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					                                                                                                                                                            •     LIFESTYLES                      CAROLYN HAX

     August 12, 1999



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       Fighting tlie good fight
                                                                                                                                                                                      Banks is approached by the father of
     A look at a public                                                                                                                                                               one of his clients. He wants to know
                                                                                                                                                                                      what's going to happen to his son.
     defender's day in court                                                                                                                                                          Banks rests his hand upon the man's
     David Hare                                                                                                                                                                       shoulder and leads him down the haU
     News Staff Writer                                                                                                                                                                in a private conversation.
         The boxing ring has been the ruin                                                                                                                                                         Round 3 (noon)
     of many good souls, while lesser men                                                                                                                                                "Punk rock has instilled in me the
     have emerged triumphant. For every                                                                                                                                             creativity to be a better lawyer."
     heavyweight champion of the world,                                                                                                                                                  Banks is sitting in a booth at the
     there's a hundred broken losers whose                                                                                                                                          Liberty Lunch Cafe inside the White
     names have been stripped from                                                                                                                                                  Cross pharmacy on North Las Vegas
     memory, as if history dealt them one                                                                                                                                           Boulevard. The lunch counter is lined
     final blow to ensure their place in                                                                                                                                            with people busy with the day's
     time be lost forever, like a bad dream,                                                                                                                                        special or just having coffee.
     barely remembered, soon forgotten.                                                                                                                                                  Banks is talking about his days as a
         Villains, thugs, heroes, and one                                                                                                                                           guitarist for the California punk rock
     king, the mjrthology of boxing is filled                                                                                                                                       band, "A Chorus of Disapproval."
     with the lives of men, both great and                                                                                                                                               "Punk rock has no boimdaries," he >
     small, all united in a quest for the one                                                                                                                                       said.
     penultimate prize that's a hard sell on                                                                                                                                             In the summer of 1994, Banks and
     the streets these days:           ; •• '•                                                                                                                                      his band mates went on a European
         Dignity.                                                                                                                                                                   tour promoting their latest CD, "Firm
         In 1993, Jeff Banks found more                                                                                                                                             Standing Law." Though the band had
     than dignity when he stepped into the                                                                                                                                          been together for nine years. Banks
     ring at the Cow Palace in San Fran-                                                                                                                                            said they wanted to play one last time
     cisco, he found himself.                                                                                                                                                       before breaking up.
         A member of the Pugilist Society in                                                                                                                                             So, with his first semester of law
     Oakland, Banks was a super heavy-                                                                                                                                              school behind him, Banks took his
     weight contender in the Golden Gloves                                                                                                                                          Charvel Predator guitar and left
     semi-finals. That night Banks was                                                                                                                                              Omaha for Europe.
     knocked out near the end of the final                                                                                                                                              "While everyone else was busy with
     round in front of 4,000 spectators.                                                                                                                                            their summer internships, I was
         Ever since his eighth birthday                                                                                                                                             slinging a guitar across Italy," he said.
     when he was given two sets of boxing                                                                                                                                                Banks played with the band from
     gloves and head gear. Banks said he                                                                                                                                            1990-1992 while at the University of
     wanted to be just like his idol,                                                                                                                                               California, Berkeley, where he re-
     Muhammad Ali. All's grace and            ,                                                                                                                                     ceived his bachelor's degree in history.
     confidence mystified the young boy                                                                                                                                             He was also the heavyweight member
     firom the suburbs of Los Angeles.                                                                                                                                              of the Intercollegiate Boxing Team. He
         At the Cow Palace, however. Banks                                                                                                                                          said ever since he was in elementary ^.
     said when he stepped out of the ring                                                                                                                                           school, he's always followed a pure        *"-
     and into the foggy San Francisco                                                                                                                                               and simple philosophy.
