On Dentists and Monkeys: Fifty Years On

Jamison KoehlerMiscellaneous

  This is four or five years ago:  I drive my father to the dentist.  My father has been going to this same dentist for 50 years. The dentist used to clean my teeth. Once, when I was about 10 years old, he walked out into the waiting area during a break and announced to the receptionist – within hearing …

Blawg Review #296: Images From The Criminal Law Blawgosphere

Jamison KoehlerCriminal Law Bloggers

A professional photographer and artist once told me the story about trying to photograph his mother. He had hoped for a candid shot, and was initially resistant when she insisted on fixing her hair and putting on makeup first.  On thinking about it further, he decided that an arranged photograph would say far more about his mother than any spontaneous …

Aerial view of DC

After The Snow

Jamison KoehlerMiscellaneous

  On Twitter, we can hear Mirriam Seddiq swearing for five hours because she is stopped in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the beltway.  It’s because of the snow.   “3 miles,” she writes.  “Haven’t come across a lot to leave the car in.  Or neighborhood.  When I do I’m gonna hoof it.” At 7:00 pm, my wife calls from traffic at a …

American flag

On The Terminology and Fiction of Juvenile Justice

Jamison KoehlerJuveniles

As a public defender in Philadelphia, I did a brief stint in the Juvenile Division representing young people accused of committing a crime. People told me before I started the rotation that I would either love working with juveniles or hate it; there didn’t seem to be any in-between. I found myself in the “love-it” category. Although I would have …

U.S. Capitol building

On the True Value of a Law Degree

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

Over the last year or so, there has been a lot of talk on listservs and in the blawgosphere about the glut of new lawyers coming onto the market, about the expectations of these lawyers in terms of pay and career satisfaction, and about the honesty of law schools in trying to attract new students. Much of the recent discussion …

What Does Evil Look Like?

Jamison KoehlerCurrent Events

Evil looks a lot like the pasty, bloated face of Jared Loughner grinning at us from the front page of today’s New York Times. Children have an innate sense of these things. We do too. We know that, on the scale of apparent evilness, the way Loughner looks places him somewhere between Charles Manson on the one end, even before …

On Carrying Pictures of Chairman Mao

Jamison KoehlerCriminal Procedure, Law Practice

For the most part, the Assistant U.S. Attorneys here in D.C. seem to have things right. For one thing, they return your phone calls, usually on the same day, and I have to give them credit for that. For another, they don’t seem to sweat the small stuff. They seem to understand that many people are arrested for no reason …

U.S. Capitol Building

On Jabbar Collins and Other Jailhouse Lawyers

Jamison KoehlerEvidence, Law Practice

I have only seen one “law library” at a prison, and I have to say I was not at all impressed. A converted broom closet with a broken chair and a rickety metal bookshelf, the library consisted mostly of an outdated version of the criminal code, a dog-eared hornbook or two, and, because someone apparently decided they might lend an …

D.C. skyline

Knowledge Comes At Middle Age

Jamison KoehlerMiscellaneous

My mother fell on the ice in front of her house and broke her shoulder. She lay in the snow for 15 minutes before the emergency response people arrived. My two sisters who live in the area can only take off so much time from work.  So I find myself on a train heading back to Massachusetts to spend some …

You Should Be Translating, Not Interpreting

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

During an earlier life, I was a member of the U.S. delegations that negotiated the international ozone and climate treaties. The negotiations often lasted a couple of weeks, with the opening statements alone — from the 100 nations participating in the negotiations – taking up most of the first day. The U.N. provided interpretation in seven languages throughout the negotiations, …

Because Transcripts Can Be Unforgiving

Jamison KoehlerEvidence, Law Practice

When I was a public defender in Philadelphia, my office mate used to come across me reading transcripts from court hearings I had done and kid me. I thought I was being conscientious, working to make myself a better lawyer. He thought I was being vain. Testimony from every preliminary hearing we did was automatically transcribed in advance of the …

American flag

Rule 1: Get The Money Upfront

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

One of the advantages to being a criminal defense attorney, at least one who defends people accused of street crimes as opposed to white collar offenses, is that you get your money upfront. There is the initial negotiation. There is the payment, which usually goes into the attorney’s trust fund account.  With that out of the way, the attorney can …

Jefferson Memorial

The “Almost Went To Trial” Blues

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

You are wearing one of the good suits you save for trial.  Your trial notebook is at your side. You got up early to exercise, and now you are feeling rested, relaxed, and confident.  You don’t go to trial as a private practitioner nearly as much as you did as a public defender or prosecutor, and you savor these moments …

