July 2007

You are browsing the site archives for July 2007.

I spent most of last week doing stuff for my paying job, and I thought it might be interesting to blog about that. I was planning a series of posts on the wonders of the X12 Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) guideline for the Benefit Enrollment and Maintenance (834) transaction required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) act of 1996. The main standard document is 228 pages, but I figure I could boil it down into a series of five posts of about 2000 words each.

At the last minute, however, I realized you all might be more interested in seeing a few photos from last Sunday’s model shoot instead.

I haven’t posted much in the last week because I’ve been real busy at my day job, but now that I just finished off a big chunk, I wanted to talk about one very interesting thing that happened last week. I’m referring, of course, to the re-arrest of Lindsay Lohan.

Everybody bemoans the large amount of attention the news cycle gives to celebrities and their problems, but our common knowledge of these cases often helps us discuss issues that apply broadly to everyone.

For example, there’s this opinion piece by Michael Ventre:

Lohan has an enormous amount of talent, but…she hasn’t distinguished herself as an actress. Sure, she was good in “Mean Girls” and “A Prairie Home Companion,” even “Herbie Fully Loaded.”

Yet Hollywood is all about perception. And what do people remember most, her roles in those films and others? Or the car accidents and partying?

That’s why she belongs in jail. For her own good.

Jail might not be the perfect solution, but it’s a terrific last resort. Spending an extended period of time in a facility where your freedom is taken away can be eye-opening.

Somebody has to come along and impose some discipline in her life before she completely self-destructs. Maybe it’s time for a warden, some guards and a bunch of other inmates to take over parenting chores.

Uh, maybe some jails have kindly guards whose heartfelt wish it is to see their prisoners get there lives back on track, but I don’t think they’re all that common. And does Michael Ventre realize that those other inmates are there for a reason? The people Lohan would meet in jail are probably not exemplars of personal discipline.

Ventre ends up writing that kind of mindless blather because he starts with the false premise that Lindsay Lohan should be in jail “for her own good.” It sounds wise and clever, but it’s bullshit. Lindsay Lohan shouldn’t be in jail for her own good, she should be in jail for our own good: Get her off the streets before she kills or maims someone.

The idea that we punish people for their own good is a sort of feel-good escape clause for people who lack the moral seriousness to admit that the justice system is there to contain and punish people because we want to change their behavior for the benefit of society.

Saving Grace is a new series on TNT starring Holly Hunter, the latest film actor to make the jump to the small screen. She plays Grace (natch) Hanadarko, an Oklahoma City police detective battling her own personal demons.

You might say she’s slightly flawed. She’s an alcoholic, exhibitionistic, sexual addict with anger issues. She blames herself for her sister’s death in the Oklahoma City bombing. She’s having an affair with a married man.

One night she hits a pedestrian while driving drunk and kills him. She calls out to God for help and is promptly visited by a tobacco-chewing, wise-cracking angel.

I can just hear the pitch meeting for this show: “It’s Rescue Me meets Touched by an Angel.” While there are familiar elements from these shows, Saving Grace is like nothing I’ve seen before. It plays like a complete original.

For a show that deals with faith and God, it’s pretty racy. There’s as much sex, semi-nudity, and cursing as any episode of Rescue Me. I’m wary of TV shows telling me what God is or what God wants, but so far, Saving Grace has managed to cleverly avoid giving us, or Grace, the “Answers”.

Holly Hunter is fantastic as Grace. She is joined by Laura San Giacomo as her best friend and the rural equivalent of a CSI. Leon Rippy plays Earl, the angel that’s come to save Grace.

Saving Grace airs Mondays at 10pm/9pm Central on TNT.

I love cover songs. When one artist is covering a song with a well-known version by another artist, I can’t help but think of the earlier version while listening to the new one. The contrast between the old and new versions in my head creates musical tension unlike any original performance.

Case in point: Here is 70-year-old Shirley Bassey’s awesome cover of Pink’s “Get The Party Started”. By the time she gets to the chorus, she’s got all the rockin’ energy of Pink’s version, with a much bigger voice.

Play the Video

If her voice sounds familiar, but you can’t quite place it, it’s probably because she was the vocalist for the title themes to Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, and Moonraker.

(Hat tip: Alexandra Billings.)

Well, Amazon Order Tracking says that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is on the way. The shipping origin is right here in Illinois, so when Amazon shipped it yesterday, it only took three hours to reach Chicago, but Amazon put in a request to hold the package until tomorrow.

