Wednesday , November 13 2019
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The Problem with Young Prosecutors

Justice and EquityCertainly not true for all, but true for many is the issue of hiring young graduates fresh out of law school to be prosecutors. In the old days, one had to apprentice under a lawyer for a few years to learn the ropes before a full bar license was given. Not anymore. Anyone that has a law degree from an accredited law school and that can pass the bar exam becomes a licensed attorney. Sure, everyone needs to start somewhere, but giving young lawyers the most powerful job society holds is a mistake. A prosecutor has a duty to “seek justice.” What I have observed over these past 20 years of “tough on crime” is that there is an overarching pressure for prosecutors to win cases. Immense pressure is put on them to not to lose in terms of job evaluations.

The first missing link to all of this is life experience. For example, how do you take a young person who has been privileged all their life and expect them to weigh the equitable differences of a young mother stealing for food versus a professional thief who steals for a living? As for DWIs, how does one expect a young person to be able to evaluate the differences of a person who drank as an out of character mistake (not likely to do it again) versus someone with a propensity that has never been caught?

Everyone deserves equity, not just justice. Equity is not treating everyone the same, but being able to put things into proper perspective based on facts, circumstances and life issues. A young puppy often must be trained not to bite. Young prosecutors are no different. They must be trained to understand when to bite and when to show mercy. Office policies based on alcohol levels or the presence of an accident fail to recognize the unique circumstances that couch each case. One must live to understand others. For many, kids fresh out of law with their first real job are just learning to balance a real budget. How are they to know what it is like to support a family of four or make ends meet as a single mom? As for dishing out community service, how are they to understand what is really valuable to society in terms of time priorities?

What often rings true is that the career prosecutors who never marry and or never have kids are out of touch with how real people live their lives balancing family and work. Too often I see not much mercy from these types. Hiring decisions that take into account a person’s life experience and ability to be open minded are more critical to ensuring justice for a community than their GPA or what law school they graduated from. Ralph Ellison said, “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”

You can’t teach a young person about life, they must experience it. Those with good morals are off to a better start, but that is still not a guarantee that they will be able to mete out justice appropriately. We should do our communities a favor and change the paradigm. Patience for all yes, but praise to those district attorneys’ offices that value the character and life experiences of one when hiring the ultimate gun slingers of our justice system. It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Let’s be more careful about to whom we trust that power.

About Mimi Coffey

Mimi Coffey
Mimi Coffey is a trial attorney with 17 years experience. She is the founder of The Coffey Firm, serving Dallas, Tarrant and Collin counties. She is board-certified in DWI by the National College of DUI Defense (NCDD) and is a Regent of the NCDD. She has also appeared numerous times as a legal commentator for CNN, National Fox News, as well as local Dallas/Fort Worth stations on DWI-related stories. She is also a frequent speaker at both national and statewide seminars. She is a prolific trial attorney with a proven trial record. She has tried over 300 cases, with 80% of them being jury trials in her 18-year career. Her success includes everything from .21 breath tests, blood tests to 3 car accident cases just to name a few. Mimi’s cases have also made good case law for the State of Texas. For example, in Tarvin v. State, it was found that weaving within your own lane was not a traffic violation. In Lajoie v. State, the courts determined that the defendant’s request to have his attorney must be suppressed as opposed to used as evidence of guilt. She is the author of Texas DWI Defense: The Law and Practice. She is also the author of three nationally-published articles and four statewide articles. Mimi has twice attended Indiana University’s Borkenstein Course for state toxicologists both on alcohol and drugs. She has also completed the NHTSA SFST Course, SFST Instructor Course and the 12-Step DRE Mini-Course Program. She is also one of the first attorneys in the United States to attend the Axion Labs Gas Chromatography Training. Her minor in college was Geology lending her a comprehensive and disciplined scientific mind when it comes to scientific and mathematical issues such as blood and breath testing. Mimi has won the President’s Heart of a Champion Award presented by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA) numerous times. Mimi also led the effort to get the State Bar of Texas’ Board of Legal Specialization to recognize the NCDD’s DWI Certification. Mimi has been active in 4 legislative sessions in fighting against bad DWI laws. Her efforts prevented the breath/blood test refusal as being a separate crime. She has advocated for true deferred adjudication for DWI. Mimi also sued a Dalworthington Gardens police officer for illegally drawing blood. Since her lawsuit, the 2nd Court of Appeals ruled against police officers drawing blood. (The Court of Criminal Appeals overturned this). Mimi also sued the Texas Department of Public Safety for its double jeopardy surcharge program. Since the initiation of her suit, Texas DPS has instituted amnesty programs based on one’s earning potential.

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