I was representing a young man in his 20’s who had been in and out of trouble for the last ten years or so and met the young man’s father outside the courtroom for the first time. I was court-appointed, meaning that I was not retained and paid by the young man or his father but provided by the court because the young man qualified for court-appointed counsel due to his financial situation. When I met the dad, I talked to him about what the situation was, asking several questions and outlining what we were dealing with on this particular day. Then I went in to talk to my client, who was in jail, about his situation and what we were hoping to get done in the hearing that we had.
When I was visiting with the client in the jail, he explained some pattern of struggles with alcohol and anger that were evident from his record. I knew that the anger and the excess come from somewhere; they are not just initiated out of thin air. Anger typically comes from hurt or fear with the alcohol abuse developing from various influences as an attempt to cope with something that we have done or had done to us. When I asked vague, open-ended questions regarding the origin of this particular struggle, I just didn’t get far. The young man was smart and presented himself well but the dynamics of the environment in the jail didn’t exactly lend themselves to a substantive conversation.
So we went into the courtroom and it went well. There are quite a few details that I can’t share here, but try to trust me when I say that most people would have been pulling for this guy no matter what their views on law and justice are. He had plenty of reasons to catch a break and his situation was ripe for a positive outcome at this particular hearing. That’s not to say that there wasn’t anything going against him as there had been history of problems. People connect with the hope in others, I believe, and there was hope practically screaming to be recognized in these circumstances and in this young man.
After the hearing, the young man was being processed out of jail and the father and I talked outside the courtroom about the family situation and what had transpired. Like I had suspected, the young man had been through traumatic loss which undoubtedly resulted in tremendous hurt. At the point where there was a life altering event, trouble began and the trouble was followed with more pain from a couple of additional instances of unavoidable tragedy. The trouble piled on top of the hurt which was multiplied by hopelessness and the spiral had gotten out of control.
The saddest part of the story was the dad telling me that they had significant experience with court-appointed counsel and I was the first one to ever take the time to talk to him, much less hear their story. He was thankful and complimentary, but all that I really did was show some respect and interest in the people behind the situation. Those people and their stories are the very reason that I practice law and I consider it a privilege to be invited into their lives to bring Hope and encouragement. Through that interaction, I am hopeful and encouraged.