Long ago, John packed up his manual typewriter , left the Midwest, and went to college in Worcester. It was a time when applicants to Holy Cross College were required to have both a high school diploma and a Y chromosome.
Until he was almost 30, John followed Thoreau’s advice to devote himself “to certain labors which yield more real profit, though but little money.” A two-year hitch as a VISTA volunteer. Graduate study in English literature . A life perfect if, like Thoreau, you’re a great writer, never have a family, and die at age 44. John took the road more travelled: he went to law school.
John clerked for the Vermont Trial Court, liked the country, but saw that Vermont was too wholesome to support many trial lawyers. He went to Boston to work for Dan Featherston. Dan would prepare for trial by scrawling cryptic notes on a yellow legal pad. At trial there were no notes, no script, no memorized speech: just a lightening-quick mind, immersed in the case, aware of and prepared for everything happening in the courtroom. Watching him try a case was like hearing John Coltrane playing jazz.
In 1986, John began work at the Worcester office of CPCS. A perk was two years in which John spent Mondays at the Appeals Unit in Boston, watching highly skilled lawyers who, having reviewed trial transcripts, managed to find promising legal issues in piles of discouraging facts. It is no exaggeration to refer to the late head of the Appeals Unit, Brownlow Speer, as a genius, and even better, a genius who chose a career of public service and who graciously would stop whatever he was doing to talk to an attorney who needed advice.
So John was lucky to learn from some great teachers, great colleagues, and a trial lawyer’s ultimate learning experience: thirty years of trial and error. The evidence is overwhelming: John has become a habitual defender.