Friday, February 26, 2010

A Fork in the Road

It's hard to leave a job you love...even after thirty years. This is the farewell letter I sent to the attorneys and staff of the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office today. Even though there are many things in life I'm still looking forward to, it can be hard to say goodbye.

To the Attorneys and Staff of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office:

Patricia Boyle, the greatest state supreme court justice of my lifetime, once remarked that being a prosecutor was the best job the legal profession had to offer. I've often thought the same thing, never more than in recent days. There aren't many jobs an attorney can have where you're charged only with doing justice, and expected to do the right thing even if you could get away with sharp dealing. I was lucky enough to stumble through the doors here in 1980, and immediately felt that I’d found a home. Part of it was the work; the rest was because of the people I’ve worked with, who have truly been among the treasures of my life, and whose friendship I will cherish for the rest of my life.

I've spent much of the last thirty years feeling guilty about my good fortune — though, having been born a Catholic, I suspect it comes naturally. Confucius said: "Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life." That pretty much sums up my whole career. The work here has been fulfilling and challenging, making every day a new adventure. Add the fact that I've had the chance to do things most lawyers just dream about, earn a decent living while doing it, and at the same time have the gift of spending as much time with my family as they could reasonably be expected to tolerate, and it's hard to believe that one man could have so much luck in one lifetime.

I’ve seen many changes in my thirty years as a prosecutor: we no longer have to write everything out in longhand, and now that we’ve entered the 21st Century we do our research online, rather than sifting through stacks of books...though we’re still looking for that case we can’t quite find. On the other hand, we never shut down in the “good old days” because we needed Technical Support to get our pens working again, and things never ground to a halt because the library was off-line. Somehow, County finances seemed just as bleak in the early 1980s as they are today. And we’re still appearing before the same wide range of judges — running the gamut from wise to idiotic — that we’ve always had.

There are, of course, some aspects of the Office that need renewing from time to time. When I started, it seemed I’d joined a large and boisterous family, filled with squabbling siblings, goofy uncles, and batty aunts. But we had a sense of shared adventure, and an instinctive “all-for-one-and-one-for-all” willingness to face any challenge together. We all watched out for each other, and the older attorneys each shared the responsibilities of training the new ones in the traditions of the office — meaning, in their crusty way, knocking our heads as needed to make sure we understood that our mission was Justice, that our presence meant that the judge would have at least one honest lawyer in court that day, and that the “People” we served included the same defendants we were trying to throw in jail, to whom we owed fairness and a measure of respect whether we felt they deserved it or not. Today, with the County’s coffers empty once again, we seem to be stumbling a bit. But our mission is the same as ever; and as I leave the office I’ve had the pleasure of serving for the last thirty years, the people I’ve worked with over the years seem much the same. Only the faces have changed.

A year ago, after I turned in my retirement papers, it felt as if someone I loved had died. Now that it’s finally time to leave, it feels more like sending a kid off to college — starting a new chapter of life, filled with new challenges and adventures. But I'm sentimental enough to have found myself lingering later than usual at the Office these past days, often feeling sad when it was time to go home. I’m looking forward to starting the next chapter...but it’s still hard to say goodbye.

I hope to be back regularly, to visit friends, check on things, and perhaps help out from time to time. The road hasn’t always been an easy one: being a prosecutor isn’t for everybody, and it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. But for those with a sense of fair play, a commitment to justice, and a spark of idealism in their souls, it really is the best job any lawyer could ever have.

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere, ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost

It’s been an honor and a privilege to share my career with you.

Best wishes always,
Jeff Caminsky

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a retired public prosecutor living in Michigan, writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the exciting second volume in the Guardians of Peace-tm series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

1 comment:

Glenn Sogge (FormerComposer) said...

Very nice, Jeff. Good luck with the next stage of your life, home, and family!!