All Posts


Hitting “Publish” Isn’t Easy.

I’ve written a lot of posts that haven’t been published. That’s a problem. It’s a problem of being too reserved, too cautious, or concerned about what I’ve written to offer it up for public consumption.

Early this year- in January- I wrote a post called “10 years.” It spoke to my decade of private criminal defense work since leaving the Office of the Public Defender. I wrote about how much I loved this job, how fun it’s been, and how lucky I’ve been to have an extremely helpful group of talented colleagues.

More importantly, I talked about the stark and grave realization of how grating this profession can be. How depressing it is knowing that, as much as you can fight for that guy standing next to you in front of the judge, the system isn’t designed for change even if the system has it wrong.  It will be wrong over and over and over and over and over again on individual cases before any sort of widespread change occurs (if it ever even does).

That’s a sobering thought. It’s why so many people get burned out (not that I’m burned out- I’m not).  It’s an idealism-sapping thought.

Back To The Future.

All of this caused me to wonder what my future is going to look like. Most people’s thoughts can wander towards the future and focus on a career goal or achievement. For lawyers in private practice, that goal is often becoming a judge.

By August I’d written another post called “Pedigree.” I talked about how the majority of state court judges have a similar pedigree. They have almost all either not worked in criminal defense work, or spent some of their criminal work as prosecutors. Off the top of my head I can think of zero who worked for the public defender’s office, then went to private practice focusing on criminal defense work.

I don’t have the pedigree to become a judge.  Further proof of this is that exactly nobody with any authority has ever quietly said, “Hey Matt, maybe you should think about applying for this open judge spot.”  My background means I’d get slaughtered in an election, too. the guy who helped “that guy” avoid prison is easy pickings.

You can be the most knowledgeable, most “just” lawyer on the planet, but if your career path looks like mine you’ll never get to put on the black dress and preside over traffic court.  I never thought I’d be a judge, anyway. The thought that it’s not even really a viable path to pursue even if I wanted to, though, is frightening.

You Have Nothing To Fear But Public Perception.

For some reason, and it makes no sense, these thoughts have combined to make me “gun-shy.”

I’ve written a post (“Like a Baby“) about how I can defend “those people” and still sleep at night. I never edited or published it.  A part of me thinks it came off too strong. Another part of me knows that there’s no explaining it in a way the general public would agree with. And, well, if I ever did decide to “waste” my time and run for judge, it’s the general public who does the voting.

I wrote a story (“Never Tell Me The Odds“) about a time when I was a young, aggressive public defender, that the captain of the narcotics unit tried to intimidate me out of running a hearing to suppress drug evidence. The narc unit had obtained an arrest warrant for a man based upon a very vague physical description. Of course, they used the arrest warrant to search a house and arrested my client (who wasn’t the subject of the warrant).

I never edited or published that story, either. It ultimately ran out of steam because the general public doesn’t seem to care as much about the intricacies of 4th Amendment reasonable searches as much as the general public cares about having our hero-cops take “those guys” off the streets- especially if “those guys” had small amounts of drugs near them.

Heros and Zeros.

Speaking of hero-cops, my post on Lt. Joe Gliniewicz from Fox Lake has also been sitting in the “drafts” folder.  Gliniewicz was our hero. Then we learned more about him. Now he’s a womanizing thief.  Gliniewicz didn’t change. Our knowledge and perception of him did.

That post explains how most the cops I know don’t want you to assume they’re a hero. Most of the cops I know don’t want you to assume they’re terrible people out to violate your rights. Most of them don’t want you to assume anything. They want you to look at them like the individual humans that they are.

The assumption that they’re heros, though, is dangerous. It’s the reason Gliniewicz got away with so much for so long. It’s what enabled the man to loot ridiculous amounts of public money, and all of the public trust.

I never hit “publish” on the Gliniewicz post. Rational as it is to assume police are just regular people- some of which are heros while others are thieves- if you publicly say something perceived as “unsupportive of the men in blue” you’re branded as some sort of anti-government extremist.  Discussions of police, just like discussions on global temperatures, have become so politically charged that they’re less a direct discussion on issues as they are an indirect discussion on which cable news channel you watch.  I don’t watch any cable news programs.

I Got Soft.

I could go on with the drafted-but-not-published posts, but I won’t.  The reality is that I haven’t posted much here because, for one reason or another I got soft. Somewhere, between “Illinois Law Makers Want Drug Dealers At Your School” and early this year I started to care what people thought.

That’s not me. I don’t care about the general public’s view on the criminal justice system or criminal defense attorneys. I care about truth, rational debate, and fixing what doesn’t work as intended.

I came into this profession with exactly zero exposure to the criminal justice system. I came into this job loaded to the brim with idealism (or naiveté depending upon how you look at it). I came into this job not caring what anybody else thought and unconcerned with how I might be perceived. I’m disappointed in myself for letting those things matter.

Thankfully, there’s an easy fix. The difference between being soft and keeping it real is taking my experience, writing true things based upon that and hitting the publish button without regard for how I think other people will take it.

That’s just what I’m going to do, and I don’t care what you think about that.


