I needed a lawyer. I was being harassed and my job jeopardized. So, I went to get a lawyer. I call a major firm in Cleveland, Ohio. Though I’m not sure how MAJOR they were, but the did run fancy TV commercials.
“Lawfirm of___________. How May I help you today?”
“Yes, I have a possible harassment and discrimination suit against my employer, and would like to talk with a lawyer. ”
“No problem. Could I get some information from you now? ”
After giving my name and vitals, she asked me about the particulars of the case. That took a while.
Finally I ask, “Is this something you can handle?”
“We handle these types of cases all the time. Do you have any evidence of these incidents?”
“Yes, I have a timeline including all people involved, documentation supporting all the incidents including some from my employer, witnesses, photographs, lots of things. ” She sounded very receptive, though.. she was supposed to.
“I have a few more basic questions before I confer with our lawyers. Do you rent or own your home? ”
“Eh..rent?” That was an odd one.
“What is your monthly salary?”
What the fuck is this? Though I didn’t say that, what I did say changed her mood as if I did. I told her what she wanted to know.
“On moment please”, she droned.
My salary? What did that have to do with…. I didn’t even have time to think the rest of my thought when she returned to the line.
“I’m sorry. We can’t help you with your case at this time. Have a nice day”
“Uh…Than….” My goodby was too slow. She hung-up.
A case that had merit suddenly doesn’t when you’re income puts you in the middle-class demographic (or a little below, really). I’d felt as if I gotten screwed twice. It isn’t like a hundred years go. Citizens can no longer access their legal system without a lawyer. If we have a legal system based only on money, then only the rich can use the system. I don’t know how this happened, but for everyone else, there is no legal system. Are the citizens of the U.S. being forced back to the ‘vendetta’ system of justice? Was this the intent? Though I did finally find a lawyer to actually talk to me, I got the same impression. Law was just as much about negotiation and marketing as it was the law. Although he was willing to take the case, he warned me of the expense for all the above. Though I walked-away from the session with a strategy that got me some of what I wanted without expenditure, I still felt cheated. Organizations will not change unless forced to do so. And in our system, that means economic incentive- the big wad of cash. In this case, a penalty needed to be taken from my employer to provide incentive to stop their behavior. I may be fine now, but that same system still exists and will only endanger the next guy. No incentive provided- no changes occur, and a law meant to protect goes unused for want of money.
Sometimes I imagine a system of government where both prosecution and defense attorneys are provided by the government. Their jobs are to simply argue the law. That doesn’t mean a defendant can’t hire a personal attorney to work in concert with the government one. If a litigant feels the need for a little courtroom flash or to ensure his or her rights are being protected, the private attorney could assist. But, this isn’t a necessity. I wonder what a system like that would look like. The playing-field may not be completely even, but it would be better. I wonder how a society like that would be different. I wonder how I can get there.