It’s amazing to see the energy and passion people are willing to invest in an online comment or post they have put some thought into and spent some time crafting to make a compelling point, (or I have crafted for them to read) all while listening to that little voice inside of my head telling me that no matter what you say, and no matter what is really true…you are never going to let anything I say, or explain, or do, change your opinion about anything…and I am not the only person who thinks this way either …in fact most of the people I have asked have agreed. There have been almost as many times where I have been asked if it were possible for me to consider what they had to say objectively? Or was my mind made up? Of course I would promise it was no problem …I could be objective etc. while at the same time in the back of my mind I was saying to myself …There is No freeking way!
Well …I guess I wasn’t lying after all…because apparently I was capable of being objective enough and willing to consider another viewpoint enough, that someone did.
By now you are probably sitting on the edges of your seat, wondering which important principle or value I sold out on …right?
Well…Don’t get too excited …It wasn’t one of my Top 5 Marquee Values or Beliefs(like abortion, gay marriage etc. nothing like that) OK…Here it is: Ever since I moved to the US full time about 7 years ago…living in the Bay Area…listening to the hometown conservative: Michael Savage… and since I lived alone my first year i would often times turn on the TV to keep me company late at night while I studied. The ad rates must be really cheap at 2:00 am and somewhere between every commercial and every other commercial was an attorney or a law firm advertising for that weeks latest accident victims or bad marriage victims or newly in trouble bad criminals … I got to the point where I was certain I would recognize 100 attorneys on sight, walking down the street, and could recite their entire ad from memory …OK maybe it might have been only 50…. but you get my point right? It was alot!
Everybody at one time or another has laughed when they are told about about law firms with names like, “Dewey Cheatum and Howe”… and who hasn’t laughed at the mental image they see in their heads when someone refers to an “ambulance chaser” or you tell or listen to the latest funny lawyer joke etc. ..right?
After a month or so of watching these non stop ads…I quickly figured out that there were requirements that had to be met in order for a man to become one of these narcissistic, late night, TV star attorneys. First and foremost they had to be either short, fat, and bald… or, short, fat, and wear a bad toupee, they were required to wear a really bad suit. In fact, there was one 6 month stretch, I was pretty certain all 50 of them were sharing and wearing the same shirt, tie, and suit. There were nights I would laugh until I cried …You probably had to be there! Don’t worry and stop reading…it doesn’t change the story if you were there or not.
What I told myself back then which has sustained me through the last 5 years or so is this: No matter what any attorney ever says or does in the future ….There is NOTHING they could possibly do or say that could make me think less of them than I already did… seriously… these late night, electronic ambulance chasers in their bad suits with their hair (if they had any) all slicked back and pleading with people to call them right away 24/7 …even offering to meet them at their house, or at their hospital bedside…
They had no pride and they knew no shame!
Well, that opinion is no longer true and it was changed by the comments of several other people online at the Oregon Live board. It’s my fault for being wrong …I shouldn’t have underestimated their ability to sink even lower than I thought possible.
This story is one that I think really needs to be discussed and not buried and forgotten. The story the Oregonian had published was about a man who had been sexually abused over the course of several years by a now deceased, man of the cloth. As much as I loathe admitting that it’s true; because as a devout, practicing, obedient Catholic, I take any attack on the Church very personally. The story made it clear …there is no question that this man was a legitimate victim of “Catholic priest-gate” and had suffered tremendously because of it. When the stories started to break in the newspapers and people started to come forward he did what the rest of them all did …he hired an attorney to sue the Church. Here is the very quick chronology of events:
1. He found an attorney (“Attorney 1”) (it’s important to say up front since he is a friend of mine, that neither one of the attorneys in the story were Kelly Clark who’s principled and professional (and did I mention …also successful) advocacy for alleged victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy and leaders of the Boy Scouts have made him one of the most prominent and recognized attorneys in the area on this topic) and signed a contingent fee agreement to sue the Church on his behalf which he did for the next year or so the victim retained an attorney and signed a contingent fee agreement to sue the Church on his behalf which he did for the next year or so …then unhappy with the progress of the case
2. Once again after well over 1 year (maybe even two) of his case pending he fired Attorney #1 and hired Attorney #2 …Apparently he didn’t sign a retainer agreement with #2, but agreed verbally to a split of 60/40
3. 3 days after Attorney #2 (with no doubt really really good stationary) enters the picture …he settles the case for $900,000.00.
4. Attorney #2 puts the money into his ‘trust’ account and takes his 40% off the top (for his days work) and refuses to ‘split the fee’ with Attorney #1
5. Fast forward to today…which by the way I think it’s an important part of this story to tell you is just over 7 years after Attorney #2 deposited the 900k into his trust account.
Are you sitting down? Good!
6. Of the 900k paid by the church to settle the case (the original 900k) guess how much of it went to pay his legal fees? ….ok…Now guess how much of the remaining balance of the money has been paid to the man who was victim in this case?
7. The answers to the two questions in #6 above are:
a) The total of this man’s Attorney fees totaled… $877.000.00
b) The total the amount the victim has been paid out of his settlement 7 years after the case was settled and paid? …Zero!
The newspaper contacted a few other legal professionals and a spokesperson for the Oregon State Bar and their main concern about this was the ‘possibility if a story like this got out there it could cast attorney’s in a negative light” …Really? Do you think? After reading about the treatment this vulnerable and trusting man who endured years of sexual abuse….got from the these two members of the Oregon bar …How could I have not thought less? How could anyone possibly think less of what attorney’s have been slowly doing to our system?
My question…other than ..what do you think of this outcome.. is to draw attention to the fact that somehow attorneys have managed to exempt themselves from state oversight, accountability and punishment mechanisms when things like this happen …and they happen ….although maybe not to this degree) all the time. We have allowed only attorneys to avoid the type of scrutiny we require of everyone else, trusting them when they tell us that the Bar will be responsible for policing their own ranks …in private. Have we lost our minds?