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Question #4: Why did Deeks pursue a career in law & become a public defender?

What We Know

One of the reasons I fell hard for Marty Deeks was because there were so many layers to his personality that came from the many career choices he made during his life. We learned about his legal background early on, when Jess Traynor briefs the team in “Human Traffic” about Deeks’ undercover assignment. We eventually find out that Deeks chose to become a public defender, even meeting one of his former clients in “Drive.” Deeks jokes with Kensi in “Paper Soldiers” that public defenders are “the rebels of the legal profession,” explaining how he was able to maintain his shaggy look even then.

Even though he didn’t spend too much time practicing law, you can tell that those skills served him well. During his tenure with NCIS, I think he’s enjoyed being teased by Kensi and the rest of the team whenever he was able to spout some term or legalese regarding a case. He was proud of his legal education and the time spent as a public defender. Just look at him take on the whole team in “Cyber Threat,” asking which of them had passed the California Bar exam. It’s a huge accomplishment coming from his background. He obviously worked hard to climb out of the rabbit hole and make something out of his early years spent on the streets.

What We Don’t 

Why law? What exactly was it about Deeks’ past that inspired him to make this particular career choice? Did he have a legal mentor while going through the court and juvey systems? If someone was able to work with the young troubled teen during this time did they steer him in the direction of studying law? The sensitive young man may have envisioned a career in law as a way of paying back the people who encouraged him and set him on the right path after shooting his father. 

Might such a mentor have been a public defender? On its face, it’s a slightly surprising choice given that public defenders spend much of their time representing clients who are likely guilty of the crimes they’re accused of. People like his father. What did Deeks see in this particular legal role that appealed to him? Was it the idealized version of the job that captured young Deeks’ imagination, the version that would defend the unfairly accused? Maybe defend clients like little 11-year-old Marty who had shot his dad in self-defense?

Deeks is smart and his comic side is just another undercover persona. He probably enjoyed the rigors and challenges of learning to use the law for good and helping the oppressed. But how did he get through college and law school and what was his motive? Did exotic dancing pave the way or was that part-time gig supplemented by scholarships or maybe even by Roberta or her second husband?

Why It’s Important?

Was Deeks guided by a mentor or did his experience in the court system as a young child lead him to a career in law? We want to know about this part of his life because we assume that his motivations came out of his childhood and adolescence in some way. Hearing him talk about his decision to pursue law as a public defender could illuminate all sorts of details about his life before that time.

Why do you think Deeks became a lawyer? Let us know in the comments below. And stay tuned for a very related Question #5 next week.

About Diane (427 Articles)
Founder, Writer and Contributing Editor of wikiDeeks. Always wanted to put together a talented team of writers and graphic designers who loved NCISLA and Marty Deeks in particular! My dream came true! Hope you enjoy what we have created!

11 Comments on Question #4: Why did Deeks pursue a career in law & become a public defender?

  1. I’m sure ECO, as an actor creating his character, has come up with elaborate background and I’d love if he’d come on board to tell us (hint hint).

    Each “side” of the law I feel has a calling that probably is preceded by an experience in someone’s life. Deeks’ biggest brush with the law was, of course, the shooting of his father. Now, if the motivation were his FATHER, I’d say he’d perhaps want to be on the side of the prosecution in order to stop men like his father. He didn’t do that. Deeks chose the defense side of law. So I’m going with his mom as his motivation. What if … knowing Deeks has a HUGE protect women side….. What if, initially, Bertie confessed to shooting Brandel to protect her son? She would do that absolutely. What if legally it wasn’t going well for Bertie because of the public defender she was assigned, because they couldn’t afford a better attorney, wasn’t doing a great job? That would affect a young man’s career choices.

    I’m thinking something like this happened because he later became a cop – it’s very difficult if not disqualifying to become a law enforcement officer in CA with a juvenile record. Juvenile convictions, even those that would amount to a felony if committed by an adult, and adult diversion and deferred entry of judgment cases, are usually not automatically disqualifying. However, among the minimum standards of being a police officer in California is possession of good moral character. Any act from your past discovered during the background check that reflects poorly on your moral character may be grounds for a determination that you lack good moral character and may result in denial of employment as a police office. Where does shooting your abusive father fall to protect yourself and your mother fall in their estimation? Probably not good really. I can’t remember if the show ever mentioned whether he had a juvenile record. Maybe someone can clarify for us? Therefore I’m thinking he doesn’t have one and he could ultimately become a cop free and clear after his attorney days.

    So I’m thinking Bertie took the blame and while perhaps not incarcerated, she paid the penalty. Doing a quick search, California has corporal domestic abuse as a crime, bodily injury, that can go either felony or misdemeanor. Brandel’s attorney probably went for attempted murder in the beginning because of course they do and he would probably be a jerk. A plea bargain could have gotten it down to a misdemeanor which nowadays has some jail time up to a year and a fine.

