About Me

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i'm Kassandra an oregon girl at heart. i'm in college and attending school away from home and everything i know. one of the hardest things is being far from my family whom i love and cherish dearly. my parents are both u.s. army veterans and continue to serve in the military in other capacities. i have four brothers (two older, two younger) and three sisters (all younger). i love each of them for both their individuality and their commitment to the example set by our parents. aside from my family, i have several friends who mean a great deal to me, one as much as my best friend from high school. she's my kindred spirit and i would do anything for her. i would also do anything for Julie, my dormmate during my first two years at college and my partner in crime; she's amazing and it's wonderful to have shared the first to years of college with her. i'm extremely strong in academics and tend to think of things in analytical terms. i'm open and honest. note: i'm interested in receiving feedback on this blog, but i request that the comments pertain to the actual blog itself, and i do not approve anonymous comments.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Returning to School, with a Guest

Occassionally, I though my past entries on this blog. Sometimes I'll take a look at particular blogs and other times I'll read several consecutive entries. It greatly interests me to see what I was going though and reflect on how far I've come.

It was three years ago that I wrote, in an unintentional, yet consecutive series about my anxiety at being away from my family outside of Portland as I embarked on my freshman year at Stanford. As I recall it, that anxiety grew as that trip to the south bay grew nearer. I've always been confident in my decision to attend school far away from home. Nevertheless, I was quite nervous and my entries at that time show it.

The time has come prepare for my return trip to Stanford for my senior year. That sounds strange for me to say; my senior year. I've had the equivalent of kindergarten through 12th and three years of college. This is to be my final year of undergraduate studies. Of course, there's law school to come, but this one really seems monumental to me.

*          *          *

Last summer I began a tradition with my sister, Angela (Angi). We share a love for the Oregon Coast and we've begun an annual trip to Seaside and Manzanita during the summer.

This year, not to be outdone, Jessica and I have begun a girls weekend camping trip. We went to Lost Lake at Mt. Hood this year, but have decided to explore some other campgrounds in the future.

When it comes to my brothers, we've connected more on local excursions. My youngest brother, Keith, and I took a trip to OMSI and spent some time with him. Brandon is extremely busy, but we've hung out a couple times. Kevin and I have had some very in-depth conversations about both his business and his girlfriend.

I'm fortunate that throughout the school year, I am able to visit with and spend time with my oldest brother, Brian, as well as his wife and new baby daughter -- my niece, Amanda.

I would not say of all my siblings that I am closest to 5-3/4 year old Monika, but I do hold a special place for her in my heart and in my life. When things in my life get challenging or if I get down in any way, my thoughts of my youngest sister's smile and her genuine love remind me I can get through it. I feel we have a connection like that. I know she looks to me as an example and I take that as a serious responsibility.

*          *          *

When heading down to Stanford to move me into my freshman dorm those three years ago, my parents and Monika made the trip. We took two vehicles; my parents took their SUV and I took my car, as I was going to have it with me at school. During the trip, we made three stops -- Roseburg, Medford and Redding -- before ending up at my oldest brother's apartment in San Francisco. That gave us four legs of the trip.

My dad and I got the chance to drive the second leg of that trip. We talked about everything that a father and a daddy's little girl could talk about, and then some. At the midway point, mom joined me in my car and we had the chance to connect and have a lot of conversation.

However, the first and fourth legs of the trip belonged to Monika and I. She was in her seat in the back and we got a chance to talk, joke around and listen to music -- notably some song covers performed and recorded by our sister, Jessica. We had an amazing time. It was wonderful to hang out with her and have our own special time.

*          *          *

I'm heading south on the sixth of September; ready to embark on my senior year. As I drive my Jetta toward the bay, this trip will be much like the first.Why? I'll get to that momentarily.

There's a lot going on for me at school. Certainly, it's not an adjustment. However, this is my year. What I mean by that is that within the next nine months, I will formulate two thesis (political science and american history) and complete my pre-law course program.

As I was forced to tell a blithering idiot recently, I realize "pre-law" is not a major, but is is a program which has been designed to both help me get into the best law school possible and prepare me for what I will find when I get there.

*          *          *

I decided quite a while ago that my youngest sister deserved something special this summer. It must be daunting seeing her two oldest sisters go off to college and her next-oldest sister, enter her junior year in high school -- becoming immersed in her studies, softball team, and tae kwon do (Angi is quite busy these days). I wonder what goes through her mind as she can only watch the hustle and bustle of her older sisters' lives, possibly to only be able live vicariously though them.

She doesn't complain. In fact, complaints are just something you won't hear from her. She may have them in her mind and perhaps even her heart. However, she never voices them. She never even questions. I fully believe this girl trusts her family completely and wholeheartedly.

Yes, Monika deserves something very special.

She's going to get just that. With help from a couple family members, as well as from the family of someone else special to me, Monika is going to get something very special.

*          *          *

When I leave for the bay on Friday, September 6. My youngest sister will be with me. I'm taking her down with me on her summer vacation which will last nearly two weeks. Not that she actually knows anything about it yet ... but let me tell you about Monika's vacation.

We'll leave early the morning. The weather promises to be nice enough to put the top down, so that is the plan. We're going to stay the night in Crescent City, just over the Oregon-California border. We'll be staying at the home of my boyfriend, Alex, and his family. I was able to speak to his mom and she even insisted. Perhaps the most special part about this for Monika is that she will be the first member of my family to meet Alex. She will be the barometer by which my family regards him. I should note here that while I trust her judgment, I am a bit nervous about that!

We should arrive in Crescent City early in the afternoon. Alex has promised to be our tour guide and show us all around his hometown. His mom is going to prepare a special dinner. I think Monika will really enjoy that.

We'll leave early Saturday morning, heading down the northern California coast, cross the Golden Gate Bridge and end up in Daly City at our oldest brother and his family's house .

*          *          *

My most proud moment in regards to Monika is that over a year ago she started making a concentrated effort to connect with Brian. They're 20 years apart in age and she has always looked up to him. They've never lived in the same house, as the rest of us have with each other. All of my siblings seem to have a special connection with each of the others. This was Monika's attempt to establish that with her oldest brother.