I actually thought about driving over to the UPS depot that serves my area to try to pick it up at the customer service desk.

Yeah, I’ve caught Harry Potter fever.

Members of the religious right sometimes complain that Christians like themselves are losing their religious freedom. In my experience, those complaining loudest are all too often deploring the loss of “rights” such as the right to have government-paid teachers force children to recite prayers, or the right to force everyone else in the country to use the same definition of marriage that they do.

Here’s what the real thing looks like, and not from one of those crazy Muslim countries, but from the United Kingdom:

A teenager has lost her High Court challenge to be allowed to wear a Christian “purity ring” to school.

Lydia Playfoot, 16, claimed the ban imposed by the Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex, was an “unlawful interference” with her right to express her faith.

But lawyers for the school successfully argued that the purity ring was not an essential part of the Christian religion and contravened the school’s uniform policy.

Who cares if the purity ring is “not an essential part of the Christian religion”? All that matters is that the purity ring is an essential part of Lydia Playfoot’s religion. We don’t have freedom of religion for the benefit of religion. We have freedom of religion for the benefit of religious people.

(Hat tip: Kip)

[Be sure to read the comments: I wrote the first few of these here, but a lot of people have contributed some truly funny endings.]

The end of the Harry Potter series, as written by

Mario Puzo (The Godfather) :

Replacing the fallen Dumbledore as head of Hogwarts, Professor Minerva McGonagall proves to have balls of steel. In a well-coordinated series of carefully-timed attacks, the Order of the Phoenix kills every single Death Eater in a single night, settling all accounts.

John Grisham (The Firm, The Rainmaker, The Pelican Brief) :

Over the course of the book, Harry becomes disillusioned with the wizarding life as he realizes that it’s just endless conflict in the service of his corrupt and power-hungry masters. He and Ginny change their names and assume new identities so they can leave the wizarding world and live happily ever after.

George Lucas (American Graffiti, Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars) :

The battle between Harry and Voldemort comes to a close with an exciting magical glowing sword fight in the never-before-seen high-tech part of Hogwarts during which Voldemort reveals that he’s Harry’s real father. Then the Death Star blows up.

Joe Haldeman (The Forever War, Forever Free, Worlds Enough and Time) :

During the final confrontation, Neville Longbottom reveals unsuspected powers when he kills all the Death Eaters all over the world, including Lord Voldemort, by making them blow up into steaming bloody chunks. Neville explains that he is God The Creator Of The World in disguise, and then he blows up all the muggles in the world. God-Neville then proceeds to blow up all the all the wizards and witches in the world except Harry. Then he blows up Harry.

Dean Koontz (Bestselling Thriller Author) :

While Voldemort is preparing his final assault on Hogwarts, Arthur Weasley uses his knowledge of muggle artifacts come up with a plan to defeat Voldemort. He and Ron work desperately to connect the flue network to a fireplace in the house of a major Columbian drug lord. Harry and Hermione go through, stun everyone in the house, and steal all their Uzi submachineguns. When the Death Eaters arrive at Hogwarts, members of the Order of the Phoenix gun them down.

Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly) :

As the conflict with Voldemort comes to a head, Ron Weasley is suddenly and shockingly killed. Hermione responds with steely determination, joined by Luna Lovegood, who turns out to be a rare witch who has super-powerful martial arts skills. While Harry tries ineffectively to help—often with comic results—Luna kills the Death Eaters with Unblockable Scorpion Kicks and Hermione defeats Voldemort in a head-on battle of magic.

Tom Clancy (The Hunt For Red October, The Sum of All Fears, Rainbow 6) :

All seems lost for Harry until the Voldemort problem is brought to the attention of American President Jack Ryan, who sends the Enterprise Carrier Group to defeat the Death Eaters in a series of air strikes. Distrustful of the Ministry of Magic, Harry Potter defects to the United States where he helps Ryan get elected to his fourth term as President.

David Chase (The Sopranos) :

Discouraged by Lord Voldemort’s tiresome battle against Harry Potter, Lucius Malfoy makes peace with Harry Potter in a bid to take over the Death Eaters for himself. Meanwhile, Alicia Spinnet spots Lord Voldemort in Diagon Alley and catches him by surprise, killing him easily. Through a strange series of random events, all Voldemort’s horcruxes are also destroyed. Thinking the danger is over, Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione make plans to meet at the Three Broomsticks for butterbeers. Just as the last of them arrives

John From Cincinnati is all about angry stupid people.

But not uninteresting angry stupid people.

