For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 22

As we walked out of the courtroom, my client
reminded me that he was right: I did not know Erie.
Sadly, he went on to tell me that if I had not had my
law license, the judge would have concluded that I was
a fictitious attorney. I thanked my client and I left for
my office. I was disappointed but not angry. Yet, I said
nothing to anyone publicly. I only spoke of this with
Attorneys Schuchardt, Robinson, and Nicole Sloane.
For the next couple of months, I stopped taking
cases in Erie. I did not want to be demeaned anymore.
I went as far as telling my wife that I was considering
applying for a job at a local gas station. This way, I would
be accepted, since I would be lending credence to the
indefensible prejudice of our society that maintains that
a black person could not reasonably be smart enough to
be a lawyer. Candidly, I wanted answers as to why the
judge treated me with such disdain.
During my time of introspection, I came to the sad
realization that I was different. And that a lot of people
in this part of this country did not think that someone
like me had the intelligence required to become an
attorney. I concluded that there was nothing humanly
possible that I could do to change that perspective.
Attorney Schuchardt was right. I needed to keep doing
what I have always loved. I needed to practice law.
I emerged from isolation during the snowy months of
2016. I hesitantly took an auto accident case involving an
Erie County High School student. The client was the son
of my then landlord. He mistakenly reversed his parents'
car into a parked vehicle at a parking lot. On that very
cold day, my client and I arrived at the Magistrate Court
in Millcreek Township. We were greeted by yet another
excoriating event. My conclusions regarding prejudice
were reinforced. I entered the court with humility, as I
have always done. I presented my business card and law
license to the district court staff sitting behind the glass
window.
After reviewing both cards, the district staff placed
them down on the desk and walked away. The staff
person returned a few minutes later and asked me if this
was my first DUI. I responded by saying " excuse me. " The
staffer continued, " you will need to go find a lawyer. I
can continue the case for another date. " I cannot say
that I was surprised at this point. Before I left my home
that morning, I had the feeling that this was going to be
the case. I turned around and looked over my shoulder.
I wanted to make sure that my client did not hear the
conversation, but there was no escape for me. He had
heard everything! A response was appropriate under the
circumstances, so I responded, " I am a lawyer and not a
DUI defendant. I am here on behalf of this young man. "
The staffer person did not apologize, but continued,
" Well, then we do not need a lawyer. You can sit and
wait when the judge is ready, I will let you know. You will
enter on this side. "
22

For The Defense l Vol. 5, Issue 4

The matter was concluded. I left feeling exhausted. I
placed a phone call to Attorney Nicole Sloane and told
her about my encounter. She offered for us to meet for
coffee. She proceeded to apologize. I told her that she
had done nothing wrong and did not need to apologize.
She could tell that I was getting frustrated and tired of
the humiliation. I continued to practice in the county and
being called a DUI defendant became synonymous with
my name and appearance. The staff at one Magisterial
District Court took the name calling to a new high. In
every case that I had at that court resulted in me being
called a defendant.
I always brought it to the attention of my friend,
Attorney Sloane. Her responses were always the same.
" Oh my God, I am so sorry. Let's meet for coffee. " Or
" Where are you now? I am coming to meet you. " As time
went on, I got tired of it. I stopped feeling like a lawyer. It
reached a point where I did not want to have anything to
do with the court. My friends kept me going: Attorneys
Elliott Schuchardt, Franklin Robinson, and Nicole Sloane.
Personally, I came to accept this reprehensible treatment
as normal. No level of degrading comments was going
break or force me into the prejudicial myth of an angry
" black man. " I settled in and came to accept my fate.
Once I was in Erie, this was going to be my experience.
I reasoned that one day I, too, would be afforded the
same respect as my peers who were not Africans and did
not look like me.
While this was my decided approach, an entirely
different occurrence involving a sheriff deputy changed
everything. On a day in April 2018, I arrived at the
courthouse in the morning hours for a conciliation
conference before the Family Division. My son, then five
years old, was with me. His school was closed that day
and he wanted to come with me because he wanted to
meet his favorite judge. We arrived on time and my son
went through the metal detector. I also placed my bag
on the belt for it to be scanned.
I walked through the metal detector with my winter
coat on. In Erie, attorneys are customarily permitted to
wear their winter coats when entering the courthouse.
Upon entering, I turned to my left to grab my bag. At
once, I heard an officer yelling at me at the top of his
lungs. I thought there was some confusion going on
around me and the deputy could not possibly be talking
to me. I was wrong. By then, the deputy was walking up
towards me with an incredibly angry face and rude tone:
" Go outside and take off your jacket now. I am talking
to you. " I was calm and collected but had to ask, " What
are you talking about? " The deputy pointed directly
in my face, " I said go back outside and take off your
jacket now before you can be allowed in here. " By this
time, the deputy was right in my face, incredibly angry,
and loud. At this point, my five-year old got scared and
moved closer to me. The officer seemed unfazed; he
continued to yell at me. Finger-pointing, his saliva hit my
face and landed on the rims of my eyeglasses.



For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4

Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 1
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 2
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 4
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 5
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 6
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 7
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 8
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 9
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 10
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 11
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 12
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For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 15
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 16
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 17
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For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 19
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 20
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 21
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 22
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 23
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 24
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 25
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 26
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 27
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 28
For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 29
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For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 33
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For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 35
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For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 37
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For the Defense - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - 52
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