While she's not yet six years old, Monika has her own e-mail address, netbook computer and cell phone. WAIT! RELAX! There are strict restrictions on her usage of them. E-mails are used only to talk to family (including cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents). Her netbook is used to help her learn and send said e-mails; it's monitored regarding its internet capabilities. Her cell phone is for family only. She can only contact those numbers which have been previously approved by our parents, who have password supervision. Of course, she can use the phone's camera to take her own photos.

It was actually when Monika wanted to connect with Brian -- as well as her grandparents and cousins -- when this arrangement was set up. Conditions were set for her usage of the above-mentioned devices. It's been agreed by my parents, Brian and myself that she has exceeded our expectations as to her responsibility. See, Monika is someone who understands why we place those restrictions on the devices. She understands that while she is not allowed to do certain things in regards to technology, she can send an e-mail on her netbook to her grandparents. She understands that her phones can be used only to contact her family. She understands that it's for the the sake of safety that those restrictions have been set in place. She also understands that, at her age, she is fortunate to have these privileges.

All that being clarified, I received a text nearly every day from my youngest sister telling me to have a great day. A smiley face is always included. Not once have I failed to smile and feel my heart get just a bit warmer. Each member of my family has spoken of receiving the same message from our princess.

Monika also has used this privilege to send e-mails and texts to Brian and his wife, Charlene.

*          *          *

We are due to arrive in Daly City around 2 p.m. on Saturday, the seventh. After a nap (I know I'm going to want one), we have a special surprise for Monika. She, Brian, Carla and I are going to head south to Palo Alto to the Stanford-San Jose football game. San Jose St. already has win under its belt. It's the season opener for the Cardinal.

It also will be the first (hopefully of many) Stanford football game which Monika will attend. That's right, Monika gets to watch a Stanford football game, live. Thanks to my friend and roommate, Julie, my sister will have her own ticket which will let her accompany me to the student section.

Cardinal football has been a huge part of my time at Stanford. I spent the first two years of the college football seasons watching a legend -- Andrew Luck -- lead Stanford into a new era of supremacy. Quarterback Kevin Hogan, a stalwart offensive line and the nation's most experienced and outstanding defense are continuing the progress which has been started.

Monika will get to see it live, at 5-3/4 years old, for the first time. If I didn't already possess such love for my school's team, I would envy her for that!

Over a nearly two-week period, my sister is going to see a lot of things. Remember, we will have already crossed the Golden Gate Bridge (she's been across it before, but it's been a couple of years).

*          *          *

As many know, I am the oldest sister -- third oldest overall -- of eight children in my family. I'm actually the first of my immediate family to go off to college. My brother, Brandon, is a year younger than me and goes to Portland St. My sister, Jessica, is a sophomore at the University of California at Berkeley, on the north side of the bay and an hour drive from my Stanford. She attended Cal's season opener against Northwestern, a tough loss in which the Bears showed a lot of character and promise, for being so young they are.

Jessica texted me after the game that she was proud of her team. they faced a tough and ranked team, and showed a lot.

I watched the game from my family's living room and I have to say the same. Jessica has told me she plans to go to every home Cal game, the Big Game at Stanford, and possibly the Pac-12 championship game should her Bears earn that right.

*           *          *

Monika will get to spend time with her oldest brother. She'll get to hang out with her sister-in-law. She'll get to see her 4-month old niece, Amanda. Jessica says she'll make a couple trips to Brian and Carla's house.

Jessica is also treating Monika to something special. A week after going to her first Stanford game, Monika will be Jessica's guest at Cal's game in Berkeley against Ohio St.

The only football games Monika has attended have been a couple Portland St. games along with the family since our brother, Brandon, attends PSU.

Monika will fly home on September 18.

*          *          *

I love to be able to share this time with her, and give her the opportunities to spend time with other members of her family. My youngest sister is so well-behaved. She's earned and deserves her own vacation.

Though we're leaving in just four days, I've not told her. That will be tonight. I wanted it to be somewhat of a surprise. I also want her to have a few days to prepare, pack and maybe even tell her friends around the neighborhood. She may even send her grandparents an e-mail about the trip.

Truthfully, I've had the hardest time trying to keep this as a secret. I'm kind of bursting at the seams!

I can't wait to see her reaction and I can't wait for this vacation.

~ MKM

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Law School Search Update

I can't believe it's been so long since I last posted here. A lot of things have happened over these past several months. I think I'll just focus on one for now.

My law school search.

It's not so much a search as it is a narrowing down. I began in earnest roughly a year ago, singling out about 20 different schools from around the country. Some were eliminated rather quickly as I did my research. In reality, by Thanksgiving break, the list was down to nine or 10. Since that time, the list has been whittled down with one school being eliminated at a time.


By the beginning of summer, the list of potential law schools was at five.

On my way back home following the school year and a week at my brother, sister-in-law and niece's house, I was able to stop at one of the schools, talk to the law school dean and tour the facilities. I saw what the school had to offer. It was impressive. I had already visited another school, planned to visit another (which has been done) and was looking into visiting the furthest of all of them at some point this summer.

As I write this, my dad and I are preparing to embark an overnight trip to what I would consider my final tour. From there, it will be a matter of assimilating all the information gathered. That will take about six weeks and include, not only the decision, but also applications to the top three schools. I have an inside track on three of them and can say with as much certainly as possible at this point that I will have been accepted to at least two of those schools.

The goal will be to learn of acceptance to the law school of my choice prior to making my final decision. A sub goal, if you will, would be to have a back-up should I not be accepted to my first choice (though not to sound conceited, I don't see that happening).

The reader may wonder which law schools are being considered. That's the tricky part. I'm not telling! No, not at this point in time at least (however, if you can decipher the photos in this blog of my final five, you might get an idea of one or more of them. Hint: They appear here in alphabetical order!).



Basic, yet in-depth, criteria is being used in this decision-making process. It includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • A collective average of several law school rankings.
  • What the law school can personally offer me as a student.
  • What I can offer the law school.
  • The personal attention I can receive from the professors, and instruction and support staff.
  • Tuition.
  • Other costs, such as housing and so forth.
  • Geographical location.

