Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Bear Is Retiring

Dear Friend,

The Bear has terrorized courtrooms in eight countries and three states during a career that has spanned thirty years.

During most of that time, he was a de facto specialist in death penalty defense. He is proud to say not one of his clients ever received a sentence of death. He broke legal ground with issues like change of venue, false confessions, and routine use of electronic graphics in courtrooms.

(He must add, however, that it did not take long for his gains to be rolled back by prosecutors and courts. Such is life in the defense bar.)

His legal adventures have introduced the Bear to Mt. Carmel, high above Haifa, Israel; the seedy port district of Toulon, France; the call of the muezzin in Bahrain; the tapas bars of Valencia; the fishermen's quay in Chania, Crete; the roiling cauldron of Mt. Etna's crater, in Sicily; the overrated dump known as Naples; lecture halls in Chicago; over 20 counties in southern Illinois, plus the federal court; and more evidence of bodily fluids than he cares to remember.

The names of some of his clients are known far better than his own. Coleman. Sheley. Bruny.

No Bears Allowed
He was banned from Israel and, perversely, his C-130 for the return trip home was refused landing. He was also thrown off the USS Wasp after an argument with the Commodore on liberty in Marseilles.

He has seen an innocent man accused of murder vindicated at trial, and got to tell court security, "Remove the shackles from this man." And they did. He has taken his losses like a, well, Bear: hundreds of defendants guilty of everything from spree killings to city ordinance violations. Hopefully not too many innocent ones in that list. Nearly all were plea bargains. The Bear likes to think that some good deals had to do with prosecutors not wanting to mess with a Bear, but that would be a conceited thing to think.

No Bears Allowed
He has even been a doughty prosecutor as Illinois Assistant Attorney General, taking cases too complex, or too sensitive, for local prosecutors: capital murder and dirty cops.

The Bear could have had a much more lucrative career. In fact, he would go so far as to say the money was lousy, by lawyer standards. All the Bear ever wanted to do was criminal law, and he got his wish, and oh, how! The pay might not have been great, but the Bear could not have had a more interesting career, or a more satisfying. Deo gratias.

But it is time for the Bear to put that all behind him.

The time has come to walk away while he still can with his snuffly nose held high.

The Bear is just a little too old, his joints just a little too stiff and sore, his rapier courtroom wit a bit slow and blunt, and his heart just a little less than completely devoted to this jealous mistress who has taken up so much of his time and energy for three decades. The law helped make the Bear real, and he feels like the result described  by the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit, possibly the best book ever written, and certainly the Bear's favorite.

Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand. 

What next? Writing, for certain, here, and on another project that dwarfs Judging Angels: named Adapt, a novel about a demon-fighting Surgeon General. (Did I mention that all of the Bear's fiction has a touch of whimsy?)

The purpose of whatever the Bear scribbles, however, is serious: to teach the truths of the Catholic faith, whether directly, through commentary, or fiction for those who won't read the commentary. Unlike many people, the Bear has no trouble writing. In fact, several sheets of foolscap covered with crabbed crow quill script fall from his lap every morning when he gets out of bed. No, the problem is prioritizing and editing.

The Bear must say that the blog has been excellent training in the important discipline of writing every day. Writers write -- which brings to mind the hilariously bad efforts of the writing students in Throw Mama From the Train. If the Bear ever publishes anything that bad, please hunt him down and Bruno him.

More importantly, it really does warm the Bear's cold lawyer's heart to hear a reader say -- as one recently did -- that he has gotten some personal benefit from something in this blog. That's all the Bear asks.

Think of the greatest city there has ever been, and all the commerce and transportation and construction it holds. For that matter, think of the Bear's entire legal career. That is nothing, nothing, compared to an eternal human soul. The Bear has always believed that success was not measured by page views, or number of comments, but by bringing a right realization to some reader God has been pleased to introduce to a disreputable old Bear.

The Bear still has his paws full of cases, but the end is in sight. (Despite the self-deprecating remarks, the Bear is still quite competent for the foreseeable future, and remains, after all, a Bear.)

Having identified himself as a lawyer for so long, it will be hard to change. Fortunately, he shall remain,

Yours truly,
The Bear


  1. Replies
    1. Lol – no, it’s just been a combination of things: over time it has seemed evident that you’re at least closing in on what is still generally thought of as retirement age…then the substantial number of posts dealing with your experiences as an attorney together have had something of a retrospective vibe…then there have been the many times I’ve wondered how on earth you've found time for lawyering, oblate-ing, volunteering at your parish, [briefly] studying toward a Master’s, jaunts to Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville and Catholic Supply in St. Louis, AND intensive blogging. Only if the lawyering were tapering off, it seemed to me, would you be getting even 1 hour of sleep per night.

      So I’ve been thinking that things must be winding down. Either that, or hibernation gives bears LOTS of energy.

  2. I retired a year ago, and have no regrets. Volunteering and playing with the dog are much more fun!

    1. What I won't miss is the adversary nature of the system. It isn't bad in theory, but takes a toll. Also, let's just say "managing client expectations" is quite a challenge. The Bear will lounge among the pasturing goats, playing a variety of simple wind and string instruments, eating gobs of honey with his paws, and tending to his writing. What could be better than that? And then, one day, within a few years, a desperate, innocent person will beg, BEG I tell you, for the Bear to come out of retirement for one more big case. For One Million Dollars.

    2. If I am accused, and innocent, and have won the lottery, I will be sure to call you. Is begging on bended knee required?

    3. Certainly nothing so demeaning. And please don't limit yourself to an actually innocent case. I would be pleased to represent you if you were guilty, too. I am certainly not implying anything, but maybe you didn't get that One Million Dollars from the lottery, hmmm?

    4. Good to know the parameters, but that raises a question. If I don't have the One Million Dollars (perhaps because I am actually innocent), so commit a crime to obtain the One Million Dollars, and am arrested for that also (which seems probable) - do you do package deals? It might be useful to know how much I would actually need.

  3. It is with a great degree of personal loss that I read you are bringing down the curtain on Rumpole of Zoar. I will long cherish our time joining forces to battle this or that local prosecutor. I am happy to read you are continuing your writing, particularly on the Faith. You've taught me much in the law but more so in the Catholic religion. And I am both a better attorney and a Catholic because of you. Thank you my dear friend.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, my friend. We were not only a successful team, but we had a lot of fun together. "The most dangerous place in the world is between the Bear and a TV camera," was one of yours, if I recall correctly. But it's not like I'm going anywhere, God willing. We can still get together for lunch, and you can tell me all about what being a contributing member of society is like.


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