Screenshot from 2015-08-05 16:09:09

I’ll be intently following the political future of Randall Scannell in Green Bay. I know zero about his political beliefs or party affiliation. What I do know about the man, though, I like.

He’s all for eliminating parking tickets for drunks.  “What?????? He’s going to REWARD people for getting drunk?” You heard it right- no tickets for drunks. He’s not “rewarding” anybody, though.

Actual Effects Are More Important Than Theoretical Debates

Law and politics are, sadly, too much like Philosophy- lots of people with strong opinions sitting around in a room talking about what should (or will) happen in the “out there” world if everybody in the world acted (or was forced to act by passage of law) in the way they wanted. “Cut taxes and nobody will starve.” Or, “raise minimum wage and nobody will s Keep Reading →

I’m not great at watching movies. Sometimes I fall asleep. Sometimes I just don’t pay attention. Sometimes I watch and forget I’ve even seen a movie a week or two later.

I don’t think I’m going to forget Citizenfour, though.

I’ll admit to not paying a ton of attention to every minute detail of Snowden’s disclosures when they were fist reported. I knew he’d blown the top off of electronic spying. I knew he fled the country, and I knew he’s facing charges that will likely land him in prison the rest of his life if the U.S. intelligence committee ever catches up with him.

I didn’t need to know much more in order to connect the dots. So, I’ll probably forget a lot of what is in the movie, which is fine- it’s completely aggravating.

One thing I won’t forget, though, is the connection to the movie, “Unconstitutional.” Keep Reading →

By DIMSFIKAS at Greek Wikipedia ; corte Eugenio Hansen, OFS [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t know much about a lot of things. Nobody will dispute that. I might know a little about a few things. At least, people ask me questions as though they think I do. Of course, I’ve got a philosophy degree so I know that I really know nothing. That’s what the bearded, hippie, teaching assistants told me, anyway. I don’t know enough to disagree with them, that’s for sure.

My favorite legal questions are when friends and family of people without much exposure to law enforcement have that first “experience” and want to know what to do.

  •  “The police were banging on my brother’s door and screaming for him to come outside. What should he have done?”
  • “Some investigator showed up at my friend’s house and asked him to come talk at the station. The Investigator wouldn’t say what it was about. Is that normal?”
  • “The police wouldn’t let me answer my phone and were asking me weird questions. Why would they do that?”

Keep Reading →

Indiana. Home to the Klan and Homophobic Pizza.

I have a secret to tell you: I was born in Indiana. If you don’t think that’s a big secret, it means you’re either unfamiliar with Indiana or you currently live in Indiana and you’re lying to yourself.  Thankfully, I’m both familiar with Indiana and not living there. That makes me especially qualified to comment on this Memories Pizza debacle. Keep Reading →


When I worked for the public defender’s office I was a complete pain in the ass.  Or, at least I like to think I was. Considering a judge once told me I was “the only roadblock to an otherwise smooth running courtroom,” I probably was.

I pulled out every trick people would teach me. When I ran out of those, I’d invent some of my own and see how they worked. If they rocked, I’d use them until they wouldn’t. If they didn’t, I’d think up something else.

I don’t regret that. Not even a little bit. Keep Reading →

Good luck in there, kid.

“Sorry to disrupt, but I’m here for Mr. Innocent.”

One of my favorite things to do at this job is to show up at police stations.  If a client is inside an interrogation room, manages to wade through the coercive Reed Technique garbage and get a call out to me, I’ll drop almost anything I’m doing and try to get there if I can.  It hardly every happens, though.

Cops play all sorts of games to prevent it- despite what the Constitution says.

If I can talk to the cop directly, they’ll do everything they can to interfere. My favorite is when I ask “You’ve arrested Bob Innocent, my client…” to which the response is always, “No, sir, Mr. Innocent has not been arrested“,  Because, as you know, even though a man is handcuffed and locked in a police interrogation room, he might be arrested to you or me, but that’s not “arrested” to the cops.

So, you have to say “detained”.  That’s the magic cop word that means “arrested” to everybody else. If you don’t use their magic words, they play dumb. Keep Reading →

drunk zamboni man

The Good Old Hockey Game. Its the Best Game You Can Play.

I’m going to let a little secret out here: I play hockey. It’s not a very exciting secret, I know. It probably shouldn’t even be a secret.  It is, though. You know why?  Because I play hockey poorly. Like, really bad.  I’m at the bottom of the talent ladder on a hockey team that’s at the bottom tier of a bottom league at the rink.  We’ve got some good skaters, too.  We still don’t win.  It’s not their fault. Know what I’m saying? Keep Reading →

Cannabis growing

For years I’ve been saying that legalizing marijuana so we can “tax the stuff” and put the money to good use was a really bad idea.  That’s not to say that marijuana should be prohibited. It shouldn’t.  That is to say, however, its legalization shouldn’t be championed by people claiming the extra tax revenue would solve the world’s problems. Keep Reading →

Ferguson Protests

Much has been made of these protests lately.  Starting with non-indictment for that “incident” (that’s me mocking the way police talk, by the way) in Ferguson, Mo and carrying over into the protests reignited by handling of the police “encounter” (more mockery) of Eric Garner.  I’m loving it.

Keep Reading →