Struck Lawyer

A while back, a pseudonymous mystery lawyer appeared who sought to lead the legal profession in an uprising against evil, corrupt judges.  It fizzled immediately, as well it should have. It was a silly idea from the outset, made even sillier by its instigator’s assumption of the name “Atticus.”

Apparently, he continued to write his Strike Lawyer blog, capturing the imagination of a few others who were naturally inclined to grasp onto outlier political views and hatred of the system.  Funny how the disaffected gravitate toward each other.  Strike lawyer, as he’s come to be known, has decided to come out of the closet.  It turns out that he’s John M. Regan, Jr., a New York lawyer why says he tried to resign from the bar but was turned down, and thereupon fled north.

John now explains the details of his efforts, that he represented a woman named S.D., and that the injustice and corruption he encountered led him to great extremes, ultimately losing his family, giving up the practice of law and moving to Canada, where he hopes to vindicate his position about the courts of the United States, in general, and New York, in particular, in a hearing on his application to take refuge in the north.  In the meantime, he plans to  tell his story and name the players.

Both  Mark Bennett and Jeff Gamso, upon learning of strike lawyer’s identity and story, gave him credit for his grand gesture.  I’m afraid that I can’t join them.  While I can’t claim to know John, he was a  regular commenter here under the name “John R.,” and to the extent one can get to know anybody on the internet, I came to know John.  Indeed, John was kind enough to tell me a bit about himself :

John R. wrote:

Sure. Attorney since 1989, mostly Rochester. Done a little bit of everything, but tried to concentrate in personal injury. Keep coming back to criminal defense here and there, though, because there’s so much of it. I shouldn’t do it, but I do.

Usually it’s because I need the faster fee and it looks like it won’t get too involved. But you can never count on that. You can take a case thinking it’s one thing and it can really surprise you. And if it does, well, criminal cases always take priority, whether they surprise you or not.

Before I went to law school I was a naval officer. Before that college. Majored in philosophy. That gave me really different standards when it comes to argument. That’s been a significant impediment in practicing law, because I expect other lawyers and judges to reason well. They rarely do. Or maybe it’s just a different kind of reasoning. Whichever, I don’t like it as much.

Juries seem to like my kind of reasoning more, though. Not that I like going to trial. I’m scared to death most of the time. I kill myself trying to win. I try not to get in that position if I can avoid it. Then again, if you have to do it, you do.

I don’t really know what else to say about my background. I’ve probably gone on too much as it is.

Not quite the resume of the firebrand.  Notably, it’s not the resume of a criminal defense lawyer. Rather, John was the occasional dabbler in criminal defense, and yet it appears to have ultimately consumed his life. 

His comments here were occasionally interesting, but mostly a bit simplistic and naive, the view of a lawyer looking at criminal law from a distance with the self-ascribed belief that he understands but without the depth that one gets from actually doing it.  He was hardly extreme in his views of the courts or police, and often sided with the system, particularly giving the police the latitude to do what they had to do, though with a defense oriented tilt. 

Now, it turns out that he had a case where he believed a terrible injustice happened and his head exploded.  Interestingly, he writes that Don Thompson, a friend of mine and an exceptional criminal defense lawyer, took over the case.
I am also grateful to a few members of the Rochester legal community.  I won’t name them all.  Lamentably, this is for their own protection.  But the involvement of a couple of them – Don Thompson and Catherine Cerulli – is already known.  Kate provided her very important expertise in dealing with sexual assault victims pro bono; Don Thompson took over from me in Livingston County Court in 2006, probably sparing me from being arrested, prosecuted or even killed.

Don represented S.D. when she took an Alford plea and mooted the war John planned to wage.  This raises some interesting questions, whether S.D.’s situation was impaired by John’s representation, and she would have been better served had she been represented by a lawyer with greater experience in criminal defense.  Maybe the grave injustice happened under John’s watch because it was under John’s watch? 

