Back in July of 2009, I declared myself the Greatest Criminal Defense Blogger in Chicago. This was not a boast, it was a lament. I am not a lawyer, and most of my posts have nothing to do with criminal defense. Yet I seemed to be blogging more about criminal defense than any actual Chicago lawyer.
Rob Deters was gone, Steven Molo’s blog was fake, and James Dimeas mostly just rewrites news stories, as does Chris at Total Criminal Defense. The Cook County Public Defenders Blog is really just an organizational newsletter. Michael J. Petro summarizes 7th Circuit crimlaw decisions, which is probably a great service, but he’s not really a blogger. Pete Guither at Drug WarRant covered some Chicago crime stories, but he wasn’t a lawyer any more than I was, and whoever Kent Dean is, his blog-like things have all vanished.
My big hope was Denise Nalley, whose Chicago Criminal Law Journal didn’t have many posts, but they all read like real blog writing, not marketing. Alas, she hasn’t posted anything since August of 2009, although she was nice enough to answer a question for me.
I had a lot going on that summer, so after a couple of posts I pretty much stopped looking for Chicago crimlaw bloggers. That’s too bad, because if I’d been looking, I might have noticed a new blog called Chicago Criminal Defense by Chicago Lawyer Marcus L. Schantz.
Folks, this is the real deal. An actual blog, by an actual criminal defense lawyer in Chicago, and he’s actually still doing it. He wrote 107 posts last year, most of them pretty long.
(By the way, certain people like to make fun of young lawyers who get excited about things like iPads and virtual offices. But I’ll bet most of the complainers probably work in small court systems like Miami and Manhattan. Consider this:
Not including traffic court, there are 7 criminal courthouses in the city of Chicago (5 branch courts, Domestic court on Harrison, and 26th & California). Add the suburbs and that makes 12 courthouses for the entire county.
I spend a lot of time in my car. There are mornings I have cases in Bridgeview and Skokie. Take all of this running around, add all of the secretarial work I do in addition to running my practice entirely by myself and it’s easy to see how I move all day. On Saturdays I usually meet new clients and I am in the county jail almost every Sunday visiting clients that are in custody.
You’re damned right he has an iPhone! What’s really puzzling is that he bothers to keep an office.)
Schantz’s first few posts were just some introductory material about how the process works–indictments, arraignments, grand juries, the difference between the Miranda right to an attorney and the 6th Amendment right to an attorney… It’s the sort of thing he might have been told to blog about to make sure he hit all the right buzzwords, but his writing about it is not just rote regurgitation. He’s actually trying to teach his subject to his readers.
Then he starts telling stories. He’s the kind of lawyer who’s willing to tell stories about his cases, although he seems pretty careful not to discuss things that wouldn’t already be known to the other side, and he doesn’t name names. Most of it is probably pretty routine, the day-to-day work of criminal defense (kind of like Ken Lammers used to do before he switched sides), but to a fan of courtroom stories like me, it was fun to read. He’s obviously a bit new to the profession, and still finds it exciting.
Schantz hasn’t posted a lot of entries on his blog, but most of his posts are very long, and after reading the first dozen or so, I realized I was not going to be able to read them all right now, so I skipped to the end to read the last few.
You know how every American President seems to visibly age in office? Even if it’s only a four-year term? Skipping to the end of Schantz’s blog was the same way. He’s still enthusiastic about his career, but two years down the road and two major losses in felony trials, and the blog is now being written by an older man, or at least one who’s taken a bit of a beating.
Marcus Schantz, if you come across this, welcome to the Chicago blogosphere. Sorry I missed your arrival. I think perhaps Chicago has at long last produced a real criminal defense blogger. You have drawn the sword from the stone.
I wish you well.
(Hat tip: I wouldn’t known about Schantz if Jamison Koehler hadn’t mentioned him in his terrific Blawg Review #296.)