As the reader may see, putting all of those together to make the right choice, is a painstaking process which I feel will ensure the overall correct choice is made. To gather all the pertinent information, I've researched the histories of each law school, gathered all the information about the surrounding areas as possible and received numerous pieces of input from family and close friends.

In fact, near the beginning of the summer I asked my youngest sister, five-and-a-half-year-old Monika, how she felt about what choice I might make. We're very close. As with my decision to attend Stanford for my undergraduate education, I was most concerned with the geographical distance which would be between us. That concern is again very much prevalent in my mind as I make this decision.

I anticipate making this decision by the time I begin classes for my senior year in about a month and a half.

One additional note: On this visit my dad and I are making tomorrow, we'll be taking along my sister, Angela, who is entering her junior year in high school. Her request was quite logical. She noted that she's going to begin looking at colleges soon which will include making her own visits. She felt it would be good to watch her oldest sister, who she called "a veteran at college visitations." She asked to be able to observe the process and see which questions I would ask potential law school representatives. She won't be able to go with me during any formal interviews, of which one is scheduled, but she will accompany myself and our dad on the tour of the campus and its facilities. I couldn't deny the logic of her request and my mom felt it was a great idea. My dad agreed.

So we're off late this afternoon on an information-gathering expedition. Then, it will be six weeks of decision making. While it's exciting, I'll be glad when it's finished and I can concentrate on my senior year at Stanford.

~ Kassandra

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Blazers Innefective Because of HC


KassandraKassandra
A quarter of the NBA season has been played, and it has been largely disappointing for the Portland Trail Blazers. Following the blowout loss to Sacramento on December 8, I ranted on twitter regarding the status of the team and the deficiencies of its head coach, Terry Stotts.

Here are my tweets:

well, that was a complete debacle by the . i had projected 41 wins for this team, but at this rate i think we'll be lucky to get 24.

it's not simply a coincidence we are at the bottom of the league's defensive teams. we would have to improve to become PATHETIC on defense.

the decision making from our coach - FROM DAY 1 - has been atrocious. i had concerns about his hire to begin with. my concerns are justified

all you have to do it look at Stotts previous nba head coaching experience to see that he is NOT a good nba head coach.

he's a good assistant coach - i'll give him that - but Stotts does not belong at the coaching helm of a professional basketball team.

i don't blame the assistants as they abide by Stotts' practice/game plans, as well as the fact that the buck stops with the head coach.

this was an incredibly horrible coaching hire by Paul Allen & i hope he is understanding that. perhaps Stotts interviews outstandingly.

however, Stotts just does not have the capability to lead an nba team. this team will NOT get any better with him as HC. mark those words.

you don't play an injured player for 17 minutes a game when he should not be out there in the 1st place, no matter what that player says.

you have to make intelligent decisions as a head coach, & while Stotts has made a few, the terrible decisions outweigh those six-fold.

it's helpless when you know this coach is not the right person for the & because you love your team, you must live though his mediocrity.

if anyone is still reading: yes, i am calling for the Blazers to fire Stotts now. correct the mistake, right the wrong. straighten the ship.

it's time to start over, for the sake of this city & it's fans. it's either do so, or accept & accept the mediocrity. part ways with Stotts.

there it is; i am done.
I sincerely hope that somehow the team will either turn it around, or pull the plug on the Stotts era. If it is the latter, the move should be made sooner rather than later.

~ Kassandra

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My Sister: The Origin of a Nickname

Of all my younger siblings, and there are five of them, I most remember Angela as I am reminded of seeing her born and grow up.

She's four-and-a-half years younger than me and I remember being so happy to see my parents bring home a little sister. Brandon is a year younger than me, Jessica is two years my junior, Keith is nearly six years younger and, of course, Monika is the youngest at 15 years and 10 months younger than her oldest sister.

It was Angi though who I remember following the most since birth. Perhaps it was because I was finally old enough to help care for the baby of the family. She had dark hair just like both of her oldest sisters right from birth, as well as the same brown eyes.

My sisters and I are almost a paradox in many ways. We share the same ethics and morals. We share the same discipline and respect for our parents. We share the same compassion and dedication to doing the right thing. However, it's our differences which bond us.

While I am the academic; Jessica is the artist, specifying in music; and, as it turns out, Angela is the athletic one. She'll turn 16 in four weeks and she's already participated in tae kwon do for nearly half of her life. During the spring, this freshman girl earned her role as the starting second baseman on her school's junior varsity softball team -- and started each of her team's 16 games.

I take a great pride the accomplishments of all of my siblings and have always enjoyed going to their recitals, games and other events to support them. I often cry when they do well and hold a heavy heart when things are going roughly.

I'm very proud of Angela. She hasn't had the easiest of roads and, despite her assertions to the contrary, I think there have been times that maybe I haven't set the best example an oldest sister can set. I cherish the time I get to spend with the middle of my youngest sisters. We call her Angi.

One night when I was seven and Angela was two, my mother began teaching her to write her name and a few familiar words.

The first was easy. Mom told her to spell her first name: A-N-G-E-L-A. My sister aced that one. Next my mom said since we call her Angie, to spell it.

A-N-G-I.

Mom said something to the effect of "It looks like you forgot a letter at the end. There's supposed to be an "E" there."

Angela paused, and then: "I don't want the 'E.'"

"But Angela, it's spelled with an "E" on the end."

"I don't want the "E," my sister said, plainly.

Mom repeated her assertion and Angela stubbornly refused to write down the "E."

This back-and-forth engaged for at least 20 minutes as my crowd of a family watched in dismay. I honestly wasn't sure who was correct. Angela said only one line, but she must have said it 50 times; "I don't want the "E."

My dad would later tell us that when he got up and went over to them, it was in hopes of ending the futility of  his wife whom he married because of her intelligence, and his daughter whom he felt at the time might just become the most stubborn girl in the world.

"So, you don't want the 'E' at the end of ANGI?"

My sister repeated her line and mom gestured to my dad in frustration.

