When I was in the hospital, working kept me going. Most of my clients had no clue that I was in the hospital. I didn’t want them to worry as I still had everything under control. It kept me from losing focus on life. It was like, be bummed about my situation or focus on the fact that I still have responsibilities and people who need me.
After 6 weeks in the hospital, I got back to court as soon as I could. I think I was back in a courtroom 2 weeks after I got home. I was right back at it, and it kept me alive. (Not literally, just figuratively.) There was only one client whose case I got off of because I didn’t think I could do enough for him.
JB was the one client I kept from my former employer. My mentor. The greatest defense attorney I have ever known. He had passed away a year and 2 months prior to my becoming paralyzed. And out of all the clients who asked to stay with me, I kept 1. JB. I had always felt a very maternal instinct to protect JB. When I first met him, not many people were there for him. He was practically estranged from any good influence in his life. So I wanted to stay with him. To protect him. To save him. It was a weird mix of wanting to help him and my one last remaining tie to my mentor.
After I ended up in the wheelchair, I suffered anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to do enough for him. How could I be an effective voice in trial when I could barely even hold my body upright (I was pretty weak in the beginning). I am not a confident person by nature. If I seem it, then it’s a pretty good front. I second guess everything, which is why I thrive on constant validation. The difference between his case and my other cases is that I knew the other cases wouldn’t be going to trial right away. And I was confident that I would get stronger and even start walking again soon. But JB’s case was almost 2 years old and would be pushed to trial quickly. I felt like I was abandoning him, but I had to hand him over to the public defender’s office. I felt it was in his best interest.
Cut to almost a year ago when I get a call from a mom who wants a lawyer for her stepson who she loves as dearly as if he were her own. “He’s not a bad kid. He just needs help and I hear you can help him.” I respond “Sure, what’s his name? I’ll go see him in custody tomorrow.” She tells me his first name, which is a very unique name. “Don’t tell me it’s JB [insert last name here].” She’s shocked that I know her son. Apparently she had no idea that I had previously represented him. They end up retaining me and I make them promise to not tell him so I can surprise him. The look on his face when I rolled into jail was priceless.
In the 2 years since I had given his case over to the PD’s office, he had not only not gone to trial but picked up several new cases while he was out on bail. Now I was back on his case and in his life. I was stronger for what I had gone through and he was more willing to really open up to me because of his path. We were a much stronger, better team now. He actually told me recently that no matter what happens on his case, he has never felt more comfortable with anyone because he knows I truly care. And I do.
So, tomorrow I start trial on the first of his many cases. I am scared to lose his trial. Not because I think he’s innocent like with some of my other cases with defendants that I’m close to. But, I’m scared because it’s my one last tie to my mentor and if I lose, I feel like I’m letting him down. And I feel like the universe brought me back to JB for a reason. Maybe my mentor had something to do with that, I don’t know. What I am confident about is that my wheelchair does not prohibit his defense. It won’t stop me from being the best advocate for him that I can be. It won’t stop me from arguing until I can’t argue any further. I wasn’t confident 3 years ago. And maybe I’m not the most confident now. But I am dang sure that I am a fighter. And that’s what he will get tomorrow.
But, winning would be nice validation.