I was very saddened to learn yesterday of the passing of my friend and longtime criminal defense attorney, James Dyer. I knew that he had suffered through some health issues fairly recently, but he was still up and covering dockets as recently as last week. He was a kind man, and I probably learned one of the most valuable lessons I ever learned from him during my time as a young prosecutor.
I wrote about it in this post. It's a long post, and I think I was having (yet another) blog spat with my friend, Mark Bennett, as well as arguing with that Rage Judicata guy that used to be around the blog (wonder whatever happened to that guy).
Anyway, I was lamenting the lack of collegiality within the criminal law profession, and I cited a moment from early on in my prosecutorial career.
Of course on both sides of the Bar, there are always going to be examples of those who have somehow abandoned the idea of collegiality and replaced it with bravado, arrogance, and often, rudeness. Some prosecutors do it. Some defense attorneys do it. Hell, even some judges do it, I suppose.
It has been my experience that those members of the legal profession often exhibit rude behavior in their younger and less-experienced years. When you've gone to trial and you've both won and lost many tough cases, you don't really have the need for bravado. You are comfortable in what you've accomplished and you don't really feel the need to go around puffing or treating your opposition like crap just to make yourself feel better.
I would like to think that by the end of my career as a prosecutor that I was known for treating everyone with respect, but I know that in my younger years as a prosecutor I could be quite a tool. I remember the day I realized what a tool I was being.
I was giving James Dyer (whom I still fondly refer to as "Chewbacca") a mean-spirited and rude speech. I don't remember what it was about or why I felt my rant was necessary, but I remember what he said to me. He looked at me, sadly, and said "I don't know what I did to make you so mad at me, but whatever it was, I'm sorry."
I felt like a bully and jerk (which I was). There wasn't any need for it, and in his understated way, Mr. Dyer pointed that out to me. If there was ever any "turning point" in my career and who I wanted to be as a prosecutor or a criminal lawyer, in general, that's the moment I can point to.After I wrote that post, word trickled back to Mr. Dyer that I had written it, and it apparently made him very happy. Whenever I would see him around the courthouse, he'd put his arm around my neck and tell whoever was standing nearby: "This guy wrote something nice about me once! I keep waiting for him to do it again!"
We were always friends after that. He always seemed to be upbeat and happy when I saw him. He talked about his family quite a bit. He always had a joke that was usually the epitome of a "Dad Joke." If the joke bombed, he just started a new one. Mr. Dyer always wanted to leave you laughing.
He had a great sense of humor about himself, too. Back in the days of when Todd Dupont and I were hosting Reasonable Doubt on behalf of HCCLA, Todd went through a lengthy period of time without shaving. I asked Mr. Dyer if he would help me do a quick video clip, making fun of Todd for his unkempt beard.
Mr. Dyer happily complied. (NOTE: The video is so old that I can't figure out how to download it and migrate it over to this post. It's a little slow to load, but check it out.)
Mr. Dyer was a courthouse staple and I will miss seeing him there. I'll miss his sense of humor and cheeriness.
And I will never forget the lesson he taught me when I was a young, hotheaded prosecutor.
For that lesson, I'm profoundly grateful.
Rest in Peace, my friend.