner (a/k/a “sane” nurse) and the prosecutor had this enormous blowup diagram of an asshole. I mean, since it was all scientific it should be called a rectum/anus. It’s this huge diagram and I had asked my dad (who is a surgeon) about the rectum/anus and its workings and what would/could happen if there was the amount of trauma claimed by this kid. I get the nurse on the stand and it was the most beautiful cross-examination ever. You know the feeling when you are sailing right through, she was yessing me on everything. I couldn’t believe it. I’m asking her about the tears in the rectum: “they could have been caused by diarreaha, they could have been caused by constipation, they could have been caused by pushing too hard when having a bowel movement (cut to me doing the pushing face) it could have been caused by cheap toilet paper, its in a normal area on the rectum.” And she’s just like yes, yes, yes, yes. So, then I get her off the stand and I face the audience – the jury. And I get the little pointy stick and ask her about the 6 rectums in the body and how they are like the lining of the mouth and can get red very easily. Then I turn to her and say, in all seriousness: “now nurse, can we agree that in nature, and I mean strictly in nature, the rectum is an exit only?” And she looks at the audience and says “in nature, yes. Its supposed to be an exit only”

then I sat my ass down.

yeah, i killed it. i did.

Just to give you a sense of the quality of the blog, both of these entries were done within a week of each other. Seddiq does in fact kill it. She really does.