Saturday, March 8, 2008

Prosecutor of the North

I have refrained from writing about work for a lot of reasons. My blog is not a forum for venting work frustrations. Most of what I do is very private and personal. The stories of victims and accused are not mine to tell. In fact, it's part of my job NOT to tell them.

So, before I start getting into the meat of this post, let me just say: nothing herein is attributable to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, the Attorney General of Canada, the Department of Justice and reflect only the views of one individual. Etc. etc.

One thing about being a prosecutor in a small, Arctic town is that what you do surrounds you, not just intellectually but also physically and sometimes emotionally. You cannot separate yourself from what you do. There is no suburban enclave far from those you prosecute into which to retreat. At times, this has a humorous quality--like the time I saw one of the couples I dealt with in a bail hearing at the Northmart checkout. The accused waived to me cheerfully from behind his cart of groceries. I cheerfully waived back. Why not? They looked happy.

Then, there's name recognition. You see a name in the paper and you think, "Hey, I know that person...why do I know that person?...Oh, yeah....Ha." I can tell you, this was not such a common occurrence back when I worked in Toronto. For one thing, I am not sure I ever saw any of the accused I dealt of whose appeals I had carriage. They usually had a very nice lawyer I got to talk to. A very nice lawyer who I might not even recognize because we were always robed and everyone looks different without the robes--especially judges. A fact I discovered when I was out for a run one March afternoon in Toronto in the courtyard behind Osgoode Hall, home of the Court of Appeal, and sped past a group of men walking jumped a chain link barrier and then thought, "those guys look really familiar...oh...uh-oh..."

Here, judges, counsel and court staff are a wee bit less formal. We often stay in the same hotel on circuit, which means we see each other not just in regular clothes, but also sometimes in pajamas--and always in sock-feet. You feel pretty different having a resolution meeting sitting on a carpeted floor in your fleece, jeans, and socks than suited in a boardroom. The challenge, of course, is to guard against this informality creeping into your courtroom demeanour or your approach to the law. But I never put much stock in wearing shoes in the office, as many of you know.

At the end of the day, I think I enjoy the humanity that comes with this kind of work. You are so close to the frailties of the human condition that are so interesting to me. It's fascinating, so fascinating that at times you need to remind yourself to break away from it and do something else. Otherwise, I think you risk losing your own humanity or becoming jaded, neither of which is really a palatable option.

1 comment:

kyle said...

jeanette, i finally visited your site and love all your writing ane wit. you have a lovely and charming way with making it all seem so warm and cozy. i really need to visit to set up the decorating issue. miss you greatly and be well