'»   evening, he left his childhood dreams                                                                                                                                               "Always stay in good graces with
     behind on the canvas. Instead, he                                                                                                                                              your family," he said. "Make your
     traded in his silk trunks for a silk tie                                                                                                                                       parents proud."
     and headed off to Creighton School of                                                                                                                                               Both his parents still live in the
     Law in Omaha, Neb.                                                                                                                                                              same house he grew up in near Los
         The next time Banks stepped into                                                                                                                                            Angeles. Banks Sr. worked as a
     the ring, it would be as a public                                                                                                                                               brewer most of his life until his
     defender inside a Las Vegas court-                                                                                                                                              retirement last year.
     room where the rules are different,                                                                                                                                                  "My dad worked seven days a week
     but the stakes are still high.                                                                                                                                                  so I could get to where I was going,"
         "When you've been in a boxing ring,                                                                                                                                         Banks said.
     you learn self-reliance and determina-                                                                                                                                               Becoming a lawyer was not the first
     tion," he said. "So I'm not intimidated                                                                                                                                          career choice for Banks. In fact, he
      in the courtroom."                                                                                                                                                              said he wanted to be a boxing pro-
                                                                                                                                                                                      moter in Las Vegas. He figured a law
               Round 1 (8:30 a.iii.)                                                                                                                                                  degree would give him greater lever-
        As a criminal defense lawyer for the                                                                                                                                          age to immerse himself in the Las
     Clark Coimty Public Defender's                LAW AND ORDER — Clockwise
                                                   from top, Jeff Banks, a criminal
                                                                                                                                                                                      Vegas boxing community.
     Office, Banks' day starts off rather                                                                                                                                                  However, after moving to Las
     routine. In fact, there is very little        defense lawyer for the Clark
                                                   County Public Defender's Office,
                                                                                                                                                                                       Vegas in 1996, Banks found himself
     about his job that could be called                                                                                                                                                working in insurance defense, an area
     glamorous. No TV lawyer would dare            consults with a client in the
                                                   hallway of the Clark County court
                                                                                                                                                                                       of law he foimd too mundane. He said
     trade places with him, not even for a                                                                                                                                             it wasn't until he started working in
     month of high ratings.                        house; Banks looks over a stack
                                                   of case files; Sitting at the de-                                                                                                  the public defender's office a year and
        Banks wouldn't let them. He says                                                                                                                                              a half later that he finally realized he
     he loves his job too much.                    fense table. Banks glances over at
                                                   the defendant's stand; Returning                                                                                                   wanted to be a lawyer.
        "I'm here to ensure the rights of the                                                                                                                                              "I love this job," Banks said. "This
     indigent are protected and that no            from the courtroom. Banks
                                                   makes a quick change in his
                                                                                                                                                                                      is the best environment I've ever
     government agency is violating the                                                                                                                                               worked in."
     rights of my client," he said. "In a lot      office.
                                                                                                                                                                                           Banks credits his fellow team
     of people's eyes, this is not the most                                                                                                                                           members with making the daily case
     popular cause to champion. I like the                                                                                                                                            loads endurable. According to Banks,
     underdog quality of that."                                                                                                                                                       the team handles between 50 to 100
        In his downtown office on the third       Clifl. But as he leaves his office with a   appear relaxed. One could be an                  Meanwhile, Banks offers some last-
                                                                                                                                           minute counseling to a client in the       active cases over the span of a few
     floor of the Public Defender's building.     stack of case files under his arm, all      accountant, another perhaps a college                                                   months, with roughly five to 10 new
                                                  pretense is put aside.                      student; none of them are free men.          hallway. Sometimes a defendant gets
     Banks, 30, is surrounded by the                                                                                                                                                  ones added each week.
     arcana of his life, details which lend          The walk to the courthouse is quiet.        "All rise, the Honorable Jack             confused by the fast-paced proceed-
                                                                                                                                           ings inside the courtroom. There is            The team's scope reaches across the
     credence to his idiosyncratic personal-      Banks appears both calm and ener-           Lehman presiding," the bailiff an-                                                      valley, including Boulder City,
     ity: a picture of Marlon Brando from         gized. Flashing his PD's badge at the       nounces.                                     little time for pause and reflection.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Laughlin, and Henderson.
