Nicole Valera – Criminal Defense

Fighting the system, one case at a time…

Rough day at the office


Man, today felt rough.  I had several court appearances in two different courts.  Timing (and timeliness) means a lot in this business and you have to make sure NOT to cultivate a reputation for being late and unreliable.  I had to pay a locksmith a bunch of money and I’m sure that I was swindled somehow, but I was on such a tight schedule that I didn’t really have a choice.  Dealing with the locksmith placed me behind schedule about 30 minutes.   I had several clients who were in custody and I wanted to make sure that I spent enough time with each of them so that they understood what was going on.  Clients inevitably have lots of questions, which is fine.  This can be complicated stuff, and especially when they’re in custody, tensions can be high.  Efficiency is something I learned at the public defender’s office.  Thankfully in private practice I have more time with my clients, but every once in awhile I go right back into the efficiency mode.  That’s usually just when I have to go to court and am juggling a lot of appearances in one day.  It doesn’t happen often as I’m pretty good at managing my calender.  One thing that is always helpful though is being nice, polite, and having a smile on your face – even when you don’t want to.

What DID put a smile on my face was the new website I have is coming along very nicely and the finishing touches are being done as we speak.  It should be up and running by next week!

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January 29, 2010 Posted by | General Thoughts, Minor Infractions | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Criminal Defense: Vile? Or Necessary?


US Supreme Court

Image by dbking via Flickr

I had known in law school that I wanted to practice criminal defense and the minute I passed the bar I applied to and was accepted for employment with the Los Angeles County Public Defender‘s Office. I had clerked there for 2 years in law school and was so excited to be able to finally do what I was sure I would love.

And I did love it. Only when I told other people (even other lawyers) that I was a criminal defense attorney, most people looked at me with shock in their face. This shock did not come from the fact that I was young (I was 26 when I started practicing law), but from the fact that I was practicing (in their opinion), a vile and despicable area of law. I fielded (and continue to field) questions like, “How do you sleep at night?” “How can you live with yourself?” “Aren’t you scared of your clients?” “Well you plead them all guilty automatically if they’re guilty, right?”

I don’t really look at criminal defense that way. Some people have the luxury of making it a black and white issue. I do not. My job is to make sure that the constitution is protected. My job is to make sure that the constitution isn’t just a lot of words written down in a book, but an actual way of life. My job is to prevent the police from just stopping you on the street for no reason. My job is to prevent the government from locking you up without probable cause or reasonable suspicion. My job is to prevent us from living in a police state. My job is to make sure that laziness and bureaucracy do not take precedence over your rights and what is just. My job…is hard.

I am in private practice now and my philosophy hasn’t changed. Of course there is a business aspect to it, but I make sure that my clients rights come first, sometimes before my own needs, and of course, within reason. It is easy for the people in ivory towers and the talking heads to brand someone a criminal, call them guilty, and move on to the next news story about the latest celebrity scandal. But people are not perfect, and you never know when a simple mistake, a bad decision, an unfortunate circumstance, or bad timing, can put you in a position where you or your loved one are forced to defend your reputation, your freedom, and even your life. If you or someone you loved were ever to be in that situation, wouldn’t you want someone who didn’t pass judgment on you? Wouldn’t you want someone who treated you like a human being, and respected and revered the constitution and all the rights and liberties it bestows on everyone here in America? I would.

So, to answer one of the oft asked questions – I sleep just fine at night.

January 22, 2010 Posted by | General Thoughts, Minor Infractions, THIS is why it's worth it | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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