Friday, August 25, 2006

What a difference a couple of weeks make!

As you can plainly see, after two weeks of torture, my friend has chosen freedom.

Compare this photo with the one previously posted. I think the jug of home-brewed whisky speaks for itself.

The original plan was that he and I would convoy up through the British Columbia wilds to Kenai. However, the problem of transporting guns through Canada has made this plan impossible. Therefore, I'll be transporting them on the ferry from Washington to the Kenai peninsula. I had hoped for another long driving adventure, but efficiency is far more important. Therefore, instead of living life through the eyes of a northern expedition a la Shackleton, you will live life through the eyes of a cruise ship.

Which shouldn't be too bad. Some people spend lots of money to travel along the Alaskan coast and take in the wildlife and vistas. I hope the pictures hold your interest.

Other related news is that the law firm has lost another experienced attorney in Ben. That leaves a handful of felony attorneys with any appreciable felony experience. I spoke with the judge in my court, and he's expressed serious misgivings at the prospect of inexperienced attorneys in his court. I don't blame him. As much as Placer County likes to think a good defense is not important, judges rely on defense attorneys to ensure they are not making mistakes. Mistakes put people behind bars. People like you.

The big move will proceed as planned. To the left is a picture of Alyeska; the ski resort where I will be for a public defender conference in October. I can't wait.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I gave my two weeks notice this week. Even though I have made my decision to move to Alaska, giving notice still hard for me to do. It was made more difficult by the fact that three other lawyers quit as well, leaving criminal defense in Placer County far worse off.

Not that things could get much worse for criminal defense.

Besides my need for change, Placer County itself has conspired to drive me away. During my short time as a Public Defender, I have seen some disturbing changes.

I witnessed an 80 year old WWII veteran tackled to the ground by two 250 lbs police officers because he was a little drunk and hard of hearing. I saw a jury of our peers, Placer County residents, convict him of public intoxication and shake the hands of the officers, proclaiming them heroes.

I've seen District Attorneys intentionally over charge kids with felonies when they should have been misdemeanors because they want the scared minors and their families to plea bargain for the misdemeanor rather than risk a felony at trial.

We have District Attorneys demanding time in jail for 2nd time DUI's even though doing time (often 20+ days) this misdemeanor mistake will lead to the loss of a defendant's job, his family's only source of income, because he can't take time from work. However, at the same time, a person selling methamphetamine, a felony, does little or no actual time at all. Does that penalty really fit the crime? The District Attorney certainly thinks so. As does the judges and, apparently, the county legislature. Below are the County Board of Supervisor's minutes giving Stephanie Macumber District Attorney of the Year for making that happen.

To: Honorable Board of Supervisors
From: Bradford R. Fenocchio, District Atto
Date: June 13,2006
Subject: Prosecutor of the Year Award
Presentation of the Prosecutor of the Year Award to the 2006 recipient, Stephanie A.
Macumber, by Bradford R. Fenocchio, at the Board of Supervisors Meeting on July
1 1,2006.
The District Attorney's Office established the annual award entitled "Prosecutor of the
Year Award" in memory of Anne-Marie Bourgeois, who died as a result of a tragic
fire in her home in 1994.
Each Deputy District Attorney within our office is given an opportunity to vote for the
colleague whom they feel should be honored for his or her display of outstanding
effort; one who shows enthusiasm, excellence and courage in prosecuting cases.

Why am I leaving? Because Placer County makes the same mistake other municipalities make when they get frightened of a growing population; the knee jerk reaction of punitive rather than rehabilitative measures.

The question Placer County must ask itself is whether this approach has ever been effective. In court, judges joke about the "liberal" cities, such as Sacramento, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. In every large city, before they became large cities, they tried the punitive approach. Because they learned that this approach costs more than preventative and rehabilitative measures, they became "liberal". The question is, why hasn't Placer County learned this lesson?

The answer is, of course, the people. And that's one big reason why I leave.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Check one off the list! Today I bought a 3/4 ton Chevy truck (with the help of and many thanks to B). I have to take it to my buddy's house now so he can drive it into the ground out of sheer jealous spite. Just wanted to update you.

Friday, August 11, 2006

It's already happening.

I had hoped against hope, but stuff's gettin' worse. Stuff's getting worse every day.

Luckily, unlike my co-worker who has chosen not to escape to freedom, his life will be that of the following image:

Mine will be that of freedom.

Apparently, a memo was distributed yesterday directing all Public Defenders to wear suits all day every day, so as to portray a "businessman-like image".