    I’m thinking maybe your next question will be why did he leave the law to become a cop? I’ll leap ahead briefly. As a lawyer, he was on defense. As a cop, he was on the prosecution side. Practicing defense law is a hard occupation if what you’re interested in is justice which I feel would be strong in him with his experiences. It’s very frequently heartbreaking. You can’t help everyone. Not everyone wants to be helped. As a cop, one can go after the bad guys and catch them if you’re good at it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You make a good point. Bertie taking the fall would explain why she disappeared for so long I think he became a lawyer (as I mention below) is that he wanted to help people

      Liked by 1 person

    • Peakae, as Patricia Abbott stated, we learn in Internal affairs that the fact that Deeks shot is father is “privililedged information, it’s sealed in a juvie court.” In some of the research I did, I believe that this juvie court record could also be the result of him being a ward of the court for some amount of time after the shooting. Say for example if the police needed to investigate, and they don’t initially know that Bertie isn’t a danger to little Marty (kids lie to protect their parents all the time, and a savvy bad-guy parent may convince their child to cop to a crime the parent had committed knowing the kid would likely get off), he may have been put in a foster home or group home by a child protective agency on behalf of the court system. I think in CA, juvenile court is subsumed by family court (or vice versa?), so I think it’s also possible that his record may have had little/no impact on his ability to become a cop.

      That said, I do like your supposition that Berti would have confessed to protect Deeks and her public defender didn’t do a great job. To jump on Maria’s bandwagon below, perhaps that’s why we didn’t hear from Bertie for the first 5 seasons that we knew Deeks. Though I have a feeling the Bertie we all know and love would not have kept that little factoid quiet all this time if that was the case. I can just hear her now: “I spent a decade in prison for you and you don’t tell me you got engaged?!?” or “I did hard time so you wouldn’t have to. There were no conjugal visits, you know; I’m entitled to make up for lost time.” (These are kind of fun to come up with, lol.)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Good question. My headcanon for this is: He wanted to help people, and wanted to be on the right side of the law.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Once again so many good questions, and so many possibilities. Having watched Plan B recently, my first thought is how easily his first career choice could have been crime, the wrong side of the law. Only his innate goodness, the fact that even as a child he knew right from wrong, good from bad, kept him on the right path. That’s not to say his mother didn’t have a huge influence. I do lean towards a mentor of some sort coming to his aid when he shot his father. If that mentor was a lawyer, it might have inspired young Marty to go to law school. I don’t think young Deeks was ever going to go into anything other than law, I couldn’t see him going into teaching or commerce. So why not be a lawyer.

    As to why Deeks joined the police, my thoughts here are a little mundane. In the real world so many people train for one career, then do something else. The obvious reason he joined the police (probably too obvious, therefore wrong) is that he felt he could do more good/help more people if he ‘changed sides’. As peakae says ‘as a cop, one can go after the bad guys’. Perhaps he was tired of defending the guilty. There is no evidence he was unhappy as a Public Defender, he says himself he was good at it. He doesn’t seem averse to going back to it.

    I have no idea about the American legal system but wasn’t it in ‘Internal Affairs’ we learn his Juvenile Record was sealed. Perhaps I need to watch it again, always a pleasure. Oh yes, it would be great to get ECO’s ideas on all of this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for all the great comments. Looking forward to getting more of your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think we’ve been given all these crumbs from a cake that hasn’t been made yet, no not saying Deeks is half-baked. I don’t think the backstory has been written yet, but it’s so much fun helping with the recipe. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great article, Diane! One really does have to wonder why Deeks would spend three years in law school (humiliating himself by dancing to pay for some of it) study like a madman to pass the bar exam and then seek to defend people for peanuts, even if he does consider himself a rebel. I think a typical course for people who begin as public defenders is to go on to more lucrative careers as defense attourneys for law firms. Yes, a belief in our justice system (i.e. everyone is innocent until proven guilty and deserves a defense) is part of it, but earning the big bucks likely is as well for many people. Clearly money wasn’t Deeks’ motivation, so what was? And I agree, a PD seems an unlikely inclination for Deeks. Why not family law or a prosecutor for the state? #SoManyQuestions

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So I feel like maybe Deeks maybe got the idea of being a lawyer as a kid. We know he’s a talker (and sometimes a smartass-y one at that), and I remember growing up, hearing similar type kids getting told things like “Oh you like to hear yourself talk? maybe you should be a lawyer, you’d get to talk all day!” So I can see Deeks being on the receiving end of that for his loquacious spirit.

    I feel like this would have been compounded with his “help the underdog” nature. You can tell Deeks is the type of person who stands up for what is right, and I could definitely see him jumping in to defend anyone he found worthy. Whether it was deflecting someone’s reaction to him to keep someone else safe, or making excuses to keep himself/friends out of trouble. I see that hinting towards a career in law. My headcanon is that some fast talking from Deeks helped keep him and Ray out of TOO much trouble when they went joyriding as teens, and after that, Ray always joked that Deeks would have to go to law school and become a lawyer so he could be the one to keep him out of jail!

    I do also wonder how his experiences with the law influenced his decision as well, but until we know exactly what those were, it’s hard to apply them to this question! lol

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great article, Diane. This is something I’ve never thought too hard about, but it definitely seems like a great subject to frame a “Deeks, M.” around. I love hearing your and everyone else’s theories too. So many great ideas.


  8. I don’t think Deeks drifted into law school. After all, we’re looking at about 6-7 years of schooling (undergrad and then law school) and the Bar exam as well. I think he went into it very intentionally. After all, Deeks never really seems to do anything unintentionally (even though he may act like it’s unintentional). He may have started as a public defender both to help people, but then determined he’d have better luck working on the other side of the system. After all, he wouldn’t really be able to prevent someone from getting into trouble as a PD…he’d be dealing with them after they did. And since he couldn’t pick and choose his clients, he may have been stuck defending people he knew were guilty, and I don’t think that would sit too well with him. He may have started as a PD because it was the only option available and then decided he’d rather intervene instead of sweeping up afterwards. I think it also left him a bit jaded.


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