Just like a doctor, an attorney is the person you turn to when things are going wrong. For someone facing time in prison, the loss of career, the alienation of those around them, it can feel as if they are dying, every bit as much as if they had a serious medical condition. There are no guarantees regarding the outcome, and the prognosis can be deflating when the realities of the case, or the illness, cannot be ignored.

For an attorney, like a doctor, the balance of personal feelings and professional knowledge can often be hard to maintain. Remaining cool, calm and collected does not mean there is no genuine concern for the human being placing their trust in us.

One of my clients once said to me, “Our first time in court, I wanted you to jump on the Judges desk and loudly proclaim my innocence. I was pissed because you were so understated and calm. It was only later, as the process played out, that I realized that instead of being a mighty warrior with a sword, hacking and slashing in defense of my honor, you were like a brain surgeon. Carefully, selectively, diagnosing and making small, accurate cuts that limited the potential damage and ultimately, ‘cured’ my case.”

It is especially difficult for us when we do in fact have strong personal feelings about a particular case. In filing motions, appeals, etc., we are attempting to use every means at our disposal to perform, ‘legal surgery’. And like a surgeon, we have to remain calm and be alert for any possible openings or means of bringing about successful results. In other words, there are many times in court when I do want to jump on the Judges desk and loudly proclaim a client’s innocence, but that is not how the system works.

Marijuana cases can be extremely frustrating to me. As a former prosecutor, I am proud of my record of locking up dangerous criminals, predators and abusers. Yet, that same experience has given me additional perspective of what constitutes a crime. Too often, there are ‘criminal’ cases with no victim, no individual who has come forward to press charges. Just an ancient law on the books being used to shield some and prosecute others. In some cases, it even involves a profit motive that goes beyond justice.

As a defense attorney, I am able to bring years of experience in navigating the laws and statutes of our Commonwealth, and put that knowledge to work for my clients. Even in situations where there is little hope for a good outcome, it is my duty to pursue every means possible to, at the very least, minimize the potential negative results and damage.

In a recent case, I filed motions for a Fayette county man charged with growing and distributing Marijuana. (Read the Pittsburgh Tribune Report Here.)

Regrettably, Judge Wagner denied Mr. Smith’s post-sentencing motions without an evidentiary hearing. While we’re not surprised that his Honor declined to find Marijuana’s Schedule I Classification unconstitutional, we did hope to at least have a hearing to build the record and show that its Schedule I classification was arbitrary and capricious and denied Pennsylvanians equal protection. But the issue has been preserved for appellate review and the Notice of Appeal will be filed shortly.

In the meantime, a 53 year old Navy veteran with no prior criminal history and a special needs adult daughter remains free on bond with a 5 – 10 year mandatory sentence hanging over his head. That’s the War on Cannabis for you – five years for a first time offender. We’re committed to doing everything we can to keep him out of prison.


Leave a Reply