U.S. Capitol building

Neutral Tones

Jamison KoehlerMiscellaneous

I stand by the bed.  The fingers of your hand are loose and warm, and though your eyes are closed your head is toward me.  Are you sleeping, in the country you have got to?  On pathways of the blood you have withdrawn, walking younger with each step.  The scene is in neutral tones, subdued as it is in dreams, …

“Everything Believable Between”

Jamison KoehlerMiscellaneous

I wake up in the same bed I slept in as a boy, in a house Sylvia Plath once likened to a walnut.  If I went back in time to the days I shared the room with my brother, the room would look almost exactly the way it does now. There is not a single door in my parents’ house …

Aerial view of DC

“There were days like this, that passed without an image”

Jamison KoehlerMiscellaneous

  Every summer for the past 25 years, my wife and I have gone up to Cape Cod to spend a week with my family.  The family used to cram itself into a three or four bedroom house my eldest sister rented in Orleans.  As the family got larger with more in-laws and kids, we moved to a nine bedroom …

U.S. Capitol building

“No One Told You That Solo Practice Was Going To Be Like This”

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

Last year, while taking the first steps to launch my own law firm, I spent a lot of time on the ABA listserv for solo practitioners, Solosez. I followed the excited postings of other people who had just opened the doors of their new offices. I also took heart in the anniversary announcements of lawyers who had been on Solosez …

Jefferson and Washington monuments

David Baugh on Voir Dire

Jamison KoehlerEvidence, Law Practice

David P. Baugh was one of the speakers at a Virginia Trial Lawyers Association CLE I attended yesterday.  Baugh is perhaps best known for defending the free speech of a Ku Klux Klan member in a trial that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Virginia v. Black, and, surprise, surprise, he turns out to be a dynamic and …

U.S. Capitol building

On Human Memory and Eyewitness Testimony

Jamison KoehlerEvidence

Many years ago, as a student at the University of Freiburg in Germany, I went with an American friend to West Berlin to sightsee.  We went to a bar one night in which we were taken for some money by the bar’s establishment.  The two of us were so embarrassed by the whole thing (we couldn’t believe we had fallen …

Signs You Have Been Working Out Of Your Home Office For Too Long

Jamison KoehlerHumor, Law Practice

Courtesy of the solo practitioners at the ABA listserv Solosez, here are the top 15 signs that you have been working out of your home office, by yourself, for too long. You look forward to your dentist appointment. You’ve started talking to the cat. You don’t like cats.  You don’t have a cat. You look in the mirror and realize …

U.S. Capitol building

Erik Prince Meet Susan Burke

Jamison KoehlerCurrent Events, Other Criminal Offenses

  My wife Susan Burke heads to the United Arab Emirates this weekend to depose Blackwater Founder Erik Prince as part of one of her civil lawsuits against him. As reported in yesterday’s New York Times, Susan has brought suit against Prince on behalf of former Blackwater employees accusing Prince of defrauding the government. Susan has already settled seven suits …

The “Disappearing Sway” In A DWI/DUI Case

Jamison KoehlerDUI and Driving Offenses

  “Swaying while balancing” is one of four “clues” used by a police officer to detect intoxication during the One-Leg-Stand component of the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST).  The police officer would require only one other clue to mark the suspect down as having failed this component and arrive at the conclusion that there is a 65% (according to the …

Jefferson and Washington monuments

Everyone Should Have An Identical Twin

Jamison KoehlerCriminal Procedure, Law Practice

For over 20 years, Detective Wynn conducted line-ups at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF) in Philadelphia.  The line-ups were carried out in a little triangular-shaped room just beyond the main reception area. You know the way it looks from T.V.: the ante-room, the glass, and then, on the wall behind where the suspects stand, the red lines demarcating height.  The …

U.S. Capitol Building

The Blood/Breath Partition Ratio in a DWI Case

Jamison KoehlerDUI and Driving Offenses

The science behind the Intoxilyzer 5000EN and other breath test machines all sounds very impressive.  The problem is that the machines are based on certain assumptions about the person being tested.  If the assumptions are faulty, so are the results. One of the major assumptions used in breath testing is that there is a correlation of 1 to 2100 between …