The show was created by David Milch, co creater of NYPD Blue and Deadwood. Set in the California surfing town of Imperial Beach, the show is in some sense a family drama, revolving around the spectacularly dysfunctional Yost family and their equally disturbed and tortured friends.

The joker in the deck is John, a mysterious stranger who appears at first to be a developmentally challenged young man who has a habit of repeating what other people say to him. Asked to empty his pockets, he has just the right amount of cash, a cell phone, and a platinum credit card.

Then the miracles start.

The Yosts and their friends notice the strange occurences when they happen, but they’re so tied up in their own personal crises that they can barely muster a reaction to these miracles. Mitch Yost levitates, for example, and it bothers him, but it’s not the only thing that’s on his mind. Some of the other residents of Imperial Beach, however, can think of nothing else.

John isn’t involved in these miracles, but we get the sense that he’s responsible for them, and we notice more strange things about him—the weirdest so far being that he apparently has no idea what a toilet is used for. Maybe he’s an angel. Maybe he’s the second coming and these people are going to be his disciples.

I suspect we’ll never get the details about John, because I think the show is going to be about how people react to him and the kinds of things that happen around him. Then again, I really have no idea where all this is going.

But I’d like to find out…

The Drug Czar’s blog, Pushing Back, links aprovingly to a story in the Record Searchlight of Redding, California:

The nation’s top anti-drug official said people need to overcome their “reefer blindness” and see that illicit marijuana gardens are a terrorist threat to the public’s health and safety, as well as to the environment.

John P. Walters, President Bush’s drug czar, said the people who plant and tend the gardens are terrorists who wouldn’t hesitate to help other terrorists get into the country with the aim of causing mass casualties. Walters made the comments at a Thursday press conference that provided an update on the “Operation Alesia” marijuana-eradication effort.

In those comments, Drug Czar John Walters once again raises the eternal dilemma about politicians: Is he stupid? Or does he think we’re stupid?

The criminals who grow marijuana illegally may commit violent acts to protect their fields, but what’s this “mass casualties” bullshit? Has that ever happened?

Perhaps Walters is talking about foreign terrorists sneaking over our borders through the same channels used by the drug trade. Well, has that ever happened?

And if that’s what he’s worried about, why are they eradicating marijuana in California? Growing pot in the United States reduces the amount that has to be brought across the border. By destroying domestic crops, the Shasta County Sheriff’s office is increasing traffic across our borders, giving terrorists more opportunites to sneak across.

Frankly, when it comes to domestic terrorism, I’m a lot more worried about the people responsible for these killings than about pot growers.

It’s time to tell you how my traffic ticket saga ends. First, however, I should tell you how it started.

About a month ago, I was driving on a local expressway when I entered an area with some construction off to the side of the road. At about the same time, I came up behind a slow-moving car. We were in the middle lane, so I changed lanes to pass him on the left.

I was still in that lane when I noticed a State Police car right behind me. A few seconds later, he flipped on his lights. Not sure if he was stopping me or just trying to pass (it’s happened before), I signalled a lane change and moved over. He followed me over.

Drat.

I waved to let him know I saw him, then I moved over to the right until I was off on the shoulder. I found a nice wide place to stop, and I pulled way over so he’d have plenty of room to stand next to my car without getting hit by passing cars.

He walked up and told me I had passed an emergency vehicle parked on the shoulder without changing lanes. My confusion must have shown, because he explained that there was a truck with flashing lights on the shoulder in the construction zone.

While he went back to his car to write the ticket, my wife and I discussed the situation, and neither of us could remember the truck. When the trooper returned, my wife asked him to explain what had happened, and he again said there was a truck with flashing lights on the shoulder, and that my lane change had taken me closer to it when I should have been giving it more room.

The ticket required a court appearance, and when I read up on the law, I got a little worried about the potential for high fines or suspension of my license, so I hired a lawyer.

I should point out that despite my misgivings about this law, I have no principled objection to requiring drivers to change lanes or slow down when passing a stopped emergency vehicle. It’s a simple rule, it infringes no basic rights, and it serves a legitimate public purpose.

In other words, I wasn’t under the impression that I had done nothing wrong. I didn’t remember seeing any construction vehicle, but neither could I say with any certainty that there wasn’t one. Given that I don’t think of construction trucks as emergency vehicles, I could easily have missed seeing one in the shoulder.

I hired a lawyer to avoid getting screwed because I didn’t understand the law, not because I thought I was innocent. Going into court, I assumed I was guilty.

