Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less


with 6 comments

Total Black: $3,990.14
Total Red: $240,969.50

Day One of a criminal trial.  Defendant is accused of assault with the intent to murder along with a few other charges.  The incident allegedly happened last year, right down the road from the courthouse, when the defendant shot at the victim while both were driving down a public road.  The issue highlights a serious problem currently plaguing the Virgin Islands: retaliatory crimes. 

The day started out with preliminary motions, then jury selection. The court I work for is an interesting hybrid of federal and “state” law.  There are two primary types of federal courts: Article III and Article I, both referring to the specific article of the United States Constitution from which it draws its power.  Article III courts are those established by Congress pursuant its power to set up “lesser courts” under the Supreme Court of the United States; they’re regular federal courts.  Article I courts, however, are established by Congress pursuant to its “necessary and proper” powers.  Courts like the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces or the federal bankruptcy courts.  I work for an Article IV court: Congress delegating powers pursuant to its ability to regulate territories of the United States.  So all Virgin Island courts, whether federal or local, exist only because Congress gave the Virgin Islands the authority to establish those courts here.

That said, it makes my job more interesting, but also more complex.  Like any other federally-established court, we use the federal rules of evidence and the federal rules of civil and criminal procedures.  The Virgin Islands just established a Supreme Court in 2007.  Appeals from the Superior Court are taken by the Supreme Court and from there to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia.  Any other “state” supreme court appeals directly to the Supreme Court of the United States—for the most part.  Interesting that we have another layer in place. Before the establishment of the Supreme Court, “state” court cases were appealed to an appellate division of the federal district court here, and then to the Third Circuit. It’s intriguing, jurisprudentially-speaking, but the process is loaded with historical landmines.  Case law referring to territories and their “inhabitants” as savages.  I’m only learning about it now.  Looks like I need to add Virgin Islands legal history to my list of topics to read up on.

At any rate, today started around 8am and lasted until 8pm after jury selection concluded.

Long, trying day.  Makes me question the ability of any jury to keep alert.  Twelve-hours; hope this is an aberration.

6 Responses

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  1. I suppose we’ll have to give you a pass on enjoying your first week in paradise and not writing.

    It’s been a few years since I’ve been down to the USVI, and when I was there there really wasn’t any type of wifi, but I’m guessing there has to be a place or two now, right?

    If not, you should still have your iPhone!



    June 8, 2010 at 16:24

  2. Be really careful about writing about pending cases, especially opinions about them that could be construed at court opinions. With your lack of discretion, you’re liable to find yourself in a world of hurt.


    June 18, 2010 at 09:22

  3. Actually, just don’t write about pending cases at all. It’s too easy to give the appearance of impropriety, and that’s all that matters to a court. Remember that all your readers know which court you are at, and any one of them could send this blog to the main clerk, in which case it would make it to your judge. You are no longer anonymous, so protect yourself and the judicial process. Don’t risk getting fired for something so easily preventable.


    June 18, 2010 at 09:58

  4. Actually this case has already concluded. I’m just a week behind in updating. I don’t plan to speak much, if at all actually, about pending cases. I don’t imagine it would be very interesting. But that’s a good point. I’ll edit the post a bit to pull any indications about the court.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 18, 2010 at 10:17

  5. Good move. There’s been quite a bit of press about lawyers who got into hot water for blogging about cases, even where they tried to keep things anonymous.

    Jim in Chicago

    June 18, 2010 at 10:46

  6. Maybe the post has already been edited, but there isn’t anything there that would seem to pose a problem. I’m guessing it has been edited…

    Still, probably a good idea not to post any details about any case on this blog! That’s all you need is to piss of the judge this early in the game!



    June 18, 2010 at 15:46

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