Jefferson and Washington monuments

The Xeroxing of Arrest Reports in a DWI/DUI Case

Jamison KoehlerDUI and Driving Offenses

With two DUI trials coming up, I will be focusing myself, as well as this blog, on the science and law related to this issue.  I am also consulting what I have found to be the best resource I have ever found on DWI/DUI defense:  Drunk Driving Defense by Lawrence Taylor and Steven Oberman.  Although I have handled hundreds of …

On Norm Pattis and “The Happysphere”

Jamison KoehlerCriminal Law Bloggers, Law Marketing/Networking

  Norm Pattis was in town this weekend, and Mirriam Seddiq and I joined him last night for dinner at Oyamel restaurant.  Seddiq’s brother works as the head bartender there, and he made sure we were treated like royalty. Pattis and Seddiq were in the bar area waiting for our table when I arrived.  Pattis commented on how much smaller …

What This Criminal Defense Lawyer Looks For In A Client

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

  JW, one of my favorite readers/commenters, has proposed a blog topic.  He says he has read a lot about what a client should look for when hiring a criminal defense lawyer. Now that JW himself is in the market for a lawyer, he would like to know what a lawyer considers when deciding whether or not to take on …

D.C. skyline

Congressman Etheridge and Simple Assault in D.C.

Jamison KoehlerAssault

  While the YouTube video is now posted all over the Internet, I first found out about Congressman Etheridge’s altercation with two students when checking out my website stats through Google Analytics.  I found that visits to the Simple Assault page on my website had gone through the roof.  My summary of the offense was also quoted and linked to …

Disorderly Conduct: D.C. Court Narrows The Scope

Jamison KoehlerDrug Offenses, Firearms/Weapons, Opinions/Cases, Other Criminal Offenses

  Disorderly conduct is a really annoying charge. The first problem is that the offense is usually so broad and poorly defined that it is too easy for police to charge and too easy for the government to prove at trial.  For example, since intent to cause a “public inconvenience” is a major element of the offense in Pennsylvania, the …

On Watching A Client’s Recorded Statement To The Police

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

I am watching a DVD recording of my client’s statement to the detective.  The camera must have a wide-angle lens because my client and the detective take up only a small portion of the screen.  There is also something surreal about two people huddled together in one corner of the room, the cinderblock walls a gray blur around them while …

U.S. Capitol Building

Self-Defense in a D.C. Assault Case

Jamison KoehlerAssault, Defenses to Criminal Charges, Law Practice, Legal Concepts/Principles

Self-defense is an affirmative defense to simple assault and other assault charges in D.C. Self-defense is the use of force to protect oneself, one’s family or one’s property from a real or threatened attack.  It is an affirmative defense, meaning that the defendant has the initial burden of raising it. In D.C., once the defendant has been able to introduce …

Jefferson Memorial

Flat Fees Versus Hourly Rates In A Criminal Case

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

There is no good way to charge for legal services, I am persuaded. Clients come in need. They are afraid and angry. They want a hero, a savior, a warrior. You offer them what you can. Most often it is enough. But sometimes it is not. A client grows disenchanted, angry, they want what you cannot give. It is a …

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Six Months Into A Solo Criminal Law Practice

Jamison KoehlerLaw Marketing/Networking, Law Practice

Mark Bennett and Brian Tannebaum both announced last week that they have been practicing criminal law for 15 years.  While I have nowhere close to this level of experience, I recently celebrated an anniversary of my own. As of this past month, it has been six months since I opened my D.C. law office and one month since I began …

Aerial view of DC

Why I Hate Norm Pattis

Jamison KoehlerCriminal Law Bloggers

  I first learned Norm Pattis’ lousy, stinking name through Scott Greenfield, who often uses something Pattis has written as the launching point for one of his own entries.  And Greenfield writes about Pattis in reverential terms you don’t often see on Simple Justice. So what does Scott Greenfield know anyway? Mirriam Seddiq is more effusive in her praise.  She …

Jefferson Memorial

Why Do My Favorite Cops Always Turn Out To Be Crooked?