Dad asked another question and told Angela to listen to it extremely closely and to think about it. "Are you never going to want the 'E?' If you say no, you can never have the 'E.'"

"I never want the 'E,'" my sister responded.

True to those words from a stubborn two-year-old, Angi has never added a letter to the spelling of her nickname. To this day, she still says she doesn't want the "E."

~ Kassandra

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Working Vacation - Compilation

PART I - THE INVITATION

 As any who have read this blog or conversed with me otherwise online are aware, I am majoring in three subjects in college; pre-law, political science and american history.

Of these, it's pre-law that I intend to make my mark. I will attend law school and become a practicing attorney -- hopefully in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. I've been interested in law as a career for the longest time; as long as I can remember. The source of this is very clear and has never been in question.

*     *     *

My Uncle Mike is two years younger than my dad and, for the past 22 years has been a practicing attorney in Southern California. A general practitioner with an emphasis in civil litigation, most of his cases take him to Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside Counties.

I was actually born in Santa Ana, California, not moving to Portland until I was almost eight months old. My Uncle Mike lived near my parents at the time. In fact, my older brothers stayed with he and my Aunt Amy when my mom was in labor with me and my dad was pacing in the waiting room in expectations of news that his third child had been born.

Whenever Uncle Mike and Aunt Amy would visit (most often with their own children, Laurie who is two years older than me, and David who is three years younger) or when we would visit them, I was always fascinated with stories about his cases and his work. Despite criticism or jokes directed toward attorneys, I'd always felt it was a noble and necessary profession. In many, many instances, a client's life can be greatly affected by the outcome of their case -- and specifically, the effectiveness of his or her attorney.

During those visits, I often found myself sitting with the adults as they discussed stories, including Uncle Mike's cases. Forget that my siblings and cousins were outside playing or in other rooms of the house consumed with their own conversations. I wanted to be there to learn as much I could. To say I was enthralled would me a major understatement.

From an early age, my parents learned that I have a high aptitude for learning and gathering information, and deciphering it. My comprehension level has always been exceptionally high and I possess a genius-level intelligence quotient (IQ). My father has often told me I am a lot like my uncle as we are similar in our ways of analytical thinking.

For my uncle's part, he has told me on numerous occasions that with my mind, I would make make for an excellent attorney. He once told me, and he was likely being overly complmentary, that if I ever went up against him in court, he would just quit working on his case out of futility since I would beat him.

It was when I was about 10 years old that I decided that I wanted to become an attorney in my professional life. Uncle Mike has been an amazing in his nurturing and encouragement.

*     *     *

As usual, my uncle has a huge slate of cases. He is mentoring a young attorney in his office, and employs two law clerks, and an assistant. As this summer approached, it appeared that one of his civil cases would going to go to trial. It was then that he called me with his offer.

He told me a little about the case (under the condition of the information being privileged) and offered me what I might just refer to as the opportunity of a lifetime; at least, thus far in my lifetime. Uncle Mike called it a working vacation where I would come down to his home in Westminster, California and he would show me the process that he goes through by preparing for a trial. This education was to include everything from case review to jury selection to witness preparation to trial observation.

Oh, and it would also give me a chance to visit he and Aunt Amy for the first time in four years.

Needless to say, I leapt at the chance to observe the trial process.

In early June, my uncle began sending me the case profile and other information to get me up to speed. I spent the last two weeks of June doing just that.

*     *     *

On the morning of July 5 while at work at my family's business, I received a call from my uncle. The trial was to start on July 10 -- the following Tuesday -- with jury selection. He had just found out the actual start date that morning. I was to fly down on Saturday the seventh and begin learning the following day.

I was also thrilled to find out I will be sitting at the plaintiff's table during the jury selection process. Uncle Mike and the respondent's counsel will sift through the jury pool to attempt to find the 12 people who will be most advantageous for their respective cases. He wants me to essentially keep score of their answers. Not that he needs me to keep track of it for him, but that it will give me an idea of how that process works and what he looks for in a potential juror.

During the trial itself, I will sit in the gallery of the courtroom observing, learning and taking notes. It will be a nearly empty gallery, as the courtroom will be closed due to the fact our client is a minor.

While I'm wide-eyed at this working vacation, I know I am fortunate to have this opportunity.

PART II - JURY SELECTION


The sun was peaking over the horizon when I woke up. From the moment my eyes opened, I knew this day would be like no other. This day was to be truly my initial first-hand experience in the profession I have chosen.

Though it was to be a serious day in a series of serious days, my excitement had turned me into a bundle of energy. Fortunately, thanks to my cousin, David, I was able to expend much of this energy with an extended morning run.

My Uncle Mike and I (which, by the way, is not his real first name, but a nickname - long story) got to his office at around 8:30. He worked on a couple other cases for a while before we were to head to the courthouse at around 10 for jury selection.

*     *     *

Secrecy is paramount in a civil case; even more so since our client -- the plaintiff -- is a minor. Beyond that, I really cannot delve into the specifics of the case. Technically speaking, most of it is protected under attorney-client privilege. As I am technically working with my uncle, I am bound by that as well. As you can see, it's quite technical!

The first order of business was for my Uncle Mike to meet with the respondent's attorney regarding a possible settlement. They've been discussing settlement possibilities for several months and, as it turned out there were no new offers, nor any new acceptance of the previous offer. We were to proceed with selecting the jury for the trial.

My uncle and I had studied the questions he was to ask potential jurors and how he wanted me to keep score. I would sit next to him at the plaintiff's table. We had two yellow legal tablets placed on the table between us; one placed at the edge of the table near us, and one toward the judge (or, "above" the first tablet). Both had notes scribbled on them, and each had a single word written and circled in the lower left hand corner. This was my uncle's idea; his game and teaching tool.

"Stanford" was to indicate yes and "otherwise" was to indicate no.

Following each question, my uncle would touch one of the pads and I was to score it. Then, any notes I had on a particular answer or potential juror, I would write down in a third column.

*     *     *

Court, and even the jury selection process, is not like what you see on television for the most part. Attorneys  questioning a witness are not up walking all over the courtroom. There is no pacing back and forth for theatrics. By no means are they breaking decorum with adversarial banter with the opposing attorney.