Then, if Don Thompson represented her through the Alford plea, given his experience, maybe there’s a reason why a plea was the proper outcome?  And of course, there is a huge question stemming from the melodramatic description that, had John continued to represent S.D., he might have been “arrested, prosecuted or even killed.” Killed?  Really?

Like Gamso, reading John’s story made me think of the buddhist monks who set themselves afire in protest of the Vietnam war.  It must be a “lawyers of a certain age” thing.  But such extreme and dramatic displays didn’t end the war, and won’t end the failures of our legal system.  They just produce a pile of ashes and one great photograph. 

Many people rage against the machine. Some are lawyers. Perhaps it makes them feel as if they’re making a difference, but it’s more a reflection of grandiosity than concern.  They want to achieve revolution, become known and admired as the father of some act of greatness that changed everything.  I’m not qualified to diagnose this mental state, the compulsion to sacrifice all for the grand gesture, but it’s neither something to admire nor something to emulate.  Nuthouses are full of people who believe they are saviors, if only they can nail themselves to a cross.

Rather, my preference is for the men and women who fight each day against the system, client by client, to eke out the victories whenever they can, and make the prosecution, police and judges miserable when they do wrong.  Then they go home and have dinner with their families, and come back to fight the next day.  You see, “injustices” (a word reflecting a facile perspective of events and outcome personal to the perceiver) happen all the time.  None is the gravest injustice ever, except perhaps the Holocaust.  There will be another injustice tomorrow to fight.

General George S. Patton famously said, “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”  This is what criminal defense lawyers try to do, day after day, with no expectation that anybody is going to build a statue of you.

I’m afraid I’m not impressed with any of this, and that this may be well-intended vanity and arrogance, but nothing more.  Rather than run to Canada to fight against the greatest injustice ever, John, you should have taken your cue from Don Thompson and stuck it out and fought.  But then, you were never a criminal defense lawyer.  Now, you’re just a self-proclaimed martyr to your own cause. Stay away from matches.

8 thoughts on “Struck Lawyer

  1. BL1Y

    I know this isn’t the point of your post, but I can sympathize with John R’s frustration with the arguments of lawyers and judges.

    I assume by philosophy, he means he studied analytical philosophy, which deals a lot with the structure of arguments, as opposed to continental philosophy, which deals a lot with mush.

    I majored in analytical philosophy, and was a TA for deductive logic my senior year, and I had so many *headdesk* moments in law school from other students who lacked a basic understanding of how arguments work. In logic, there’s a specific way that premises can prove a conclusion. In the rest of the world you just get a bunch of supportive facts together, mix them up, and then declare that you are correct.

    Once you learn the basics of deductive logic, making arguments with people who haven’t been exposed turns into an extremely frustrating Laurel and Hardy routine. It’s like going through law school, and then trying to discuss legal issues with someone who got their legal education from TV pundits.

  2. SHG

    Life brings many frustrations.  Part of growing up is learning to deal with them.  If we light ourselves on fire when something frustrates us, we amount to nothing more than a pile of ashes.  If we are so smart that we are capable of mad analytical prowess while others flounder in a sea of irrationality, then perhaps we ought to be smart enough to figure out a way to get our point across and prevail.

  3. SHG

    It’s not so easy anymore, given that you would now have two borders to cross for those Montreal burgers.

  4. Mark Bennett

    If argument were about your feeeeeelings, I might sympathize with you. But it’s not: argument is about persuading your audience. Your mother, your girlfriend, and possibly your dog care how you feel when you’re trying to argue with people who don’t play by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules of Logic. What everyone else cares about is whether you’re winning or losing. All the deductive logic in the world is for naught when the other side has a firm grip on the audience’s balls.

  5. BL1Y

    We’re using “argument” in two different ways.

    If you’re up in front of a jury, or making a political speech, then what matters is your ability to persuade, even if you have to use an invalid argument to do so.

    But, I meant argument in the philosophical sense of premises leading to a conclusion, without advocacy.

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