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Training day

Our state’s attorney swore us in as his newest assistant state’s attorneys, quoting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson:

A prosecutor has more control over life, liberty and reputation than any other person in America. Their discretion is tremendous … he can have no better asset than have his profession recognize that his attitude towards those who feel his power has been dispassionate, reasonable and just.

It was the first week of March 2009 when I began my training as a new prosecutor. Some of the baby prosecutors were fresh graduates from law school. Others, like me, had just completed a clerkship with a judge in the county. My predecessors tried to describe the intensity and pace of running dockets in District Court.

“It’s a near impossible job,” some would say.

Three to four days in court with an average of 20 to 60 cases to handle each day. Much like describing the first year of law school, no one could accurately convey the controlled chaos of District Court without experiencing it for oneself.

And so I plunged into my first day of my six-week training with a senior District Court ASA. Training can aptly be described as a hazing process. Although there isn’t any forced binge drinking or induced violence, the effect on the trainee is the same — feelings of inadequacy, self-loathing, crying and nausea.

My office was stationed in a four-foot-wide cubicle in the file room, alongside 10 other cubes. Real office spaces were at a premium, and we would move into one as the more senior ASAs graduated from District Court.

A desktop computer and phone were already monopolizing most of my desk space. Files for the next week were stacked by the foot and were clamoring to be filed away in some organized fashion. The shelf on top of the cubicle housed vertical file dividers with slots designated to hold files for each day’s scheduled docket. I already had 18 phone message and 24 emails waiting for responses.

I didn’t remember most of the advice past prosecutors gave me prior to starting, but I did remember that I was to return all messages within one to two days. After all, I was in the business of public service now, and the public was my only customer.

To my left, an empty cubicle was reserved for another new ASA who was beginning his training in two weeks. Above that cubicle was a make-shift placard, reminiscent of a “Shawshank Redemption,” Brooks-style carving that read, “Kyle Zeigler was here. Eight months and 4 days of service he undauntedly gave from this very space. Moved but not forgotten.”

It was a mark of an ASA past, who survived confinement in the file room after his eight-month sentence. I eased myself down at my cubicle and dusted off a half-used legal pad. And under the florescent light illuminating my workspace, I picked up my phone and dialed into my voicemail.

One comment

  1. Nice post. Reminds me of my first few days as a PD. I get to my small office and have several emails and calls from clients wondering why I hadn’t contacted them prior to their trial date. As if it being my first day wasn’t a good enough excuse, my phone didn’t work. It wouldn’t work for another three months! I had to use the phones of fellow PDs while they were away from the office. Again, enjoyed reading the post.