katemort

Wrapping it Up- 7.28

Things have been somewhat wrapping up at work. I have a few more days and Tessa doesn’t want to give me any more projects. Plus, I’ve been so delved into the ones I’ve been working on. Writing heads of argument, which is the document that lays out all the basic legal arguments and something equivalent to the joint stipulation of facts, has been interesting. I was struggling through them as I had nothing but a sample on which TP informed me was written by the “best heads of argument writer in Durban.” He wrote the opposing ones for a case Susan and I worked on. I was feeling particularly nervous until Tessa informed me that she has only written one in her whole career at Legal Aid. So I worked my butt off and came up with something I am proud of, but still have yet to hear from Tessa if they are any good.

On my PIE case, I have also struggled a bit once again with our client. I had a consultation with him last week and his circumstances have changed so my whole argument is out the window. It is also difficult because he comes off as a complete crook and I just don’t trust him. But I have to and I guess that is part of being a lawyer. I have really enjoyed working on this case though because it has been my case. I have gotten to educate Tessa on the facts of the case, research the law, inform her about the law and the case law, come up with the theories of the case, write a brief for it, and then the heads of argument. It is unfortunate that I will not be here for the actual litigation of the case, but that would be a tough one. It is not because I am leaving soon that is the problem. My case is not set for court until mid to late August and then with the number of postponements I have seen for every case, I don’t expect it to be litigated until much later in the year. I would likely have to be here for 3-5 years to see and entire case front to back.

That fact frustrates me. I think that this system has so much potential. It just needs to be better organized. But I also find that it suffers from just a difference in the administrative nature of their government. I mean, even I sometimes complain about “big brother” and how the government and other people can always find you in America. But seeing the other side, where people can just disappear or people don’t know in what year they were born, I guess I would rather have it the American way.

I went to court last Thursday, which was easily one of my favorite days in court. I went with a woman named Candace, who was younger then me, which is kind of weird to think about. She is 23 and arguing in front of a judge. She took me to drug court which was fascinating. I got to meet the magistrate who took jabs at our jury system but was hilarious. I met the prosecutor who teased the public defenders about whose job was more important. I met rich private lawyers who joked that they could take us out to dinner while the Legal Aid attorneys can’t afford to. Everyone was great.

The case that shocked me the most when I was there was a particular drug case. A man had gotten arrested on presumably possession charges in January. He has been awaiting trial since February. The one witness who was going to implicate him could not be found. He was out of the province and nobody knew when he was coming back. The accused’s attorney argued that this was a violation of the Constitutional right to a speedy trial. The judge agreed. The case was dismissed. He was a free man and went home after 5 months in custody with nothing but continuances in court. I honestly don’t know if this happens in the US, but I would be curious to find out.

I think my favorite thing about court here is the camaraderie. All of the attorneys on both sides of the courtroom and on both sides of the economic spectrum in terms of income all treat each other with such respect and friendliness. It makes me excited to be a part of the legal profession. I have a great respect for all of the attorneys I have met here and everyone has been so eager to teach me everything they can about how things work and what it is really like. Candace even let me sit at the big table that all the attorneys sit at in front of the magistrate as though I was one of the attorneys arguing. It was quite exciting in a dorky sort of way.

That day brought up a lot of thoughts about race and education among other things. I need some more time to solidify these thoughts. Perhaps I will continue to post about my reflections when I return to the US. For now, I will have limited internet access and will likely not post anymore for a while. I just want to thank everyone who has been following me on my adventures here and reading my reflections on this experience.

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