Kopf: The Milk of Human Kindness and a CDL Named David Tarrell

I am not proud of the fact that all or most of the empathy that I once had has been burned out of me. That is not true for a local criminal defense lawyer by the name of David Tarrell.[i]

So, here is the story.

I recently had a supervised release violation matter involving a woman I had sentenced to a long prison stretch plus five years of supervised release for a meth crime. The woman, now in her late 50s, had been a meth addict.

She was arrested at the hospital after surviving a car wreck. We picked her up because she failed to keep her experienced and patient probation officer (who had gone the extra mile) informed of her whereabout. Turns out, her house had burned down, she got hurt in a car wreck, and blah, blah, blah. David was appointed from our Criminal Justice Act panel to represent her. I think I had met David once before, but this case was the first time he had appeared before me.

The probation officer was only asking for six months and then termination of supervised release. The PO had done all she could do. Christ, this was a 2007 case, and the offender had already been on supervised release for roughly four years. As the hearing started, David told me that his client was willing to admit the violation. After some questions by me, it was clear that the woman, while competent, was an emotional mess.

So, I took a recess. In chambers, everyone agreed that I should dismiss the petition and end supervised release. She had already served more than 60 days in jail awaiting her day of reckoning.

Fine. But what do with this woman? Frankly, I didn’t much care, but I mumbled something to David about the City Mission.

David quietly said he would take care of it (and, by the way, not charge the government). With redactions as appropriate, here is his report to the prosecutor and me later that day:

Judge Kopf and Sara,

I wanted to let you know that I took [the defendant] to the City Mission right after court.  They told her they were full but when I told them what happened in court today, they found room for her in their family section, so she has a place to stay.  Unfortunately they only offer dental, chiropractic and psychological services, so they couldn’t help her with medical treatment.

She badly needed shoes, since the only ones she had were jail flip flops, but was pretty sure she could get some at Matt Talbot so I took her there.  Her plan was to get shoes there, access some medical services, find some friends who she thinks might have her I.D. and then get a ride back to the Mission tonight. She knows to call me if she runs into problems, but she seems pretty resourceful (and was also completely elated) so I think she’s on a good path.

The marshals also found most of her property so she now has a phone, a charger and a couple sets of clothes.  I contacted the LPD officer the marshal mentioned but he reported that LPD didn’t have any of her other property.  She seems alright, though, as she has the basics (other than shoes). Her plan is to find her ID and then use the $250 she had saved for housing and get transportation to [another state], where she can hopefully stay in [a shelter] in the same city her daughter lives in.

Anyway, I just wanted to update you, say thank you to both of you, and let you know that [the defendant is] doing well, and is incredibly grateful.

Take care.


That’s it. There is no more.

Richard G. Kopf
Senior United States District Judge (Nebraska)

[i] Although I didn’t know it at the time, David holds an M.A. in Philosophy and Literature, from the University of Warwick, Coventry, England (1993). He took his English degree from what used to be Kearney State College, now the University of Nebraska at Kearney. That institution is situated out in the middle of Nebraska—it is a place I know well. He came to the law later in life.

Ed. Note: Judge Kopf wouldn’t know this because he’s a n00b to the blawgosphere, but David is no stranger to SJ.

4 thoughts on “Kopf: The Milk of Human Kindness and a CDL Named David Tarrell

  1. Skink

    Good lawyers do good work–quietly. They don’t pontificate through the media.

    Good to know guys like David still exist. Some should pay attention to how the job is done.

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