By Sholdon Daniels
Hello, I'm Attorney Sholdon Daniels, and I'd like to share with you a story that I believe can change the way we perceive legal professionals in our society. As a black man who overcame poverty and discrimination to become a successful attorney and entrepreneur, I have seen firsthand the misconceptions people have about big law firms, their attorneys, and their abilities compared to solo attorneys or those that work at boutique firms.
One recent example that illustrates this issue is the case of Judge Kato Crews, a judicial nominee chosen by President Biden. Judge Crews has been caught on video struggling to answer basic legal questions that even a first-year law student should know. I have only been a lawyer for 9 years and I know the Brady case like the back of my hand, despite never having to file a Brady motion in my entire career.
Recently, Judge Kato Crews, a nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, faced an embarrassing moment during his confirmation hearing. Senator John Kennedy, a former law school professor, asked him about the concept of a Brady motion. Derived from the Supreme Court's decision in Brady v. Maryland, a Brady motion is a basic legal concept taught in law schools. It refers to the defense attorney's request for exculpatory evidence that the prosecutor might possess. However, Judge Crews struggled to provide an accurate answer. Shockingly, he did not know what a Brady motion is.
Judge Crews stated, "It is not coming to mind at the moment what a Brady motion is. I believe the Brady case involved something regarding the Second Amendment. I have not had occasion to address that. If that issue were to come before me, I would certainly analyze that Supreme Court precedent." This response indicates a lack of knowledge in a fundamental aspect of the law, which raises concerns about his competence as a judicial nominee.
Judge Crews' inability to answer basic legal questions during his confirmation hearing may have broader implications beyond his personal qualifications. It's important to consider the potential impact of his shortcomings on the perception of black male lawyers, or black lawyers in general. As black lawyers, we constantly strive for excellence to overcome the subconscious biases and negative assumptions that many people hold. These biases often lead to the wrongful perception that black lawyers are inferior to their non-black counterparts. When a prominent black legal professional, such as Judge Crews, fails to display competence in fundamental aspects of the law, it can inadvertently perpetuate these damaging stereotypes. This not only undermines the hard work and dedication of countless black lawyers who have fought to break through barriers but also reinforces the need for continued vigilance in combating bias and ensuring that we, as black legal professionals, are consistently showcasing our knowledge and expertise.
It's worth noting that Judge Crews isn't the only Biden nominee to stumble when questioned by Senator Kennedy. Judge Charnelle Bjelkengren, nominated to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Washington, also couldn't answer questions about basic constitutional concepts, such as the content of Article II and Article V.
While some argue that these "stumbles" may not be indicative of their overall abilities as judges, they do raise important questions about the competency of nominees connected to powerful institutions. These incidents serve as a reminder that legal competence and knowledge should be prioritized over prestigious affiliations when evaluating legal professionals.
This unfortunate event raises an important question: Why do we assume that those connected to power and big brand name law firms are the smartest and most capable attorneys?
The truth is that the real passion for the law often lies in smaller boutique firms and solo practices. The real gladiators for freedom and justice are not always the ones clamoring to get cozy with wealth and power.
As someone who has faced discrimination and exclusion from opportunities within the legal field, I know the value of perseverance, determination, and a genuine passion for the law. You see, I grew up poor, and for many years of my life, "survival" was my main priority. I fought hard to graduate high school while homeless. I fought hard to gain acceptance in to and graduate from the University of Texas at Dallas. And I fought hard to get into law school.
During law school, I was still very financially challenged, so wearing designer clothes and even having a car--like nearly all of my classmates--were beyond my means at the time. I was denied internships, externships, and participation in important programs. I was even denied a chance to join the Texas Legislative Internship Program at Thurgood Marshall School of Law, despite being the most politically passionate student at my entire law school. I got the vibe that all my teachers and all the administrative staff thought I would never pass the bar exam. Despite these challenges, I passed the bar exam on my first try while I was as sick as a dog. I was capable, and I knew it--but why couldn't anyone else see it?
The legal industry is often perceived as a closed club, where only those who fit a certain culture, have the right connections, or wear the right suits are given opportunities. This skewed perception needs to change. Solo practitioners and attorneys working in boutique firms possess a wealth of knowledge, experience, and dedication that shouldn't be overlooked.
Boutique firms and solo attorneys are often more flexible, adaptive, and responsive to their clients' needs. They can offer personalized attention, dedicate more time to understanding the nuances of each case, and take on a variety of legal matters. Their passion for the law often translates into a stronger commitment to their clients' best interests.
So, the next time you're in need of legal representation, consider looking beyond the big brand name law firms and those connected to power. Explore the world of boutique firms and solo attorneys, where you'll find dedicated professionals who are genuinely passionate about the law and your rights.
Remember, a prestigious title or affiliation doesn't necessarily equate to competence or knowledge. Let us celebrate and support the unsung heroes of the legal profession – the boutique firms and solo practitioners who tirelessly fight for justice and freedom.
My passion in life is helping people solve problems, and I invite you to learn more about my journey and my practice by following me on Twitter here.