Sunday, June 20, 2010

No Where But Here

I didn't grow up in Chicago. I am an Illinoisan, but a down-stater. Ever hear of Abraham Lincoln? He's pretty popular in my hometown.

There are a lot of things about Chicago I don't like. We have the highest sales tax in the country. Cook county can't balance its budget. It's not car friendly. Winters are harsh. Mayor Daley. The violence. The Cubs. Gas is too expensive. And the perception is that Chicago is the corporate headquarters of political and police corruption.

But there are some things I love. And summer is one of them. Having lived in Texas for 4 years, I can really appreciate a mild summer. I also love the lake. We have great restaurants. A pretty skyline. Some people are quite friendly. The public transportation system works...more or less. I am also told we have some great museums, but I have not been to one of them.

Buckingham Fountain is pretty cool. The South Loop is now very modern and upscale and West Loop is quickly catching up. Downtown is very clean. It's a pet friendly city. I heard about a bar not far from where I live where you can bring a dog inside.

The real value of Chicago to me is the opportunities. And I am speaking to those of a professional nature. I started my own law practice. Though not initially in the criminal business, the work didn't take long to find me.

And once I started doing criminal work, there was no looking back. It was as if everything lined up perfectly and I was shown what I was supposed to do with my law license. I had no idea how much criminal work was here in Chicago.

The numbers are staggering. Cook county averages 1000 felony arrests per week! That means every week, about 1000 people need a criminal attorney. As a comparison, there are usually about 3000 misdemeanor arrests in the county. But most people don't hire a lawyer for misdemeanor cases.

Cook county is divided into 6 municipal districts. The city of Chicago makes up the entire 1st district. Of the weekly 1000 new felony arrests in the entire county, 700-750 are 1st district cases. About half of those are drug related. There are usually about 20 each robberies and burglaries and 40 or so gun cases. Retail thefts account for up to 50 or so.

Clearly there is a need for criminal defense attorneys in Chicago. But most accused felons cannot afford one, thus there are not many of us around. Instead the public defender's office is overworked and understaffed.

I estimate there are about 12,000 open city of Chicago felony cases at any given time. I typically have less than 30 of them. The felony criminal justice system in the city of Chicago is a volume based business. There are too many repeat customers. Also everyday hundreds more young men turn 17 and will spend time in the county jail before they turn 18. 

The point of this post was to illustrate that no where but here in Chicago, could I be doing what I am doing for a living. And for that, I am truly thankful. I would like to think that I am not simply preying on the misfortune of others. Do doctors prey on patients because they are sick? The sick need physicians. The criminal accused need lawyers.

I see myself much like a doctor. Wait, more like a heart surgeon in fact. [Note: when I entered college, I wanted to be a heart surgeon, so forgive this analogy]. When a patient needs a heart surgeon, there are some pretty serious health problems in play. When an accused needs a felony defense attorney, there are some pretty serious allegations in play.

Not everyone that sees a heart surgeon has a great outcome. Not everyone who sees a defense attorney has a great outcome either. Some patients are too sick. Some defendants have bad cases.

Right now I get to handle only the cases I want. I never did traffic or DUI. I haven't handled a misdemeanor since last fall. And earlier this year, I stopped handling retail theft cases. White collar crime isn't on the radar. Currently, it's drugs, guns, robberies, burglaries, stabbings, shootings, and a few murders. 

Chicago crime, for a Chicago lawyer.

I thought I was done writing this post. I was about to click the "Publish Post" button and let this one sail. But, I am not done. Not yet.

Everyday I sit here and read about shooting after shooting. It seems there is no end in sight. I have already written about the gun situation here in the city. Gun laws clearly don't work. Even if we didn't have a handgun ban in Chicago, it wouldn't matter. The bad guys will still be armed.

But recently two would-be burglars or robbers were shot and killed by a citizen armed with a handgun in their home. Neither was charged (as far as I know). Perhaps the message is clear: if you're a law abiding citizen, keeping a pistol in your house might be a good idea.

As much as it goes against my gut instinct, if the Chicago handgun ordinance gets lifted, I might have to buy a gun. The violence is simply getting out of hand. Or has it always been this way and I am simply new to the scene? Probably the latter.

Thinking about it a little more, I doubt I will get one. I feel safe inside my home and in my neighborhood. My 6 month old German Shepard is naturally protective.

When I take him outside at night his eyes and ears always find someone lurking around.  And he barks at people that look suspect. I don't know how this dog knows the difference between the harmless and the creepy. But, he does know.

The only time I would really feel safer with a gun would be in the parts of the city where I am most likely to be the victim of crime. South and West. But even if the handgun ban is lifted, I still couldn't keep a gun in my car. Or at least not configured so I could use it. And I couldn't keep one in my briefcase either.

So, what's the point of me owning a gun? If it ever gets to the point I feel I need a firearm to feel safe in my own home, I think it will be time to move.

If nothing else, I am practical.



  1. This city has been plagued w/crime for the longest. The city of Chicago as I am sure you are aware is the birthplace of some of the many nationwide gangs...some even say pimping started here on the west side of Chicago. That being said, I think with the way media has evolved, there are more news outlets to make us aware of present day crime and the fact that guns are more readily available may have an effect of spikes in crime. Just an opinion, however love your blog, keep up the good work/blogging/and saving the lives of the innocent.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I agree the media plays a big role. But I was just talking to a detective today. He said it's normal to get about 30 shootings and 5-6 murders per weekend during the summer for Area 2 (Calumet) alone! That leaves out Englewood, Gresham, Lawndale, and the entire west side. So, clearly the media isn't reporting anywhere near all of the shootings. It's much worse than we know. He was a nice guy, though. I enjoyed talking to him.


Please feel free to offer comments and opinions. However, if you require legal assistance please call 312-504-4554 to speak with me personally.