Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Double Life, A Single Mission: A True Believing Prosecutor

by Robin Sax

OK, I’ll admit it. My kids know that they can’t pull any of the usual tricks when it comes to their Mom. Why? Because I happen to be a D.A. At the end of the day when I arrive home, my briefcase stuffed with cases of wayward children and adults, I have to shift gears from “Robin Sax, D.A.” to become, simply, “Mom” to three kids, ages 5 through 17.

Except that in some ways, I don’t shift gears.

I guess the force that drives me to be the best I can be at what I do –seeking justice for my clients, L.A. County’s residents—also drives me to be the best (but not perfect, 'cause there is no such thing) parent I can be. After fifteen years on the job, I’ve seen enough examples of flawed parenting and its consequences to have a good idea of what works, and what doesn’t when it comes to kids.

But these flaws don’t just pop up in court—I’ve seen the same mistakes and their outcomes in every community I traverse, regardless of income bracket. And I traverse a lot!

If you follow me after I drop off my kids each morning, you’ll understand why they toe the line –even when they don’t necessarily want to—and show me the love and respect that, as a parent, I deserve, just as you do.

After I leave the kids at school, I head east to L.A.’s Criminal Court Building (the CCB). As I drive, the landscape changes dramatically--Starbucks is replaced by bail bonds shops; billboards shift from English to Korean, to Spanish, to Japanese; people go from waiting at bus stops to being passed out at bus stops. During this ride, I think about how lucky I am that my kids have no concept of the life I am about to enter—that is, assuming I get to court on time!

Few people can wrap their minds around how a Los Angeles west side mom can go downtown, work in the trenches of the Los Angeles crime scene, and come back to “safe territory,” then go back out and do the same thing the next day.

My “co-madres” (other moms) in my personal life cannot picture my court life and my colleagues cannot fathom the details of my private life. And yet, in both of these environments, I find myself dealing with complaints about the growing problems adults are having with kids today. I’ve come to realize that there are far more similarities between these seemingly “polar opposite” worlds than one might imagine.

If you were to take a peek into my kids’ classrooms, you would find that they attend school with the offspring of celebrities, agents, athletes, and other influential folks, including a state senator, a football team owner, and a few highfliers from the Fortune Top 100.

To many of you, this will seem pretty impressive. But parenting these more privileged kids involves dealing with the same types of problems that confront other parents--low self-image, family problems, academic pressures, student rivalries, to name just a few. Walk into my courtroom on any day and you’ll find that these themes—so familiar to every parent--come up in the children’s cases I handle.

Because I work so closely with kids, my family is convinced that somehow I have superpowers that allow me to see things and know things that other parents can’t possibly see or know. They assume I have night vision, surveillance skills--even a built-in lie detector.

The fact is, I don’t have super powers or secret information. Nor do I have night vision or a built-in lie detector--but I love the fact that my kids think I do. My powers come in the form of skills and techniques learned from living in the trenches of the real world of conflict and crime.

As Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, California, it’s my job to uncover the truth in some of the meanest and messiest situations conceivable and to try to ensure that justice is done. In order to protect the most vulnerable of victims--kids--I interview, investigate, uncover facts, and evaluate evidence.

Sometimes I prosecute, argue, and convict. Sometimes I cut people a break, offering alternatives to jail or fines. Sometimes I simply wait for further developments.

In brief, I live and thrive in a world of investigation, conflict, and resolution. My world is the world of discipline, fairness, and making sure that the best interests of children come first.

When I tell people that I spend my days prosecuting child molesters, a barrage of questions ensues: “How do you do it?” . . . “How do you sleep at night?” . . . “How do you trust anybody with your own kids?” . . . And finally, “I could never do your job.”

But the fact is, I believe that being a D.A. is the greatest job in the world. I love my work and I love that I never need to compromise my values.

So how do I merge both of my worlds? Since I’ve made a career of assessing what is in the best interest of society, It’s only logical that I would extend this theory to how I raise my own children.


Stacy Dittrich said...

Most people don't realize how juggling the life of crime to playing suburban housewife is a difficult task..You've mastered it, you're awesome...take a bow, lady!!

Anonymous said...

I want to buy your book! Being the mother of a rape victim and the grandma of battered children I think I could use some advice. Can you tell us how to get your book?

"A D.A.'s Guide To Parenting... In The Best Interest of the Children"- by Robin Sax

Anonymous said...

I want to buy your book! Being the mother of a rape victim and the grandma of battered children I think I could use some advice. Can you tell us how to get your book?

"A D.A.'s Guide To Parenting... In The Best Interest of the Children"- by Robin Sax

Kathryn Casey said...

Really interesting post, Robin. Enjoyed reading it. I know what you mean about the troubles of the kids on trial in the criminal courthouse being a reflection of what is going on in the entire city/community. Very true.

For The People said...

Cool Post. From the right side of your blog it looks like a real life "Womens Murder Club". Great stuff!