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

I am walking with my kids at the Reading Terminal, an eatery just a couple of blocks from the courthouse in Philadelphia, when we come across a group of narcotics officers sitting in the eating area.  We have been watching “The Wire” on HBO, and I point out the officers out to my kids.  Look, I say.  Real-life narcotics officers.  …

U.S. Capitol building

Starting Your Own Law Practice is a Leap of Faith

Jamison KoehlerLaw Marketing/Networking, Law Practice

In another lifetime, I wrote short stories. Five or six of these stories eventually found their way into obscure literary journals, with one or two still floating around somewhere on the Internet.  The largest circulation of any of the journals that published me was probably two or three thousand readers at the most.  With the exception of one story for …

D.C. skyline

On Being Held In Contempt of Court

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

  A couple of months ago, Carol D. of Public Defender Revolution told the story about a judge who tried to force her to trial on a case when she wasn’t ready.  This put Ms. D. into a very difficult position.  She couldn’t put her client’s interests at risk by proceeding unprepared to trial.  She therefore had no choice but …

Michael P. Malone’s Other Victims

Jamison KoehlerEvidence

I have written a number of entries over the last couple of months about the case of Donald E. Gates, a man who was imprisoned for 27 years for a crime the evidence now shows he did not commit.  Gates was convicted in large part on the basis of false testimony by FBI analyst Michael P. Malone. Donald Gates, as …

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On Firing A Client

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

There is always a lot of discussion over at the ABA listserv Solosez about client relations.  People talk about the need to sometimes fire a client, which, from what people say, almost seems like a rite of passage for most lawyers.  Consider me now initiated. Today I had to fire my first client.  I was reluctant to do it.  It …

On Free Consultations

Jamison KoehlerLaw Marketing/Networking

In an entry today called “Don’t Blame Clients For What Lawyers Do,” Scott Greenfield writes of the “huge rift” within the legal profession “between those desperately seeking business and those desperately seeking to provide clients with excellent representation.”  As an example of the lawyers on the “seeking business” side of the divide, he cites lawyers who offer free consultations to …

D.C. skyline

The Voice of a Law Office

Jamison KoehlerLaw Marketing/Networking, Law Practice

A couple of weeks ago, I changed the message on my office voice mail.  My 19-year-old daughter had done the original recording, but, after listening to it back, we both agreed that her voice sounded too girlish. So, instead, I asked my former sister-in-law if she could do it. I thought my sister-in-law’s British accent would sound classy. I also …

Jefferson Memorial

“Every DWI Case Is Defensible”

Jamison KoehlerDUI and Driving Offenses

You often hear criminal defense lawyers who are just starting out say that they will initially handle drinking-and-driving offenses, like DWI or DUI, until they get their feet on the ground.  The cases are, they say, straightforward and lucrative. Once they get themselves established, well, then they can move on to more complicated felony cases, like attempted murder, drug distribution, …

U.S. Capitol building

Disenchanted with Avvo

Jamison KoehlerLaw Marketing/Networking

My niece attended her first baseball game when she was four or five years old. After the first inning or so, she announced that she was done with baseball. I am done with Avvo. As reflected on the ABA listserv for solo practitioners, Solosez, other lawyers seem to have all sorts of concerns about this legal networking and referral service, the …

U.S. Capitol building

Juvenile Court Forever

Jamison KoehlerJuveniles

You watch him go.  You realize that, from his perspective, the future is nothing more than a quick visit with the judge, a bologna sandwich and coke for lunch, and then a trip back to the detention center to gather his things.  So yes, you think again, this time with more certainty, it will be for forever.

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 …

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A Probation Officer Should Be A Client’s Best Friend

Jamison KoehlerOther Criminal Offenses

It is amazing to me how many clients spend more time in custody than they need to.  The sad fact is, violating the terms of probation is frequently a major cause of people going back to jail when they could be serving the remainder of their sentence on the street. There are many reasons people violate the terms of probation.  …

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My Career as a County Prosecutor

Jamison KoehlerLaw Marketing/Networking

Unlike many of my colleagues in the criminal defense bar, I would have no moral qualms about working for the prosecution. In fact, during the summer after my first year at law school, I interned at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  I also interviewed with the county prosecutor’s office for an internship the following summer. …

Jefferson Memorial

Finding The Right Name For A Criminal Law Blog

Jamison KoehlerCriminal Law Bloggers, Law Marketing/Networking

Scott Greenfield of Simple Justice wrote a complimentary piece about this blog earlier this week. While I was very flattered to be described as “one of the newest and brightest additions to the blawgosphere,” Greenfield continued to encourage me to change the name of this blog.  Wrote Greenfield in a postscript: “Jamison, attempting to straddle the marketing blawgosphere and the …

Aerial view of DC

The Virginia Bar Exam: How Much Studying Is Enough?