Unfortunately, when I had my day in court, the judge agreed with me. I lost.

How did that happen? I think most losing defendants blame lying cops and lousy lawyers when they lose in court. Why should I be any different?

My lawyer and I spoke twice before the trial, once on the phone and once outside the courtroom, for a total of about half an hour. He’d clearly spent some time thinking about the case. I was kind of impressed since this was just a traffic ticket. He had me believing the case was winnable.

Because my record is pretty clean, my gut instinct was to plead guilty and ask for supervision. If the judge agreed, I’d pay a fine, attend traffic safety school, and keep my nose clean for 4 months, and nothing would go on my record. I haven’t done that in about 20 years, but I gather it still works that way.

My lawyer had a different idea. He thought the law was poorly written, and he couldn’t find any case law about it, so he thought we should go to trial. I told him that as much as I hated telling a lawyer not to do his stuff, I was reluctant to take the risk of a conviction when I had a chance at supervision. He told me I’d still be eligible for supervision. I told him to go ahead.

About 10 minutes later the clerk called the case and my lawyer indicated we wanted a trial. The prosecutor said he was ready, so the cop and I were sworn in together in preparation for our testimony. Then the prosecutor started questioning the cop, and a strange thing happened.

The cop changed his story.

When he originally stopped me, he had told me twice that I passed a truck. In court, however, he testified that I passed a State Police car that had pulled someone over. He also said there were no other vehicles nearby, and that I didn’t slow down.

My first thought was that he had changed the vehicle to a police car because that sounds worse than a construction truck. When I thought about it later, however, I remembered that one of the elements of the crime was that the emergency vehicle had to be engaged in its official duties. My lawyer had thought he might have a chance of getting a dismissal if nobody was able to put it on the record that the construction truck was on duty. How would the trooper know? Did he go back and interview the occupants? I wondered if maybe he changed his story because a police car performing a traffic stop is clearly doing its official duties.

There are more benign explanations as well, such as bad memory. The scenario he described is typical of a special enforcement effort for this law: One cop spots an unrelated infraction and pulls the offender over, then a second cop pulls over people who pass the first cop. If the trooper did a lot of those recently, maybe he just got one of them confused with my case. Or maybe, despite identifying me as the guy he pulled over, he has no actual memory of the stop and just made up something plausible. In either case, he should have taken notes, but maybe he’s bad at that, or he forgot, or his dog ate them.

So, it’s possible the cop didn’t really lie. But he certainly didn’t tell the truth.

While I was out driving one night many years ago, shortly after I first got my license, I noticed a police car had done a traffic stop ahead. This was a street without a shoulder, so he was in the right lane, and I was in the left lane. Just as I passed him, the officer threw open his door and stepped out, forcing me to swerve for his safety. He didn’t actually step in front of my car, so I probably wouldn’t have hit him, but ever since then I’ve approached emergency vehicles with caution.

My point is that I would have noticed if I passed close to a police car. I might not have changed lanes, but I would have remembered all those flashing lights.

Yet the only way the officer could be telling the truth is if (1) I didn’t notice the police car, (2) my wife didn’t notice it either, and (3) when the cop stopped me, he somehow misidentified a police car as a truck.

There’s just no way. I passed a construction truck or nothing at all.

Now there’s an interesting thought. They say that you should always tell the truth because it’s easier to remember. Maybe that’s why the officer couldn’t keep his story straight: He made it up. Maybe the reason my wife and I don’t remember a construction vehicle is because there wasn’t one. It suddenly seemed possible that I was actually innocent—as in I didn’t do it. Needless to say, I like this theory.

During cross, my lawyer asked the trooper how far off the road the other cop car was (in the shoulder), where its driver was (standing to the left of the car he stopped), and what method he used to tell I didn’t slow down (eyeball).

I was surprised that my lawyer ignored the change in the cop’s story. I asked him about it later, and he seemed to have missed it, which kind of pissed me off. Wasn’t he paying attention?

Then again, so what if the cop changed his story? The specific factual issue is immaterial: Whether I passed a truck or a police car, I still passed something the law defines as an emergency vehicle. On the other hand, if the cop can’t keep his story straight then his testimony is a lot less credible. However, I’m the only one who knows that for sure. If I tell the judge about the cop’s conflicting statement to me, is there really any chance he’ll believe me? Does it create reasonable doubt? Still, what’s the harm in trying? I’m not sure what to think about this.

The prosecution rested, and my lawyer moved for dismissal, which was denied. Now it was my turn. My lawyer asked me what I did when I saw the police car on the shoulder.

