Wednesday, February 18, 2009

One nice thing about being a school lawyer is that our clients rarely hit us. They may get angry, or think we have done a poor job. They may even say mean and ugly things to us. But with school officials as your clients, you are rarely going to be physically assaulted.

These thoughts came to mind as I read of the recent decision in Berry v. State, a decision from the Third Court of Appeals in Texas. Mr. Berry slugged his lawyer, Tom Weber of Austin, during the trial of his case for burglary. Despite this indignity, Mr. Weber continued to represent Mr. Berry. The court convicted Mr. Berry and he appealed. In the appeal he claimed that his lawyer was ineffective because he had a conflict of interest--here he was defending the guy who just smacked him in the face.

The Court of Appeals rejected that argument, and upheld Mr. Berry's conviction.

I guess that's a good thing. Otherwise, every criminal defendant who felt that the case was going the wrong way could whomp his lawyer up the side of the head and then claim "ineffective counsel." The lawyers would really not like this. Bad enough to be pummeled by your client, but then to be told you did a lousy job--talk about adding insult to injury!

So among the many blessings of the school law practice is the fact that our disagreements rarely go to fisticuffs.