Clarification: The following post was an assignment for a speech class I took many years ago. Note, this is a fictionalized account of real legal mal-issues. Bottom line, do what you can to avoid the judicial system.
Your day in court is finally here. You’re dressed for success and ready to go forth. Confidently you enter the courtroom, certain “Justice will prevail.” Unbeknownst to you, you’re entering Real-Time Russian Roulette–a place where truth and justice are mere words, arbitrary and capricious results common, and facts have little to do with outcome. Welcome to the American Judicial System.
Truth? The truth is Aunt Bertha and Uncle Clive ate a meatball sandwich at the California Mid-State Fair in the late 1980s which contained an unexpected special ingredient…hepatitis. To vindicate their death (and provide for their three young children to whom I am guardian), I sued the State. The case was summarily dismissed. “Why?” you ask. Governmental Immunity. The government has to grant permission before I (or anyone else) can bring suit. Translation: There was no statute under which to sue.
Justice? My nephew broke his leg. I rushed him to the County Hospital expecting x-rays and a cast. Instead they severed his limb–amputated right below the knee. Eight months into the one-year statute of limitations I met with an attorney to discuss the case. She told me it was solid. She requested I bring her a copy of the government claim. “What’s that?” I asked. “According to the Claim Statute,” she answered, “you have to submit a claim to the correct government agency within six months of the incident. Failing that, you can’t sue.” (She went on to say if I had picked the wrong agency, I was out of luck and couldn’t proceeded anyway. But, obviously, by then it didn’t matter.)
Arbitrary? Rather than uproot my nieces and nephews I moved in with them. Shortly thereafter we were served with eviction notices. Being current on taxes and with the title free and clear, I brought suit on behalf of my wards. It turned out a four-lane highway was “needed.” In the name of eminent domain–the right of the many overrides the right of the few–the land was confiscated. The pittance received from the Feds wasn’t even in the ballpark of fair-market value.
Capricious? Wanting to invest my wards’ money, I tracked down Uncle Clive’s best friend and accountant, Ray. The man Uncle Clive trusted with his life wasn’t trustworthy with his money. Ray did my uncle (and other clients) wrong by embezzling millions. After a three-year chase, the Feds caught him. Ray was sentenced to 18 months in a minimum security institution. When you ask Ray about the money, he says, “It’s gone.” When you ask how he maintains his lavish and comfortable lifestyle without working, he changes the subject.
Facts? One day while drinking coffee with my neighbor, her ex pounded on the front door. She grabbed the phone to call 9-1-1 as we ran out the back. Earlier she had a restraining order against him. I made it through the fence separating our property. She didn’t. He caught her and, as I watched in horror through the slats, pummeled her to death. Certain he’d be put away for life, I testified against him at trial. However, his attorney plea bargained. With the ex’s Asian mob connections, he gave enough information to incarcerate three high-ranking members. Because my friend’s demise wasn’t murder, rather involuntary manslaughter aka “an unfortunate accident,” her ex was sentenced to mandatory anger management counseling and put on probation.
Knowing every case has the right of appeal, I appealed. I wanted another pair of eyes looking over the evidence. Appeal denied. The courts’ backlog makes rush hour traffic appear to flow like NASCAR. The “system” is set up so those appealing death row convictions receive first priority. According to the California Department of Corrections Death Row Tracking System, as of July 7, 2014 California had 748 death row inmates.
An attorney told me he liked the jury system because the public at large had more common sense than a judge. There were better odds of a jury returning a reasonable verdict. I disagree. When called to serve, I told the judge I didn’t believe I could be a fair and impartial juror because the presumption of innocence until proven guilty contradicts human nature. If the defendant were innocent, he wouldn’t need a lawyer. And, if for the sake of argument he needed an attorney, the defendant would at least be present during jury selection. His absence proved his guilt. The judge just looked at me and smiled. The prosecuting attorney looked at me and smiled. The public appointed defense attorney nodded off and didn’t challenge me–peremptorily or for cause. I was furious when “selected.” (As if I had a choice.) Then, the testimony was so boring, and the courtroom so hot, I fell asleep. In the end, the other jurors agreed with me and convicted the guy.
So, good luck in court today. You’ll need it.
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