Basically, the attorney's stay in their seats -- at least during jury selection -- or stand in front of a podium as they question a witness during a trial. Any documents or evidence which needs to be passed to or from a witness is relayed through a bailiff.

*     *     *

Per protocol, we rose as the judge entered. He announced the case number and case title, and asked if a settlement had been reached. His clerk indicated there had not. He then did a role call. My uncle stated his name as plaintiff's attorney and the respondent's attorney stated his on behalf of his client.

The respective clients were not in the courtroom on this day, as it would really serve no purpose for them to just sit in the gallery for duration of the selection process.

My uncle then spoke. "Your honor, if it please the court ... joining the plaintiff's table for today's jury selection is one of my assistants who just so happens to be my niece," and gave my name for the record. After the respondent's attorney said he had no objection to my being there, we proceeded with the selection process.

*     *     *

Exactly 28 potential jurors were interviewed both by my uncle and the respondent's attorney. Neither seemed to ask too many questions, and some of the inquiries were definitely irrelevant to the case. However, after about the fourth interview, I could see what my uncle was doing, and the purpose for his questions.

All the while, we used our little system to keep score, and after the second interview, I even started keeping my own score. I marked a "Stanford" here and an "otherwise" there as the interviews went along. Not that it mattered, but it helped me to learn better by judging the members of the prospective jury pool for myself.

I fully had no illusion that my uncle has done this enough times he did not need my help in the least. That turned out to be correct. Despite that, we discussed what we heard up to those points. His comments made sense to me. As I indicated in my previous blog, we think in a very similar fashion.

At about 4 p.m. both attorney's went through the jury list, accepting and dismissing those members each thought as best in regards to their case.

In the end 14 members remained in the jury box -- 12 on the active jury and two alternates.

*     *     *

So jury selection is complete and we're ready to move forward with opening statements on Wednesday (in fact, those may have taken place already as you read this). I feel confident those 12 jurors will render a fair verdict based on the evidence. Saying that, I am confident that our evidence will outshine anything the respondent will have to offer.

I'll be in the gallery tomorrow while one of my uncle's law clerks will join him at the plaintiff's table. I'll be taking notes as I planned and will be paying attention to all the special nuances of the trial. This experience has been amazing, and the trial has yet to start.

I feel as if I can already see tomorrow's sun peaking over the horizon as I think about it.

PART III - TRIAL AND VERDICT

With no more postponements -- and the jury set -- Wednesday was to be the start of the trial.

As I've mentioned in the previous blogs, I am unable to say too much about the contents of the case itself. Suffice to say that our client is now 14 years old girl and the plaintiff in the case. The incident which led to these proceedings took place approximately two years ago.

Aside from the principles involved in the case, the gallery was empty. My Uncle Mike sat at the left side of the plaintiff's table, which was set to the right of the respondent's table and nearer to the jury than the respondent. His law clerk sat on the right side of the table and our client in the middle. Her mother sat in the front row of the gallery, as did I.

The respondent's attorney was positioned at the right side of his table, with his client to the left of him -- the furthest from the jury of all the participants.

*     *     *

Opening statements by the attorneys can be brief or can extend to several moments. My uncle prefers the former. He lists the witnesses and a short summary of what their testimony will entail. He finishes with a description of the absolute and only conclusion to which the jury will be able to come to, including damages.

"I've been doing this a lot of years," my uncle told the jury. "I have a pretty good idea how the defense is going to try to spin this, and which laws they plan to twist to confuse you. However, when you hear from (our) witnesses, all you'll have to do is pay attention to the truth, to the facts and to the letter of the law. Once you do those simple things, your duty will be clear. There's no confusion there."

We had five witnesses, including our client, scheduled to testify. She would take the stand second to last, with the psychologist who assisted her following the incident being our final witness. The psychologist would confirm that our client both was severely impacted by the incident, and also reaffirm the validity of her testimony.

Often, the plaintiff will take the stand first or last, but my uncle told me before the trial that he preferred to shake things up a bit, having the jury's last memory being of a professional of some sort -- whether it be a psychologist, medical doctor or law enforcement professional.

*     *     *

Our witnesses consisted of a police officer, two eyewitnesses, our client and the psychologist. Uncle Mike kept their testimony confined to the specifics of what they saw. While it seemed he didn't want to leave an opening for opposing counsel to jump through during cross examination, he also didn't seem to hold back when it came to soliciting each person's respective testimony.

Each of our witnesses told their story, then were cross examined by the respondent's attorney. From my perspective, it didn't seem as if any of them were shaken nor discredited by the cross examination. I like to think that had a lot to do with my uncle's direct examination.

When it came to our client taking the stand, I received some confirmation on something I had already assumed. One of the areas in which I wish to practice law is in child advocacy. Our client had her attorney -- my uncle -- so there was no child advocate assigned. Had there been a witness under 18 directly affected by the proceedings, the judge may have appointed an advocate for that witness. I had learned that, but was unsure until talking to my uncle prior to the trial's beginning.

She was excellent on the stand. The judge was very good about slowing things down when they needed to, or giving a nudge to speed them up when they needed to be. She told of what happened to her and how it has affected her. In fact, the cross examination from the respondent's attorney was rather brief. At least, it was more brief than I had anticipated.

*     *     *

It was just after the lunch break on Thursday (the second day) when my uncle rested the plaintiff's case. It was a little quicker than even he had anticipated, but he later told me he had heard all the testimony he thought we would need. He felt even adding another witness would run the risk of cluttering our point. He wanted to paint a clear, concise and overall picture of our case, and what we were asking the jury to do.

At about 2:15 p.m., it would be the respondent's turn to begin presenting his case; for lack of better term in a civil case -- their defense. The respondent was to present testimony from four witnesses for the jury's consideration.

*     *     *

Two respondent witnesses testified Thursday afternoon. Both claimed to be eyewitnesses. They told their versions of what happened. My feeling was that they seemed very well coached, especially the second of the two. I dismissed that as me being overly critical and perhaps somewhat biased. That is, until my uncle cross examined the second one.