I was under the impression that Public Defenders were the low paid attorneys doing their jobs out of a feeling of duty and honor rather than seeking the high wages of the corporate world. I was under the impression that Public Defenders valued the same freedom and liberalism vigorously proclaimed at our client's trials and sentencing. I never realized that the image of the public defender would be reduced to conformity so that we can make our law firm's CEO feel like he's running a tax litigation firm (yes, we even have a CEO...and shareholders!) Our forebearers are turning in their graves.

Well, I have a couple of weeks before departure. I've had little progress on buying a truck. I want to ensure that I get the right one. Unfortunately, I know next to nothing about them. I've tried to get my buddy to help, but he doesn't seem to know much either. I guess the problem is that I need to know how much truck I'll need in Fairbanks. Furthermore, I need to know how old and beat up the truck can be but still make it up there. I need to do some more research.

You may have heard the recent news out of Alaska. A major source of oil will be shut down for a little while, inducing the governor to enact a hiring freeze on all new state employees. This was troubling news...troubling news indeed. However, after a few quick phone calls, it appears that I was hired just in the nick of time. So, everything is still working out.

The boss-man is making us come in on the Saturday. It's not a half day or anything like that. We need to play catch-up. Ugh.

Monday, August 07, 2006

What a difference a day makes!

Well, my co-worker (the one who was supposed to convoy up with me) has received some interesting news today. As a result of that news, it sounds like he'll remain in California until he can get some issues resolved. What that means for me is that getting to Alaska has suddenly become a whole lot more complicated.

Without my friend, I will have to arrange my own transportation. The question is whether I should fix up my parents van, which may cost in the thousands, or try to purchase a vehicle here, which will not be Fairbanks ready (in terms of engine block and oil pan heater, etc).

The worst part is that I must make this decision tomorrow. Not a whole lot of time to consider the best approach. Hmph.

Either way, I spend a lot of money that I don't have. There is going to be a lot of creative financing in the next day or so...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Hello friends and family,

This begins my first online journal. I promise to make an effort this time around.

As an introduction to those who don't know me, I'm a lawyer from California who has recently taken a job in Fairbanks, Alaska.

My decision to do this has little to do with an inherent desire to live in Alaska. It is a very cool state; appealing to many of my interests: it is vast, wild, politically libertarian...all great attributes. However, the real underlying motivation for this move has more to do with random wanderlust.

It all started with a co-worker's earnest efforts in fulfilling his longstanding dream to move to Alaska. Bootstrapping on his research, I quickly found out how feasible it could be for me. And then, I got to thinking about how easy it is for me in contrast to my buddy. I have no family of my own, no property, no ties that bind us. Furthermore, if I don't do something soon, I can see inertia taking over. The need to see other places and meet other people being slowly replaced with the comforts of predictability.

After six months of toying with the idea, intervening circumstances turned a fanciful notion into a reality. And so, after being offered a job in Alaska, I am going to take that leap.

I have spent much time looking at other blogs on the internet. Few offer practical advice regarding moving to Alaska. Perhaps that is because it isn't really that big of a deal. Perhaps not. The purpose of this blog, aside from updating my friends and family, is to detail my experience, including my mistakes, in order to better inform others.

As I sit here at my computer in California, Alaska seems like a dramatically different environment from the ones I've been used to. I am hoping to dispel the mystery of Alaska for those of you similarly situated.

The beginning

Of course, it is perhaps easier for me than many others. As a public defender, I've been able to line up a good job with a wonderful office in Fairbanks before departure. Clearly, that's a bit different from the rugged pioneers who left without that safety net. However, my past experience in finding temporary jobs with my resume has been extremely poor. Few employers want to hire someone who is likely to quit as soon as something more appropriate opens up.

The list. Things to start thinking about:

1. Car: my current car will not make it up to Fairbanks. Nor will it fare well while there. It has been a wonderful vehicle, but a Ford Escort seems a bit innappropriate for the wild, frozen north. I'm thinking about purchasing a Ford F150 when I get there because there is no sales tax and the vehicle will likely run under frozen conditions. Luckily, my co-worker is moving at the same time, so I get to drive his wife's car. I'm going to stuff it full of my things.

2. Apartment: Little information as to desirable locations is available on the web. Luckily, a co-worker will put me up for a little while as I look for a decent place to live. I will post as information becomes available.

3. Warm clothing: I am cutting it close, I know. Winter is just around the corner, and I am certain that my California-wear is not going to cut it in -60 weather. Luckily, I have some stuff from my time in Michigan, but that experience has taught me that more will be needed. Again, not a whole lot of stuff on the web. I will post more as I find out what is required.

4. My stuff: I have lots of stuff. I think I'm going to lose most of it. I want to keep my clothes, computer, TV, DVD player, and some books. I'd like to be able to put it all in the car, but we'll see.

5. Digital camera: Obviously, I'll be needing this for you all. I will remedy this as soon as possible.

Wish me luck! More to come...