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

One of my favorite episodes from the old T.V. show Taxi included the scene in which the Reverend Jim Ignatowski, the character played by Christopher Lloyd, accidentally burns down the apartment of Louie DePalma, the character played by Danny DeVito.  The Reverend’s father is a millionaire.  When the father finds out that his son has burned down the apartment, he …

Jefferson and Washington monuments

Surviving the Virginia Bar Exam: Reflections After Day One

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

Norfolk, Va. — Before starting law school, I read a number of books on how to survive your first year.  One book dealt with law school etiquette.  Top among its rules was not to discuss an examination with friends afterwards.  There is no point to doing this, the book said.  Both sides – the side that did well and the …

On Rushed and Ill-Considered Guilty Pleas

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

Last summer, my 19-year-old daughter decided that she wanted to come see me in court.  I had just given notice of my intention to resign from the Defender Association of Philadelphia effective at the end of the month, and she thought this might be the last opportunity to see me working as a public defender. I was running the list …

Jefferson and Washington monuments

A Public Defender with a Sense of Humor

Jamison KoehlerCriminal Law Bloggers, Law Practice

A couple of weeks ago, I complained about the lack of criminal law blogs done by women.  I also bemoaned the fact that, with a few exceptions, there do not seem to be many public defender blogs that don’t sound preachy, sanctimonious, and put-upon.   Yes, you’re a public defender.  Yes, the caseload is overwhelming.  Yes, the pay is pitiful.  And …

Hamilton Burger on the “Jury Trial Tax”

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

A good friend of mine, a former prosecutor in Massachusetts and Virginia, has criticized my blog for its defense-centric viewpoint.   The actual words he used, if I recall correctly, were “criminal apologisms.” Since I will be need to take some time off over the next couple of weeks to prepare for the Virginia Bar Examination, I have offered him the …

Jefferson and Washington monuments

Philadelphia: Where the One-Eyed Man is King

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

My wife does not read this blog.  I understand.  She’s busy.  Friends or family will tell her they enjoyed something they read on the blog and she will smile and thank them, but she really has no clue what they are talking about. I showed her my website when it first went up last fall.  Yes, dear, it looks very …

Preparing for the Virginia Bar Examination

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

In 24 days I will be sitting down to take another bar, this time in Virginia.  The idea, which seemed like a pretty good idea when I came up with it last fall, is that I will be able to extend my criminal law practice from D.C. into Virginia, which is also where I live. Strangely enough, I have only …

Jefferson Memorial

Felony-Murder and the Case of Annie Le

Jamison KoehlerOther Criminal Offenses

A loyal reader (okay, it’s my brother-in-law George) has asked me to explain the difference between murder and felony-murder.  George learned of the distinction while reading about yesterday’s not guilty plea in the Yale graduate student murder case.  For those of you who are not familiar with the case, Raymond Clark III was charged last week in connection the murder …

Jefferson Memorial

The Challenges Of Being A Solo Practitioner

Jamison KoehlerLaw Marketing/Networking, Law Practice

I was sorry to learn this morning that one of my favorite legal bloggers – Michael McLees of Fast Texas Divorce – has decided to discontinue his blog. Writes McLees on a recent entry:  “I’m just not sure that [the blog] contributes anything to my practice and since the novelty has worn off, it just isn’t fun anymore.”  McLees also …

Listening to the Witness on Cross-Examination

Jamison KoehlerEvidence, Law Practice

This guy has his eye put out in an accident.  He can’t afford a glass eye, so the eye doctor puts in a fake eye made of wood instead. The guy is very self-conscious about his wood eye, but finally his friends talk him into joining them at a dance.  It is time, they say, for him to get back …

The Koehler Law Logo

Jamison KoehlerLaw Marketing/Networking, Law Practice

There are many things you need to do when setting up your own law firm, from securing business licenses, malpractice insurance and bank accounts to buying furniture, legal research materials, and computer software and equipment.  Of all the tasks involved, selecting a logo for my new firm was by far the most enjoyable task.  That’s one of the perks of …

Choosing the Koehler Law Motto

Jamison KoehlerLaw Marketing/Networking

During my first year in law school, I heard a Latin phrase that immediately resonated with me:  Fiat Justitia Caellum, which is roughly translated into English as “Let Justice Rule, Though the Heavens May Fall.”  On starting my own law practice, I immediately thought of that phrase as the potential slogan/motto/tagline for my new firm. I tested the phrase on …

American flag

My Personal Philosophy on Criminal Defense

Jamison KoehlerLaw Practice

On a Person Being Arrested Be polite, calm, and respectful. Do not say anything. If the officer asks you any questions, calmly reply that you will not say anything without your lawyer present. Then call your lawyer at the first opportunity. Remember that police officers are professionals. You may not have any experience being arrested; they have lots of experience …