He was able to paint a picture, using the second witness' answers to establish that the witness could not have seen exactly what he said he could. It was all about angles and line of sight. As it turns out, the witness heard of a commotion, then came from around a corner to see just the end of the incident. In other words, he could not have actually seen the events leading up to what happened.

Needless to say, I was quite impressed and proud of my uncle.

*     *     *

We had been informed that a psychologist and the responded himself were set to testify on Friday.

The psychologist had visited with our client briefly twice in the weeks leading up to the trial. Her purpose was to essentially demean the testimony of our psychologist. She told a good story and, had I not heard it from our client herself, I might have believed this witness. My uncle was not phased by the performance. His cross examination was very short. It primarily consisted of clarifying the time she had spent with our client -- both the amount of time and the actually things discussed during that time. He didn't ask a single question to clarify her professional opinion.

The last witness to take the stand was the respondent. I had been informed to expect stubbornness from him. That assessment rang true. He essentially confirmed the events as depicted by our client and our eyewitnesses. However, he claimed he was in his legal right. It was "just something unfortunate" and our client was "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Uncle Mike asked him just two questions on cross examination. They weren't attacks. Just basic questions. Again, my uncle told me later that he wanted to give the jury the impression that the respondent's testimony just wasn't all that important to the merits of the overall case.

*     *     *

Closing arguments were scheduled opposite of the openings. The respondent's attorney went first. His instructions to the jury seemed to echo the testimony of his client. He cited one case law which, to me, didn't seem to completely apply to the case. In the end, he told the jurors there was not enough evidence to justify finding in favor of the plaintiff.

I believe my uncle had his closing argument prepared a couple weeks prior to the trial's start date. He recapped each witness who had taken the stand; first the respondent's then ours. He then pointed to each piece of evidence. It was at this point when I understood why he hadn't dug deeper into the respondent's psychologist during cross examination. He was able to use the questions he did not ask as leverage. He painted the picture for the jury about our doctor knowing our client much better, much more often and for much longer.

It made perfect sense to me. This was also the type of strategy I had hoped to learn while observing this case.

*     *     *

During the entire proceedings I was scanning the jury to see when any of them might be affected by a certain piece of testimony, or something said by the attorney's during opening or closing arguments. There were raised eyebrows, confused looks and several nods along the way. Those mannerisms seemed to correspond to those things which made the most -- or least -- sense. It was fascinating to observe that type of human behavior.

The case itself seemed to go by quickly. My uncle had anticipated four days or so, and just before the lunch break on friday, the judge gave the jurors their instructions. Three-and-a-half-days later and the case was in the hands of the jury.

*     *     *

We figured the jury would be out for much of the afternoon. Knowing that, my uncle really didn't want nor need to go back to the office on a Friday afternoon. We went to lunch which, after three days of courthouse cafeteria food, was wonderful. We did go back to his office for a short time where he grabbed files from a couple other cases to look at over the weekend. This was something else about which I had been curious. Exactly how much of an attorney's work is done outside of the common 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day? My question was answered; quite a bit.

After a call to the court clerk where we found out the jury remained in deliberations, we went home to relax. My uncle looked over the files to one of the cases while laid down on the patio under some shade.

Uncle Mike's phone rang at about 5:30. It was the court clerk. The jury had come back. It was decided we would head to the courtroom to hear the verdict, rather than let the jury's decision linger over the weekend. This also would enable the jurors to get back to their everyday lives on Monday rather than have to come in and deliver their verdict.

*     *     *

It was a quarter after six o'clock when all the principles had arrived and the judge came out from his chambers. As Uncle Mike's law clerk was off for the weekend, I took his spot at the right end of our table. Then the judge called for the jurors to come out from their deliberation room.

We stood after the jury foreman confirmed to the judge that the jury had, in fact, come to a verdict. Then it was announced. 

Verdict in favor of the plaintiff. I'm almost kicking myself now for not looking in the corner of my eye at the respondent to gauge his reaction. We stood expressionless. With the decision for the plaintiff, there is another step.

The foreman announced that the jury had awarded damages. The compensatory damages were pretty straight forward, as we had submitted the specific amount to the court prior to calling our first witness. At the same time we had submitted a schedule for punitive damages as well. The jury followed that schedule, awarding the exact amount for which our client was asking.

I had learned that the deliberation time in a civil case is two-fold. A plaintiff hopes the jury takes little time in finding in favor of their case. Conversely, the plaintiff hopes the jury takes quite a bit of time determining damages. My uncle was satisfied with the result.

*     *     *

As the reader of any of the blogs in this series can surmise, this has been an exhilarating, exciting and educational experience for me. It was everything for which I could have hoped.

I very much try to avoid making assumptions or having preconceived notions, but that at times is oh so difficult. What I've learned over this past week is a jump start into doing things in the correct fashion and in the correct order. Law is extremely procedural. That is what I will take away from this experience.

I'll be the first person to admit that I don't know it all, and one case certainly does not make me an expert. What I now have is a starting point.

That's something I really didn't have before.

~ Kassandra

Note: This Blog was originally written in three parts on separate days. I have compiled all of them here so they appear in chronological order of how events occurred.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Working Vacation Pt. III: Trial & Verdict

With no more postponements -- and the jury set -- Wednesday was to be the start of the trial.

As I've mentioned in the previous blogs, I am unable to say too much about the contents of the case itself. Suffice to say that our client is now 14 years old girl and the plaintiff in the case. The incident which led to these proceedings took place approximately two years ago.

Aside from the principles involved in the case, the gallery was empty. My Uncle Mike sat at the left side of the plaintiff's table, which was set to the right of the respondent's table and nearer to the jury than the respondent. His law clerk sat on the right side of the table and our client in the middle. Her mother sat in the front row of the gallery, as did I.

The respondent's attorney was positioned at the right side of his table, with his client to the left of him -- the furthest from the jury of all the participants.

*     *     *

Opening statements by the attorneys can be brief or can extend to several moments. My uncle prefers the former. He lists the witnesses and a short summary of what their testimony will entail. He finishes with a description of the absolute and only conclusion to which the jury will be able to come to, including damages.

