I. A Court-Appointed Case, Sort Of
My first court-appointed client was a convicted rapist who was trying to get his conviction overturned on a technicality. The rapist’s case wasn’t appointed to me, exactly, but to another associate at the big civil defense firm where I started my career. The associate, who was a few years my senior, stood in my office with a box of documents. He set the box on the floor, then grinned. “You’re going to love this one,” he said.
I was pretty sure he was joking. He told me he was assigning his court-appointed case to me, and that I would be required to complete two tasks. First, I’d have to file a brief in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Then I’d appear for an oral argument before a panel of three appellate judges. The associate said he didn’t have any clue about the legal rules I needed to know, except that I was representing the client in an appeal of the district court’s rejection of his second amended application for a writ of habeas corpus. It sounded like complete gibberish to me.
The box of documents had come from the court-appointed lawyer who’d handled the case in the district court. I leaned over my desk. The box was filled with papers. But it also contained a mysterious plastic bag. A corner was protruding from the box.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Oh, that. That’s our client’s pubic hairs. They came with the file. You’re going to use them to get him off.”