“Wait, uh, what?”
That was the typical response I got way back in 2003 when I told people this mild-mannered Seifert guy was planning to go to law school. Likewise, that was the typical response I got way back in 2006 when, as a third-year law student, I told people I wanted to be a prosecutor.
And that’s what I did.
I don’t usually talk about my job in this space. Mostly, I’d rather talk about anything but my job in this space, but lately I’ve been thinking about justice. It’s a big topic and a big reason why I do what I do.
Our justice system is a marvel to behold. As with anything, there are flaws, but it’s also one of the best man-made mechanisms out there for getting to the truth. I’m proud to work at the courthouse. I’m proud to play a role in the system.
That system can be a messy one, for sure. It’s nothing less than controlled combat fought within bounds set by established law and rules of evidence. I’m not a person who relishes conflict. In most settings, I’d much rather seek consensus, but I’m also attracted to the beauty of an adversarial system that hammers away at the rough edges in two disparate narratives and far more often than not leads us to the truth.
For me, the combat is rarely personal, and maybe that’s how I survive it. I have a job to do, a role to play, in order for the system to work the way it’s supposed to work. The same can be said of opposing counsel, law enforcement officers, witnesses, judges, juries, and on down the line. When everyone performs his or her role to the best of their ability, that’s when we can feel most confident about the outcome.
I never come away from a big win at trial feeling exultant. How could I? No matter what happens at trial, lives have been damaged. That’s why we were there in the first place. Humpty Dumpty can never be put back together again. Not completely. No, I would describe the aftermath of victory as satisfaction for a job well done. There’s no joy in seeing someone punished, but there is congruence.
And when I lose? I may not agree with it, but I try to roll with it. I did the best I could, and justice took its course. Guilt or innocence? Beyond a reasonable doubt or no? I have my opinions. You know I do. I presented my evidence. I argued my case. But in the end, that wasn’t my role. It wasn’t my decision to make.
Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and their six children. He has a B.A. in communications (print journalism) from Brigham Young University and a J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law. Chris enjoys music by The Piano Guys, flying kites, and pumpkin pie. Chris is the author of Red: A Football Novel.