Case One, Day One, 0518 COBJ, Vol. 47, No. 5 Pg. 22

Position:Vol. 47, 5 [Page 22]

47 Colo.Law. 22

Case One, Day One

Vol. 47, No. 5 [Page 22]

The Colorado Lawyer

May, 2018



Ican remember Case One of Day One. I was a public defender in the Colorado Springs office of the Colorado Public Defender. Sworn in October 2, 1973, I got my first case the following Monday.

It was a speeding case in the county court: 49 mph in a 35 mph zone. The office head (former NACDL director Dick Tegtmeier) told me that the client would meet me at court. He expressed confidence in my ability to drop right into such major criminal litigation. I do not recall if I shared his confidence. I do know what I did, however.

First, I packed my new briefcase. It was a black metal Samsonite. Te metal sides had been pressed by some kind of machine to mold in crinkles that would simulate the look of leather. Leather from a metal cow. It was a look not destined to fool the trained eye. Actually, not any eye. But I guess it’s the thought that counts.

The briefcase was a gift from my parents. They were very happy that I had not only graduated law school, but also had been hired by somebody—anybody. I do not know that they understood the full implications of my chosen career: criminal defense work. Only later would they come to understand that I was honor bound to vehemently and zealously defend accused speeders and the like.

My briefcase came with an alphabet of individual letters that you could peel of and attach to a couple of indentations in the latches, so that you could personalize it. This I did immediately, in fact too quickly. Te “ L” went on just fine, but I had dropped the “P” in a little crooked and once the sticky stuff hit the metal, it was never to be undone. So I went through the next four years of my career with a crooked “P” on my briefcase.

As if the personalized metal-simulating-leather briefcase were not a big enough deal, this briefcase also had two little combination locks set into the metal latches. If you opened the briefcase there was some way to set the combinations to any numbers desired. I attached great significance to these locks. I had no idea what I would be putting into my briefcase, but I knew, by God, that whatever I put in there was constitutionally protected. Te implications were massive—into this very briefcase would go the secrets of the advocate, the very documents of the defense, the raw clay from which justice itself is...

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