I handle both juvenile and felony cases. Juvenile, because I absolutely love it. Felony, because I'm the senior attorney in the office. Very often the paths cross. Too often. Either I have parents of my juveniles in felony court, sometimes with the same charges. Or I have juveniles filed as adults. Either way, it is too often.
But the other day, I had an unusual occurrence. I was in felony court that day, covering a few cases. As I was headed back to court after lunch, I was approached, in the elevator, by a young man, not more than 18. He asked if I recognized him. He looked familiar but I couldn't give his face a name. He told me his name, and I immediately remembered him, but it had been a few years. I mentioned that it had been a while, and he informed me he had stayed out of trouble since I represented him in juvenile court. Naturally, I was curious...."Why are you in court today?" I was surprised at his response. "My dad is in trouble...again."
I thanked my lucky stars that this young man wasn't one of my clients, or that of one my colleagues. And I had to ask, "What changed?" His response? "I did."
Obviously that made me feel good. But searching for that elusive compliment that PD's so rarely get, I asked the next question. "Did I have anything to do with the change?" And expecting the normal response of "No, I just realized I didn't want to live that life anymore," I continued to walk to the courtroom. Imagine my surprised when he said "Yes." I stopped. Turned. Look him right in the eye. And asked, "Really?" He confirmed his answer. And said that I convinced him that he did not wanted to follow the road his father was. His father, who was never able to make the appointments in my office because he was in jail. His father who was now being sent to prison. Again.
I don't know what I said. But I hope the same words eventually come out of my mouth again. To another child, another young mind, about to be lost to the system.