I rooted myself at the dining room table and attempted to chip away at the next day’s 8:30 a.m criminal docket. The dockets in Rockville’s district court are always heavier than in Silver Spring’s. The types of crimes vary with the demographics.
Rockville covers the more affluent areas, like Potomac and Bethesda, where auto thefts, prescription fraud and financial crimes are more common. Silver Spring invites cases from Wheaton, Takoma Park and other areas bordering the District of Columbia; the majority of cases are drug possession, disorderly conduct, public drinking and the occasional shoplifting.
I immersed myself in docket preparation shortly after dinner. The first step was to create my “sticky” for each case scheduled on the docket, the art of summarizing an entire case file within the confines of a 4-by-6- inch Post-it note.
On the top left corner, I write the defendant’s name. In the top center, the date and location of the violation. To the right, the name of the attorney, if any. Also included is the list of the charges, the witnesses subpoenaed, the factual proffer, the defendant’s criminal history, the state’s offer and recommendation and a blank space for the disposition of the case when resolved in court.
The objective of the sticky is to have uniformity in case preparation so that any other ASA could pick up a file in court and try the case based on the information on the sticky. Once complete, it is meticulously placed (or stuck) on the left corner of the front of the case file.
Some call the system archaic in the face of modern computer software, while others view it as the only lifeline to prosecutorial success. But no matter whom you ask, no one will dispute that this sticky phenomenon has stood the test of time over decades in this district court.
Of course, with my borderline OCD, I had to make sure all the lines I drew separating each bit of information were straight and all lettering was legible. I grew intolerant with my inability to fit all necessary information without making it look like the alphabet regurgitated on my sticky.
In my spurt of creativity, I devised the “super sticky,” consisting of a template with drawn (and very straight) lines on an 8.5-by-10-inch piece of paper. The actual template was slightly bigger than the dimensions of the yellow sticky, so I didn’t have to write like I was a Smurf.
I heard the birds chirping outside and realized it was 5 a.m. I was about done with the docket, but didn’t find any sense in sleeping. I had to be at the courthouse by 7 a.m. to check in my criminal docket.
As I tried to nibble on breakfast, I struggled to remember the last time in recent months that I caught up with friends and family. The only weight on my mind was not making a fool of myself today in court. I gathered my files with my super stickies and marched off to court.
When the docket began, I had all the files fanned out. I looked over to my co-counsel, who had all his yellow stickies strewn on files. He had taken off and stuck back on the stickies so many times that the adhesive had lost its hold, and they were falling off his files.
If only he knew about the super sticky. I proudly paraded them all over my side of the table. Witnesses and attorneys would comment on how clean and straight my lines were. They complimented me on my use of color: criminal priors were written with red ink; proffers in blue; lock-up defendants in yellow highlighter; and interpreter cases in pink.
I used my super stickies for about 3 months before I realized their lack of utility. For one thing, all of my co-workers didn’t appreciate the innovation. Second, I was probably killing a tree a week with the reams of paper I was using.
And, most importantly, I didn’t feel the need to write so much on my sticky anymore. I grew comfortable with most cases and learned that the facts are always the same — it’s just the names that change. Like scrunchies and slapstick bracelets, the super sticky quickly fell out of vogue.
Without hesitation, I reverted to the ordinary sticky that once but no longer plagued me. And I’ve lived happily with them since.