"I've been doing this a lot of years," my uncle told the jury. "I have a pretty good idea how the defense is going to try to spin this, and which laws they plan to twist to confuse you. However, when you hear from (our) witnesses, all you'll have to do is pay attention to the truth, to the facts and to the letter of the law. Once you do those simple things, your duty will be clear. There's no confusion there."

We had five witnesses, including our client, scheduled to testify. She would take the stand second to last, with the psychologist who assisted her following the incident being our final witness. The psychologist would confirm that our client both was severely impacted by the incident, and also reaffirm the validity of her testimony.

Often, the plaintiff will take the stand first or last, but my uncle told me before the trial that he preferred to shake things up a bit, having the jury's last memory being of a professional of some sort -- whether it be a psychologist, medical doctor or law enforcement professional.

*     *     *

Our witnesses consisted of a police officer, two eyewitnesses, our client and the psychologist. Uncle Mike kept their testimony confined to the specifics of what they saw. While it seemed he didn't want to leave an opening for opposing counsel to jump through during cross examination, he also didn't seem to hold back when it came to soliciting each person's respective testimony.

Each of our witnesses told their story, then were cross examined by the respondent's attorney. From my perspective, it didn't seem as if any of them were shaken nor discredited by the cross examination. I like to think that had a lot to do with my uncle's direct examination.

When it came to our client taking the stand, I received some confirmation on something I had already assumed. One of the areas in which I wish to practice law is in child advocacy. Our client had her attorney -- my uncle -- so there was no child advocate assigned. Had there been a witness under 18 directly affected by the proceedings, the judge may have appointed an advocate for that witness. I had learned that, but was unsure until talking to my uncle prior to the trial's beginning.

She was excellent on the stand. The judge was very good about slowing things down when they needed to, or giving a nudge to speed them up when they needed to be. She told of what happened to her and how it has affected her. In fact, the cross examination from the respondent's attorney was rather brief. At least, it was more brief than I had anticipated.

*     *     *

It was just after the lunch break on Thursday (the second day) when my uncle rested the plaintiff's case. It was a little quicker than even he had anticipated, but he later told me he had heard all the testimony he thought we would need. He felt even adding another witness would run the risk of cluttering our point. He wanted to paint a clear, concise and overall picture of our case, and what we were asking the jury to do.

At about 2:15 p.m., it would be the respondent's turn to begin presenting his case; for lack of better term in a civil case -- their defense. The respondent was to present testimony from four witnesses for the jury's consideration.

*     *     *

Two respondent witnesses testified Thursday afternoon. Both claimed to be eyewitnesses. They told their versions of what happened. My feeling was that they seemed very well coached, especially the second of the two. I dismissed that as me being overly critical and perhaps somewhat biased. That is, until my uncle cross examined the second one.

He was able to paint a picture, using the second witness' answers to establish that the witness could not have seen exactly what he said he could. It was all about angles and line of sight. As it turns out, the witness heard of a commotion, then came from around a corner to see just the end of the incident. In other words, he could not have actually seen the events leading up to what happened.

Needless to say, I was quite impressed and proud of my uncle.

*     *     *

We had been informed that a psychologist and the responded himself were set to testify on Friday.

The psychologist had visited with our client briefly twice in the weeks leading up to the trial. Her purpose was to essentially demean the testimony of our psychologist. She told a good story and, had I not heard it from our client herself, I might have believed this witness. My uncle was not phased by the performance. His cross examination was very short. It primarily consisted of clarifying the time she had spent with our client -- both the amount of time and the actually things discussed during that time. He didn't ask a single question to clarify her professional opinion.

The last witness to take the stand was the respondent. I had been informed to expect stubbornness from him. That assessment rang true. He essentially confirmed the events as depicted by our client and our eyewitnesses. However, he claimed he was in his legal right. It was "just something unfortunate" and our client was "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Uncle Mike asked him just two questions on cross examination. They weren't attacks. Just basic questions. Again, my uncle told me later that he wanted to give the jury the impression that the respondent's testimony just wasn't all that important to the merits of the overall case.

*     *     *

Closing arguments were scheduled opposite of the openings. The respondent's attorney went first. His instructions to the jury seemed to echo the testimony of his client. He cited one case law which, to me, didn't seem to completely apply to the case. In the end, he told the jurors there was not enough evidence to justify finding in favor of the plaintiff.

I believe my uncle had his closing argument prepared a couple weeks prior to the trial's start date. He recapped each witness who had taken the stand; first the respondent's then ours. He then pointed to each piece of evidence. It was at this point when I understood why he hadn't dug deeper into the respondent's psychologist during cross examination. He was able to use the questions he did not ask as leverage. He painted the picture for the jury about our doctor knowing our client much better, much more often and for much longer.

It made perfect sense to me. This was also the type of strategy I had hoped to learn while observing this case.

*     *     *

During the entire proceedings I was scanning the jury to see when any of them might be affected by a certain piece of testimony, or something said by the attorney's during opening or closing arguments. There were raised eyebrows, confused looks and several nods along the way. Those mannerisms seemed to correspond to those things which made the most -- or least -- sense. It was fascinating to observe that type of human behavior.

The case itself seemed to go by quickly. My uncle had anticipated four days or so, and just before the lunch break on friday, the judge gave the jurors their instructions. Three-and-a-half-days later and the case was in the hands of the jury.

*     *     *

We figured the jury would be out for much of the afternoon. Knowing that, my uncle really didn't want nor need to go back to the office on a Friday afternoon. We went to lunch which, after three days of courthouse cafeteria food, was wonderful. We did go back to his office for a short time where he grabbed files from a couple other cases to look at over the weekend. This was something else about which I had been curious. Exactly how much of an attorney's work is done outside of the common 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day? My question was answered; quite a bit.

After a call to the court clerk where we found out the jury remained in deliberations, we went home to relax. My uncle looked over the files to one of the cases while laid down on the patio under some shade.

Uncle Mike's phone rang at about 5:30. It was the court clerk. The jury had come back. It was decided we would head to the courtroom to hear the verdict, rather than let the jury's decision linger over the weekend. This also would enable the jurors to get back to their everyday lives on Monday rather than have to come in and deliver their verdict.