Given the cop’s testimony, I was tempted:

“The trooper is mistaken about the highway being clear of other vehicles. I had just come up behind a slow-moving vehicle in the middle lane. I signalled and moved into the left lane to pass. The road curves to the right, so until I was fully in that lane, my view of the shoulder was obstructed by the other vehicle. Once I saw the stopped police car ahead, I started to slow down to move back into the lane I had just left, but the other vehicle slowed down too. By the time I had dropped back far enough for a safe lane change we had already passed the stopped police car, so I just stayed in that lane until the trooper pulled me over.”

I don’t know if that would have worked, because it would still be my word against the trooper’s. Who’s the judge going to believe? Even worse, the prosecutor—who’s probably done 500 of these things—might have found a quick way to trip me up. In any case, I wasn’t about to perjure myself over a traffic ticket. I told the judge that I didn’t remember seeing a police car or anything else that presented a hazard or that was unusual, so I don’t know what I did.

In closing arguments, the prosecutor reiterated his case. He also called my testimony “not credible,” which pissed me off.

My lawyer responded with a defense I didn’t quite understand. I think he was arguing that the law was poorly written and unclear and that it seemed to require that whenever a cop pulled onto the shoulder all the traffic was supposed to move over a lane and that if everyone did that then traffic would grind to a halt and that no one ever really does that so that cannot have been the intent of the law in which case we don’t know what it means so I should be found not guilty. Or something like that. I really didn’t get his point.

When we were done, the judge said he used to do personal injury law and accidents were terrible things and safety was important, so he convicted me and gave me a $150 fine.

My lawyer then told the judge that I shouldn’t be punished for asserting my right to trial and asked for supervision. The judge denied it and moved on to the next matter before the court. As we were leaving, the judge told us to come back up so he could get one more thing on the record. He addressed my lawyer and said that he’d been giving out $150 fines to everyone that day.

When I said I had a lousy lawyer, I was mostly kidding. It just feels like I had a lousy lawyer because I lost. I was also pissed off that I let him talk me into going to trial. I should have taken the supervision.

As he walked me to the clerk’s office to pay my fine, he seemed genuinely embarrassed that we lost. He told me that he hasn’t lost a case in this courthouse in about 6 months. He also told me that because the offense was failure to yield to an emergency vehicle I wasn’t actually eligible for supervision, so we lost nothing by going to trial. I didn’t ask him why he told me before the trial that I was eligible for supervision.

It would be easy to say he’s a bad lawyer because he lost, but that would be a common analysis error: You can’t learn much from a single data point. The outcome of a case depends on lots of variables beyond the control of the lawyer—many of them also unknown to him—so whether he wins or loses a single case doesn’t reflect all that strongly on how well he does his job. In this respect, lawyers are a lot like sports figures: On any given day, the best can lose and the worst can win.

In sports, you can just watch more games until you build up enough data to draw sound statistical conclusions. That’s harder to do in trials, because they’re all different and because of some selection bias (i.e. good lawyers getting the harder cases). In situations like that, you have to ignore the outcome and judge elements of the actual performance.

Only I don’t know nearly enough about lawyering to judge his performance. Most of what I know comes from reading courtroom stories about spectacular cases, and my lawyer did nothing that struck me as spectacular, but that’s not at all surprising for a routine traffic case. If he’d made some clear and obvious mistakes, I could safely decide he did a bad job, but he didn’t, so I can’t.

I’ve mentioned a few things about my lawyer that give me pause, but I doubt that any of them would have changed the outcome. The cop said I did it, I said I didn’t. The judge believed the cop. I guess my lawyer did what he could with the case I brought him.

The only thing we could have done differently is not gone to trial, and if the lawyer’s right about this case not being eligible for supervision, even that wouldn’t have helped.

The truth is, I really don’t know how to tell if my lawyer did a good job. He told me later that the prosecutor’s plea offer was a $500 fine, so we still beat that.

He probably did a decent job, but…dammit! I was hoping for an acquittal!

On the other hand, I’m going to remember the lying cop for a long time. It astounds me to think that a cop would lie in court over a traffic ticket, which is why I’d like to think that he didn’t do it on purpose. Nevertheless, his testimony was flat-out untrue.

That’s a bit of life experience I’ll definitely take with me next time I’m sitting in a jury box.

