With the discussion of heavy Biglaw workloads still fresh in our minds, let’s remember that most attorneys understand the law is a rigorous profession. Lawyers don’t expect to work 9-to-5 hours. Most lawyers aren’t going to freak out when they have to put in a long week.
At least on the East Coast. Maybe, up in the Pacific Northwest, lawyering is a different thing entirely. Maybe it’s a regular, working man’s job, where you “punch in,” “punch out,” and take a precise hour-long lunch away from your desk every day. And maybe northwestern lawyers get so used to this workaday schedule that when they find themselves in the middle of a long week, and the specter of weekend work is staring them in the face, it’s totally usual for them to lash out at opposing counsel with displaced anger.
Or maybe this one prosecutor is just kind of a prick?
Willamette Week picks up the story of Washington prosecutor Jim David:
On March 3, a Clark County sheriff’s deputy arrested 29-year-old Matthew Coonce in Vancouver [WA] for possession of meth and stealing a car. He pleaded not guilty.
On May 25, Coonce’s attorney, John Terry, pushed for Coonce’s case to go to trial the following week. That took the prosecutor, David, by surprise.
The next day, David left Terry a profanity-laced, two-minute voice-mail message in which he complained that going to trial would force David to “cancel my weekend.”
“You’ve been telling me you wanted a continuance on the goddamn case, and now you are telling me you want to go to trial next week.
That’s bullshit,” the prosecutor said in the message. “I’m fucking laying you out…. It’s coming out of your client’s hide if I have to go to trial next week, and there ain’t going to be no stinking offers, there ain’t going to be nothing coming other than go to prison for a very long time.”
Whoa dude. No need to Hulk-up just because you have to work the weekend.
David admitted what he did and apologized for the outburst, furnishing this explanation for this behavior:
David, a 27-year prosecutor, says that when he left the message, he was working extra hours to open an elder-abuse center in Clark County. He called his outburst an “aberration.”
“You try working 60 hours a week,” David says. “I hope you understand the frustration, but that was not the right thing to say…. It was not a high point of anyone’s career.”
Is David talking about 60 billable hours, or is he just getting frazzled because he’s had a series of 12-hour days? Does it even matter? If you can’t keep your composure because you have 60-hour work weeks, you might be in the wrong profession.
Not that this kind of “intense” pressure will necessarily be part of David’s job description going forward. The Seattle Times reports:
A Clark County senior deputy prosecutor has been demoted for leaving a profanity-laced voice mail message on a defense attorney’s cell phone.
Prosecutor Tony Golik said Wednesday he demoted Jim David to deputy prosecutor and expects all deputy prosecutors to act in a professional manor.
The story says David is a 27-year “veteran” of the prosecutor’s office. Maybe if he had been willing to put in a few more long weeks, he could have made it in private practice, where this kind of behavior gets you promoted.