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Just ADMIT IT – the court system is broken…and sucks

Have you ever seen where someone told a lie and it was taken on face value as truth, and was repeated time and again by other people, other entities, and was considered actual fact, actual history?

And even repeatedly cited?

Mike Nesmith, the famed member of the Monkees, ADMITTED before he passed away that HE did such a thing, albeit unintentionally, to generate the absolute fabrication that the Monkees outsold the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined. So someone can tell a story, someone can perpetuate a lie, and it can be held out as truth…and cited by others as truth. Amazing. How do things like this happen and people get away with it? Actually, thanks to the dysfunction of the court system, it happens all the time.

There is only a one-year statute of limitations. Something that seems so unfair. Some person or entity can go around saying anything and everything about you, damaging your character, and ruining your life for 366 days and if you don’t find out about it before Day 366, you just have to live with it…even though it continues to be said about you on into eternity. There is something wrong with that. There is something wrong with the entire judiciary…regardless of how attorneys and law firms market themselves at champions of good.

What I have learned about the court system is that it is completely dysfunctional, that truth means absolutely nothing…the law means nothing.

Every day there are people who walk into a courtroom seeking justice…whether it be in the legal sense or simply to feel a sense of validation that they were wronged. Not everyone emerges from the courtroom happy. There are winners and there are losers. There has to be. Not everyone can win.

At least half the people will be unhappy with the results of their day in court. That is not unexpected. But expectations are what gears people up for the big let-down…the expectations that a decision will be made based on truth, justice, and the American way.

The decisions, though, are being made by judges, men and women, human beings, just like you and me…educated but froth with emotions just like anyone else. Judges are not robots. They are not the old Batcomputer. With the Batcomputer, Batman and Robin would punch in a question and, after a few beeps and flashing lights, an answer would emerge. And regardless of how many times you put that question into the Batcomputer, the answer would always be the same. Two and two will always add up to four. It is not like that with judges. They are human beings and have “judicial discretion” on their side.

So sometimes, regardless of what the law actually says, a judge will make a ruling in contradiction of that law, deciding a case strictly on his or her feelings on that particular day. Then it becomes their “interpretation” of the law. I have personally come to experience the utter frustration of the judicial process as a litigant, and having worked in the legal field for a number of years, have had to calm down clients who believed they were railroaded after believing their cases were “slam dunks.” Slam dunks happen in basketball…there are no slam dunks in the courtroom.

Navigating the legal system is really a conundrum. It costs money to have an attorney… a lot of money. So if you can’t afford an attorney, you can’t seek justice. Well…not exactly. You can be a pro se litigant – representing yourself without the aid of an attorney. However, while there are some judges who give leeway to pro se litigants, a lot of judges will just chew you up and spit you out while you stand in their courtroom. Add to that the fact that you will most likely be dealing with the attorney for your opposition who will utilize every bullying tactic possible, approaching the line of unethical behaviour but not stepping over it. So although you are guaranteed the right to self-representation, the odds are greatly stacked against you. But then if you spend the money on an attorney, it is money out of pocket just to start. And, quite often, your “retainer” is gone before you even file a pleading and  you have to constantly cough up even more money as time goes on. And…there is no guarantee you will win.

Remember the game of Russian Roulette? It’s a potentially, and most likely, lethal game of chance in which a player places a single bullet in a six-cylinder revolver, spins the cylinder, places the muzzle against his head, and then pulls the trigger. There is a one in six chance you lose. Stepping into a courtroom is an altered form of Russian Roulette. Altered in the fact that, rather than a single bullet, there are five bullets in the six cylinders. The chances of NOT shooting yourself are greatly reduced to just one in six. Regardless of how many times I would try to explain this to friends and relatives and clients, it would just fall on deaf ears.

The fact is, regardless of the law (statutes, rules, case law), regardless of any agreements, contracts, morals, ethics, etc., you just never know what can happen. Just like you will find that in the medical field there are good doctors and bad doctors, so too can you find the same in the legal arena. There are good lawyers and bad lawyers. And there are good judges and bad judges. I have witnessed cases where judges have done the unbelievable, making decisions that went against case law, even went against written agreements, and simply did not make sense.

Lawyers are not interested in the truth…they are not interested in what is right, and what is wrong. They are only interested in one thing – accumulating billable hours. They are not interested in settling something amicably. They are not interested in settling anything quickly. Quite frankly, it is the exact opposite. They don’t make money if something settles amicably and quickly. There is absolutely no motivation for lawyers to settle things quickly. They look for contentiousness. They want contentiousness. They NEED contentiousness. They THRIVE on contentiousness. That’s how they make their money. They are not working for YOU…they are working for THEMSELVES. They count on you being angry. They count on the other side turning down any so-called “offer” that is made. They don’t care if you win. It does not matter to them. What matters to them is how long they can drag it out. How long they can have a revenue stream. How long you are a cash cow.

What Laura Dern did in the movie Marriage Story not only captured her an Academy Award, it also captured what happens in the real world of “law” perfectly. I worked for a short time in a small family law office in Morris County, New Jersey. A woman came into the office, having been referred by a friend, to have a simple child support agreement drawn up. Her boyfriend was a player for the New York Jets, they already had one child together, and she was pregnant with the second. She had no complaints, she and her boyfriend simply wanted things memorialized. She stated that he was taking good care of her, he bought her a Mercedes and paid all of the bills. Within minutes, the partner attorney whisked a junior attorney, a senior “of counsel” attorney, and a paralegal into the conference room.

What was thought to be a free consultation and a one-on-one meeting with the partner attorney that should have lasted all of 30 minutes at most, turned into a boyfriend bashing session (by the attorneys) for nearly three (3) hours with the partner attorney (at $450 an hour), junior attorney (at $250 an hour), the senior “of counsel” attorney (at $450 an hour) and the paralegal (at $150 an hour). That totals $1,300 for three hours…a total of $3,900. When she was done, obviously dazed and her head spinning, the woman was going to be charging her boyfriend with domestic violence, and going for some exorbitant amount of child support and other monies. The partner attorney said, “Don’t worry…HE will be the one paying for all of this.” The poor woman didn’t know what hit her. And the poor guy was about to get hit in a way that he never got hit on the football field. For what?

The REAL problem is multi-faceted: 1) You have a faulty system that is built on dragging things out, that motivates attorneys to create billable hours. So there is zero motivation to work toward settlement or quick resolution; 2) You have attorneys who don’t care about the truth. Truth matters nothing. It’s about ZEALOUSLY representing their client AT ALL COST regardless of the consequences and fallout; 3) You have judges who are, most likely, only judges because they were HORRIBLE attorneys. ANY decent attorney makes at least $250,000 a year and makes their own schedule. They don’t give that up to be a judge making half of that and having their schedule dictated to them. It is VERY RARE that you find a good, honest, THOROUGH judge. Some are just a disgrace to the bench; 4) Litigants LIE and get away with it WAY TOO OFTEN. There is no penalty for perjury. So it is like the Wild, Wild West. Anything goes, there are no rules. It is not about truth. It is not about what is right or wrong. It is STRICTLY about character assassination and who can out-sling whom and who can out-last whom financially. And when the dust settles…and the money runs out…it’s the last man/woman standing who wins.

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