John Kass breaks this shocking story about life in the city that banned foie gras:

Window washer Sam Hardison has been charged by City Hall with another crime of the century:

Falling asleep on a CTA train, with a cookbook in his lap. So the poor guy may have to pay City Hall a fine of up to $300 for sleeping dangerously. That’s a lot of windows to wash for a nap on the CTA, where payrollers and political hacks have been napping for years, when they’re not taking double pensions, golfing and goofing off.

Apparently, it’s illegal to sleep in public in Chicago. I can understand that the City doesn’t want bums sleeping all over the place, but this guy is a paying rider on the train. He worked hard all day and fell asleep on his ride home, and now the City wants to take several days’ wages from him?

“I looked the officer right in the eye and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. I have to go to court on this?’ And he said, ‘Yes, you do,'” Hardison, a West Sider, told us the other day about his June 5 ticket on the Red Line.

The officer’s partner didn’t like Hardison’s attitude, which he says was shock and astonishment, not anger…

“And the other officer said, ‘If you don’t be quiet, we will take you to jail right now. We’ll arrest you,'” Hardison said. “I let them write their citations. I felt that it was not right, but what can I do?”

He’s getting free help from a lawyer…and all this publicity might help a bit too.

Update: The city backs down.

Commenting on my description of how I picked a lawyer, Gideon says:

Interesting stuff there: He presumes that proximity to the courthouse means familiarity with the court

At first I didn’t understand why he thought it odd that I assumed a lawyer close to the courthouse would be more familiar with it. Re-reading what I wrote, I think Gideon and other out-of-town readers might assume I’m talking about the distance from the lawyer’s office to the Cook County Courthouse, e.g. next door, a block away, a mile away, and so on.

That’s not what I meant. There is no Cook Country Courthouse. There are many of them. I was just trying to find lawyers with lots of experience at the courthouse my case was at.

From the Court’s web page:

The Circuit Court of Cook County is not only the largest of the 22 circuits in Illinois, it is also one of the largest unified court systems in the world. It was created by a 1964 amendment to the Illinois Constitution which reorganized the courts of our state. The amendment effectively merged the often confusing and overlapping jurisdictions of Cook County’s 161 courts into one uniform and cohesive court of general jurisdiction.

Today, Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans and more than 400 judges serve the 5.1 million residents of Cook County within the City of Chicago and its 126 surrounding suburbs.

More than 2.4 million cases are filed every year.

As near as I can tell, there are eight courthouses in Chicago (Daley Center in downtown Chicago, a juvenile court on Hamilton, the big criminal court at 26th and California, and 5 outlying courts that handle misdemeanor/ordinance and preliminary felony matters), and one each in Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Maywood, Bridgeview, and Markham, for a total of 13 Cook County courthouses.

At the extremes, the Rolling Meadows and Markham courthouses are about 40 miles apart, which is probably a 90-minute drive in heavy Chicago traffic. Most lawyers advertise for clients in the parts of Chicago or the suburbs near their offices, and I’m assuming that even if a lawyer advertises for cases all over the county, he’s probably more familiar with the courthouse closest to his office.

They’re not allowed to strike, but some Cook Country prosecutors aren’t showing up to work today:

As many as two-thirds of the 520 prosecutors staffing Cook County’s felony courtrooms are expected to be no-shows, officials in the state’s attorney’s office said. Prosecutors throughout the 835-lawyer office are being urged to attend today’s County Board meeting instead.

“I told all the assistant state’s attorneys for special prosecutions — gang crimes, financial crimes — to attend that meeting,” said Scott Cassidy, chief of special prosecutions. “They’re using their vacation time.”

The coordinated day off by prosecutors demonstrates their fury toward the County Board and its president, Todd Stroger, over what they call broken promises to pay them as much as public defenders.

The board is offering the non-unionized prosecutors a one-time raise of 3 percent, plus a lump payment of $1,000. Meanwhile, the unionized public defenders are getting cost-of-living adjustments retroactive to 2004, amounting to a raise of more than 12 percent, according to Bernie Murray, chief of criminal prosecutions.

Some of the prosecutors are seeking more permanent time off from their jobs:

In a blistering letter to Stroger, State’s Attorney Richard Devine said Monday that 52 prosecutors have quit since February, “twice the normal rate.”

“I have more friends talking about quitting. And it’s not the young people. It’s the senior people. They have families. They have tuitions to pay.”

That can’t be good for the prosecution in Cook County. I’m guessing that most of the prosecutors who quit aren’t going on to prosecute somewhere else, and I don’t think criminal law experience is very helpful in civil litigation, so I figure a lot of them are just switching to the other side of the aisle.