*     *     *

It was a quarter after six o'clock when all the principles had arrived and the judge came out from his chambers. As Uncle Mike's law clerk was off for the weekend, I took his spot at the right end of our table. Then the judge called for the jurors to come out from their deliberation room.

We stood after the jury foreman confirmed to the judge that the jury had, in fact, come to a verdict. Then it was announced. 

Verdict in favor of the plaintiff. I'm almost kicking myself now for not looking in the corner of my eye at the respondent to gauge his reaction. We stood expressionless. With the decision for the plaintiff, there is another step.

The foreman announced that the jury had awarded damages. The compensatory damages were pretty straight forward, as we had submitted the specific amount to the court prior to calling our first witness. At the same time we had submitted a schedule for punitive damages as well. The jury followed that schedule, awarding the exact amount for which our client was asking.

I had learned that the deliberation time in a civil case is two-fold. A plaintiff hopes the jury takes little time in finding in favor of their case. Conversely, the plaintiff hopes the jury takes quite a bit of time determining damages. My uncle was satisfied with the result.

*     *     *

As the reader of any of the blogs in this series can surmise, this has been an exhilarating, exciting and educational experience for me. It was everything for which I could have hoped.

I very much try to avoid making assumptions or having preconceived notions, but that at times is oh so difficult. What I've learned over this past week is a jump start into doing things in the correct fashion and in the correct order. Law is extremely procedural. That is what I will take away from this experience.

I'll be the first person to admit that I don't know it all, and one case certainly does not make me an expert. What I now have is a starting point.

That's something I really didn't have before.

~ Kassandra

Note: This is the third and final entry in a series of blogs regarding this experience.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My Working Vacation - Part II: Jury Selection


The sun was peaking over the horizon when I woke up. From the moment my eyes opened, I knew this day would be like no other. This day was to be truly my initial first-hand experience in the profession I have chosen.

Though it was to be a serious day in a series of serious days, my excitement had turned me into a bundle of energy. Fortunately, thanks to my cousin, David, I was able to expend much of this energy with an extended morning run.

My Uncle Mike and I (which, by the way, is not his real first name, but a nickname - long story) got to his office at around 8:30. He worked on a couple other cases for a while before we were to head to the courthouse at around 10 for jury selection.

*     *     *

Secrecy is paramount in a civil case; even more so since our client -- the plaintiff -- is a minor. Beyond that, I really cannot delve into the specifics of the case. Technically speaking, most of it is protected under attorney-client privilege. As I am technically working with my uncle, I am bound by that as well. As you can see, it's quite technical!

The first order of business was for my Uncle Mike to meet with the respondent's attorney regarding a possible settlement. They've been discussing settlement possibilities for several months and, as it turned out there were no new offers, nor any new acceptance of the previous offer. We were to proceed with selecting the jury for the trial.

My uncle and I had studied the questions he was to ask potential jurors and how he wanted me to keep score. I would sit next to him at the plaintiff's table. We had two yellow legal tablets placed on the table between us; one placed at the edge of the table near us, and one toward the judge (or, "above" the first tablet). Both had notes scribbled on them, and each had a single word written and circled in the lower left hand corner. This was my uncle's idea; his game and teaching tool.

"Stanford" was to indicate yes and "otherwise" was to indicate no.

Following each question, my uncle would touch one of the pads and I was to score it. Then, any notes I had on a particular answer or potential juror, I would write down in a third column.

*     *     *

Court, and even the jury selection process, is not like what you see on television for the most part. Attorneys  questioning a witness are not up walking all over the courtroom. There is no pacing back and forth for theatrics. By no means are they breaking decorum with adversarial banter with the opposing attorney.

Basically, the attorney's stay in their seats -- at least during jury selection -- or stand in front of a podium as they question a witness during a trial. Any documents or evidence which needs to be passed to or from a witness is relayed through a bailiff.

*     *     *

Per protocol, we rose as the judge entered. He announced the case number and case title, and asked if a settlement had been reached. His clerk indicated there had not. He then did a role call. My uncle stated his name as plaintiff's attorney and the respondent's attorney stated his on behalf of his client.

The respective clients were not in the courtroom on this day, as it would really serve no purpose for them to just sit in the gallery for duration of the selection process.

My uncle then spoke. "Your honor, if it please the court ... joining the plaintiff's table for today's jury selection is one of my assistants who just so happens to be my niece," and gave my name for the record. After the respondent's attorney said he had no objection to my being there, we proceeded with the selection process.

*     *     *

Exactly 28 potential jurors were interviewed both by my uncle and the respondent's attorney. Neither seemed to ask too many questions, and some of the inquiries were definitely irrelevant to the case. However, after about the fourth interview, I could see what my uncle was doing, and the purpose for his questions.

All the while, we used our little system to keep score, and after the second interview, I even started keeping my own score. I marked a "Stanford" here and an "otherwise" there as the interviews went along. Not that it mattered, but it helped me to learn better by judging the members of the prospective jury pool for myself.

I fully had no illusion that my uncle has done this enough times he did not need my help in the least. That turned out to be correct. Despite that, we discussed what we heard up to those points. His comments made sense to me. As I indicated in my previous blog, we think in a very similar fashion.

At about 4 p.m. both attorney's went through the jury list, accepting and dismissing those members each thought as best in regards to their case.

In the end 14 members remained in the jury box -- 12 on the active jury and two alternates.

*     *     *

So jury selection is complete and we're ready to move forward with opening statements on Wednesday (in fact, those may have taken place already as you read this). I feel confident those 12 jurors will render a fair verdict based on the evidence. Saying that, I am confident that our evidence will outshine anything the respondent will have to offer.

I'll be in the gallery tomorrow while one of my uncle's law clerks will join him at the plaintiff's table. I'll be taking notes as I planned and will be paying attention to all the special nuances of the trial. This experience has been amazing, and the trial has yet to start.

I feel as if I can already see tomorrow's sun peaking over the horizon as I think about it.

~ Kassandra

Note: This is the second of three entries in a series of blogs regarding this experience.