Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ithaca Lawyer The Importance of Buying Local


Ithaca, NY is one of those places that understands the concept of buying local produce. The less space, travel, and movement that vegetables, fruit, and animals take between farm and consumer the better it is for all of us. So we lament, "Buy Local," conserve, protect, and live closer to nature and her natural cycles.

In criminal defense law I get calls daily from people far and wide asking for legal advice and representation. Nowadays it is not uncommon to see a dozen different area codes pop up on my cell phone in any given day. So we are are living in a non-local world in many respects but in DWI/criminal defense/traffic violations law buying local counsel can have many advantages.

Some areas of legal practice can have a Federal/National (wider) focus point. These encompass things like immigration, bankruptcy, corporations, securities, banking, etc. This is not so with matters that are litigated locally.

The Why of Local Litigation/Prosecution?

In New York State hundreds of years ago it was decided that in local criminal matters/violations/crimes/infractions it was better to utilize a local judge. The judge could generally speaking be more aware of where the crime occurred, the nature of the surrounding area, and a host of other factors that made a local judge a better/fairer decider. In New York State we have thousands of local city, village, and town courts where everything up to misdemeanors are heard. This also includes small claims, and landlord-tenant disputes.

This practice of using local judges for local matters actually dates all the way back to Moses. In Exodus, 18:26, loosely interpreted, "In every great matter you shall judge/decide and in small matters they shall judge/decide." This division of labor into the higher and smaller (municipal) Courts was brought about because Moses was overworked being the Judge for everything and everyone.

 "Difficult cases were brought to Moses, and the simple ones they decided themselves."

The Potential Advantages

Now first my disclaimer: not all cases or matters are better handled by a local attorney. Everyone is free to choose an attorney that they feel can best represent them and their unique interests. This is purely an opinion piece and nothing more. In addition, I make no guarantees or promises or special deals that I am a better attorney than anyone else out there or that I can get them a better result. That all said, here are some ways that local counsel "may" have an advantage:

1. They know the Court hours, times, and staff. 

I am not talking about the ones on a website or a door. They may know that Sally (the Court clerk) comes in on Saturday, that she does the scheduling, that the ADA (assistant district attorney) is there the third Thursday of every month, that the Judge who is difficult to reach is also the fire chief, and can be reached there. Sometimes people with legal problems call at the last minute. It's nice to have people on your speed dial (here I am dating myself), to know their numbers, their locations, their whereabouts, and to know how to get things done in a timely manner.

2. They know the Roads, Routes, Signs, and local business practices.

Knowing where such and such road goes uphill or turns off into a ditch may make a difference in a traffic or accident case. Knowing the history of an area and where there are blind spots or new signage can be more than helpful to a client's viewpoint. When local matters are discussed having familiarity with local customs, trends, and resources puts everyone at ease. We are all on the same page so to speak.

3. They know what a local judge wants from/in certain cases or situations.

Some judges want more proof than others. I know one judge that wants an actual school schedule before she gives a hardship driving privilege (this is NOT typical). Things like that are important to know. One judge wants a drug evaluation for marijuana cases, another wants a clean 30 day urine screen, another likes community service, another likes to give weekends in the county jail, another wants you to say I'm sorry, another wants to see a driving history, another follows the ADA (assistant district attorney) to the letter, another will give great weight to the probation department, and another may not. Some judges have told me they do not go along with (grant) plea bargains to speeds over 95mph or 30mph over the limit or in a school zone. But because I have been in their courts and listened to their logic/reasoning they will entertain reasons for certain behaviors, they may be moved by an explanation, maybe.

4.  They know what a local DA wants from/in certain cases or situations.

Some DAs have specific things they will entertain. How cases are negotiated (over 90% are) is an art and science. In specific cases and situations there is little to no negotiation. In others there is wide latitude. Knowing where the lines are, where they meet, and where they cross can offer a local a huge advantage.
I have brokered creative deals (cases) just because I knew what to ask for. 

So when I get that DWI/DUI call from Ohio or Georgia, I kinda chuckle NOT because I am not licensed to practice there but even knowing that even if I was I would need to know the local courts, judges, and practices to wage the best defense. 

So in the final analysis, is it better to hire someone locally for certain things?

IMHO a resounding yes.

 Law Offices of Lawrence Newman

Lawrence (Larry) Newman, D.C., Esq.

Doctor or Chiropractic
Attorney and Counselor at Law

504 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850