                                                  guard, he ambles down the hall                 The defendants rise in unison along           The fate of the defendants is solely
     "The Godfather," Robert De Niro in                                                                                                                                                   Banks said that perhaps the
                                                  toward the big wooden doors of the          with the rest of the courtroom —             determined by the final ruling of
     •Raging Bull," the Rat Pack lined up                                                                                                                                            hardest part of his job is having to be
                                                  courtroom.                                  spectators, friends and family.              Lehman, which could include proba-
     famously in front of the marquee                                                                                                                                                the bearer of bad news for his clients
                                                     No bells, no ropes, no ringside             Banks and the prosecutor exchange         tion, drug counseling, house arrest or
     outside the Desert Inn.                                                                                                                                                         and their families. He regularly visits
        Only one picture hangs on the wall        announcer, yet it's hard not to feel like   a few pleasant formalities before            prison. Some will remain in jail          his clients in jail to offer his support
                                                  Banks is once again meeting destiny         returning to their respective seats.         pending the outcome of their case.        while their case winds its way through
     behind his desk, a photo of Ali wear-
                                                  inside the ring.                               Lehman begins calling out the                 Banks and his client are back in the the system.
     ing a crisp pin-striped suit. On the
                                                                                              names of the defendants, ordering            courtroom standing before the bench.           "My job is to advise and protect my
     small bookcase below, there's an
                                                            Round 2 (9:10 a.m.)               them to stand individually as he reads       Lehman reads from the file again,         clients interests," he said. "Sometimes
     autographed picture of Floyd
                                                     Inside the Clark County Court-           from their case file. The offenses           then listens to the newly polished         that includes telling them, Tou will
     Patterson punching a body bag. It
                                                  house, a group of defendants is led         range from possession of a controlled        defense. The defendant enters a guilty lose if you don't take this deal.*"
     says. To my friend, Jeff Banks." Next
                                                  into District Judge Jack Lehman's           substance, to burglary and attempted         plea to a gross misdemeanor. He is             Another lesson Banks learned from
     to that item is a smiling 8 by 10 glossy
                                                  courtroom. The morning's criminal           aggravated stalking.                         then referred to the Nevada Depart-        boxing — never underestimate 3rour
     of Henry Winkler as Arthur Foniarelli
                                                  calendar is about to begin.                    On the far wall behind the judge's        ment of Parole and Probation for a         competitor and learn to adapt mid-
     from "Happy Days."                                                                                                                    pre-sentence investigation report.
        Fonii?                                       llie six defendants enter through a      bench hangs the Great Seal of the                                                       stream.
                                                  side door, shackled together by their       state of Nevada; at the bottom it reads          Hell be back in court in two months
        "Well, no matter how cool and
                                                  wrists and ankles; the only other           "All For Our Country."                       where he could face up to a year in                   Round 4 (8:47 pan.)
     tough he seamed, the Fonz was always
     looking out for the little guy," Banks       detail linking them together is a state-       Both defense attorneys and attor-         jail.                                          Banks has been fielding phone calls
                                                  issued navy blue jump suit each is          neys for the state address the court in          Shortly thereafter, the defendants     all afternoon. A fsw of his clients have
     explained.                                                                                                                             are led fh)m the courtroom. For better
        In his daric blue suit. Banks himself     wearing as they shuffle over to the         attempts at dispensing their particu-
                                                  defendant's stand on the west end of        lar brands of justice. "The list of crimes   or worse, their lives have changed
     resembles someone famous; there is                                                                                                                                                                        8M DEFENDER
                                                  the courtroom.                              continues, followed by the lawyer's          from when they first came in.
     an air of old Hollywood about him,                                                                                                                                                                                   Page 16
                                                     Some of them look weary, a few            recommendations to the judge.                   Before heading back to his office,
     Jimmy Stewart meets Montgomery

                                                                                       Photos by Lee Zaichick ' News Staff

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