I learned this morning that my friend and fellow defense attorney, Michael Barrow passed away following a brief battle with cancer. After all the friends in the legal community that we lost last year, I was hopeful that this year wouldn't be quite as tragic, but it looks like we are already off to a rough start.
I first recall meeting Michael when I was a relatively new Felony Two in the 185th District Court. I was prosecuting a trio of aggravated robbers and he represented one of them. From my first dealings with Michael on the case, I just liked his style.
Michael was smart and funny, and he was pleasant. When I told him what I thought I had on his client, he nodded and didn't argue. He also didn't tell me doodly-squat about any of the defense facts that he had. He didn't confront anything I told him about what I believed the case to be. He would reserve that for trial if need be. Ultimately, the case worked out.
The longer I worked in the 185th, the more I got to know him, and the more I liked to talk to him when I got a chance. Quite frankly, I just thought he was cool. A few years later, when I first met my friend Todd Dupont, and I realized he and Barrow were buddies, too, we all became even better friends. He was always around the courthouse with a smile and an easy laugh. He was as laid back as they came, and he always seemed to have a genuine interest in how everyone else was doing.
When dealing with his clients in the holdover, he was a good listener to what they had to say and he had compassion for what they were going through. Any request a client made of him, whether it be filing some hand-written motion the client had for more "liberry time" or just calling their mom or girlfriend, Michael did it. He was a kind person and he wanted to help them.
On the converse side of that, he didn't take any crap off of an inmate who was rude or hostile to him. I never saw him start a fight with a client, but I saw him finish them (verbally, of course). His position was to work hard for his clients, be respectful to what they were going through, and to be respectful to his opponents in trial.
Although he took his job very personally in doing the best job that he could, he never made the conflict personal. Does that make sense? He would do everything in his power to broker a favorable resolution for his client, but not at the expense of his sense of honor and civility.
When I became a defense attorney, I wanted to handle myself on the defense side like Michael Barrow did. Not just because he was one of the coolest human beings I knew, but because I admired his Rules of Engagement.
A few months ago, Michael and I got appointed to represent co-defendants in the 351st. I was really excited about the chance to work with him on the case for once, rather than against him. The clients were brother and sister, and I was telling my client how lucky I thought his sister was to have Michael as her attorney. I told him what a great attorney Michael was and how I looked forward to working with him. I didn't realize that Michael was in the holdover and heard what I said until later that day.
I'm glad that he overheard me. Even if it wasn't intentional, I'm glad he knew how highly I thought of him. It seems that too often, I'm having to express how much I liked or respected someone I worked with on this blog -- long after the opportunity to tell them to their face has passed.
Dupont told me that Barrow was sick on January 1st. I thought I would have had more time to say goodbye to him. Unfortunately, I learned this morning that wasn't the case.
About two weeks ago, the brother and sister co-defendants that Michael and I shared were on the docket in the 351st. As a courtesy, I told Michael's client that her lawyer wouldn't be able to make it to court because he was sick. His client nodded and seemed to think that it was just a stomach bug or something, so I explained to her that it was actually much more serious than that.
The client actually got very choked up and concerned in the holdover. Her family got very saddened when I told them the news a few minutes later.
For those of you who don't do criminal defense representation, having a client get emotional over your well-being isn't all that common. The majority of them are a little too self-centered and concerned with their own problems to be too worried about how their defense attorney is doing.
But on that one day, Michael Barrow's client and her family expressed genuine sadness over his illness. Perhaps they were genuinely empathetic people, but I don't think that was it.
I think that they appreciated the kindness, diligence, and empathy that they saw Michael had for them, and they returned it.
Those of us of the Defense Bar and my friends at the District Attorney's Office are all deeply saddened by Michael's untimely passing and we send our thoughts and prayers to his family.
It is very easy to say that Michael Barrow was one of the coolest guys I ever knew, but he was so much more than that. Knowing Michael, however, he probably would have liked just being referred to as one of the coolest guys I knew, though.
I will keep you all posted when funeral arrangements become available.