Every single day I am reminded of the scope of pain and desperation that hides beneath the quirky, fun veneer that is Austin. I see 18-year-olds shipped off to the penitentiary, and men three times their age standing in court, bedraggled in their striped pyjamas, looking at yet another prison stint because of their addiction to drugs.
I hear mothers plead for mercy because they don't want to be separated from their kids, promising to stop using meth or stealing, and I see the effects of random violent crime in the victims I meet, and in the forlorn faces the parents of victims that I can't meet, because they are dead.
I've stopped watching crime shows in the evening, not because I can't stand how unrealistic they are but because I see enough human destruction during the day. All of it as pointless as an episode of CSI.
And yet there are days I am reminded of how lucky I am to be knee deep in this mire. Days when I see or read something that makes me shiver with disgust and horror and makes the kinds of things I deal with seem so much less evil.
I'm talking about a different kind of law: civil litigation. This is the kind of law where people sue each other for monetary damages. The kind of law where truth and justice cower on the sidelines as each side sharpens a multitude of deadly weapons in the fight for money.
Specifically, I am talking about a story I read in this morning's Statesman about a gym suing the mother of a little boy who drowned there. No, I'm not kidding.
I won't profess to know the ins and outs of the lawsuits, I pass no judgment on the legal merits of each sides claims, counter-claims, and cross-claims. All I know is that a little boy drowned and people are now fighting to see who can get the most money from the other.
You can see why, I think, I look forward to heading up to court this morning to deal with matters of theft, drug peddling, and, when I'm lucky, the occasional transvestite prostitute.
That one's a story for another day.