Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lawyers And Courts

I am positive there are “good Lawyers” just as there is good and bad types of cancer.

The older I get the more cynical I get especially with the way various systems operate and on the very pinnacle of my list is the legal profession. Now we have all heard jokes directed at a particular ethnic group, race or profession and if we choose to chuckle we do so because of an inherent grain of truth that makes you nod your head in agreement. So when I hear a lawyer joke I end up with my neck in traction from excessive nodding.

I was recently in a court where you could observe the two classes that fundamentally made up the circus atmosphere - those about to be plundered of their last few remaining shekels and those doing the plundering. It was best described when I hear one court clerk introducing another new court clerk to a lawyer with the line “He is now one of us.” That about sums up the caste system known as courts. The legal system is operated on exactly the same premise as a casino - keep them coming back until they are broke.

Into this mix is tossed a glib and fast on their feet group of individuals who are know as lawyers. Now I have come to consider them very elegant in the art of deception, half truths, wordsmanship and what you and I would simply refer to as “creative liars.” Just look at our government that has a proliferation of lawyers representing us. Maybe instead of term limits we should bar the bar?

Howie Carr said “In the halls of justice the justice is in the halls.” So in the hallway I could easily eavesdrop on the wheeling and dealing taking place. Tit for tat…quid pro quo…anyway you turn it was an attempt at bargaining or was it? I was privy to two conversations that let me think otherwise. If a client ever heard what was going on they’d flee and take their chances being on the lamb.

Just about the worse crime imaginable is contempt of court. The judge has immense powers within his/her domain and usually enjoys that privilege thanks to a generous political contribution to a governor. I observed one judge continually complain in open court about her case load a time constraints. It became a shrill whine. All one has to do is look at our current job picture and then what a jurist rakes in to realize this is a cushy gig.

The idea in court is to intimidate. The building itself usually is a structure that attempts to incorporate some classic Greek into the architecture. The judge sits at the zenith of the court room so you must look up at the awe inspiring presence replete with black robe usually covering fashion that looked like at explosion at Sears. There are various functionaries scurrying about like worker bees bringing nourishment to the queen on the bench. They also are usually attired in tacky dress and uniforms that - to be kind - need to be taken out a bit. But it all comers down to intimidation. Our ballpark. Our rules.

What amazes me is the inability of a lawyer to say yes or no. They may demand a yes or no from a witness but when asked a direct question it is like trying to catch sand. I see our own Town Council when asked by the BOS for an opinion give statements such as “This could mean” or “Could possibly be interpreted as” or “Potentially could” and on and on it goes. The evasiveness is amazing.

Then you have the cult of linguistics that the Billy Flynn’s (look it up) thrive on. You attempt to read a legal document your eyes just glaze over and IMO that is 100% deliberate. Why confuse you with something you can actually comprehend? Just make sure that within every overly wordy document is enough trap doors to either let your client escape or to just screw over Jane and Joe citizen. I know some attempts have been made to modify some basic agreements but just go to the general laws of Massachusetts and take a look. Case closed!

What seems to keep everything rolling is the fact that many outrageous decisions are merely based on previous outrageous decisions thus continuing a pattern of dysfunction. IMO the law and common sense are polar opposites. So you simply reference other harebrained decisions with the goal of hoping your client becomes the beneficiary of another harebrained decision. Sometimes the ruse is amusing to the nth degree such as the William Fallon (look him up) that claimed the bribe paid to Sal DiMasi was a gratuity.

What really can get a “big score” is a class action suit where you can either legitimately build a serious case for grievances that have to be addressed. The big downside is creating a grievance that should not be addressed. Just a gander of afternoon TV or channels that pull in a .01 rating shows the occasional attempts to build a suit: “Have you ever had hemorrhoids?” Well…call us! You may be entitled to compensation. The term “ambulance chaser” came about for a reason.

Ah….compensation is what you get after they get their cut. What it really amounts to is a form of “vigorish” that will have the same impact on your compensation as a school of staving Piranhas will have on a water buffalo that wandered into the river. My own personal experience with this surfaces frequently with investments. In one settlement for a class action the plaintiffs (stockholders) received about 4% with the rest going you know where.

Now some of our greatest leaders have been lawyers and some of our greatest crooks have been lawyers so some type of cosmic balance seems to take place. I also notice that TV shows love to focus on the glamorous lives of three key groups in society - law enforcement, lawyers and the medical profession. As far as the law is concerned just go to any court on any day and all ideas of glamor quickly vanish. If sitting in a decrepit building attempting to formulate some type of bizarre defense for a client is glamor then I’ll stick to cleaning up the dog droppings in my back yard.

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