Thursday, April 3, 2008

Beyond Glitz, Bob Hooker Leaves a Legacy

Posted By on Thu, Apr 3, 2008 at 9:54 AM

Tuesday night, my husband got a call asking if he knew that Bob Hooker had died in a horrible and unexplainable car crash after leaving downtown for home. My husband, a public defense attorney, came into the living room explaining what he heard and sat down in shock. 

"I feel like I owe that man my job," he said to me, while turning on the TV for the local news. 

I thought to myself, "Then I guess I owe Bob Hooker for sealing the deal on my return home to Tucson."

Two years ago, I sat down with my husband and explained (demanded) we return to Tucson. I knew it wasn't an easy task for him. Arizona has no reciprocity for attorneys practicing in other states. He'd have to study and take the bar.

He started studying for the bar (even while working full-time and at one point heading up three big cases--a murder trial and two molestations), and he kicked the bar exam's ass. After already working more than 10 years in public defense, he crossed his fingers and hoped he could still do what he loved in Tucson: work in juvenile court, as crazy as that sounds. He loves it. Go figure. The week we drove our valuables down and put everything in storage, he got a call from Bob Hooker and Bob Hirsh asking him to come in for an interview. 

A cousin warned him to dress it up for the Bobs, as they are called, referring to the uptown atmosphere the two brought with them when Hooker took over as head of the Pima County Office of Public Defense. A few days after the interview, Hooker called Tony and left him a message asking him if he was ready to work for them. 

When people poke fun at lawyers, I always go with the flow and join in on the fun with a little quip like, "Yeah, I'm married to one of those." But I don't know of many lawyers that actually fit those lawyer jokes.

I've hung out with many attorneys, most of them public defenders, because of the husband. I found them to be good people I understood. Not unlike newspaper folk, they sometimes drink a lot, throw some not-so-nice words across a bar floor, and love to work in an island with their own kind, because most people just don't like them. 

Public defense attorneys are not liked by the public (because they get guilty people released from jail); judges can't stand them, especially if they are aggressive and fight hard for their clients; prosecutors hate them, especially if they are aggressive and fight hard for their clients; and county governments hate them, because take up a substantial part of the budget. However, it's a crucial component of our legal system: Indigent clients are entitled to good legal representation. All of that always made me like them even more.

I remembered reading about the Bobs before the move, interested in how they were credited with improving public defense. I read about how Bob Hooker was one of the first attorneys active in the Sanctuary Mmovement, and that he could have made a lot of money in his career, but instead, he took on the job of heading the public defense office.

Yesterday was difficult for public defenders and all who admired Bob Hooker. They'd suddently lost a leader whoreally championed what they all believe in--the Constitution. A juvenile court staff member created a blog for folks to go online to share stories about Hooker.

What happens next? Will Hirsh step in to fill Hooker's shoes? Pima County administration has yet to make any formal announcement.  Hopefully it will be someone my husband and a few of his co-workers call "true believers," like Hirsh, like Hooker and like many of the other public defense attorneys I have come to know from the inside out. Despite opinions some have regarding lawyers, these PDs are under the spell of what they may think of as a calling. They are good people.

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