Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Whole Truth

and nothing but the truth, so help me God. This is what the witness swore to speak before I deposed him. My first deposition. I freaked out for this ordeal. Why?

First I Do Not want to work in Litigation. Depositions are Litigation--and an especially icky form of it, too.

Second, my boss, genius crack-smoker that he is, somehow decided that for my First Ever Deposition, I should depose a litigation Partner at a large Law Firm. Yes, a Partner. A man who graduated from law school in 1984--when I was seven years old. An attorney who practice of law began before I learned how to write cursive or divide numbers. Besides that horror, the room was packed with attorneys: Me, EM (my colleague on the file), the Partner/deponent, his counsel, opposing counsel & worst of all--My Boss. I imagined that my boss was going to react to my fledgling deposition skills similarly to the way my dad acted when I drove a car for the first time: pumping the imaginary break, alternating flailing and clinging arms, stern/horrified looks that convey nothing but disappointment and fear: except my dad has much more tact and restraint than my boss can muster.

Oh yeah, and it was hot in the building because the air conditioning hasn't been working well. Nothing that a lined suit can't make a million times worse.

So anyway, I uncharacteristically Freaked Out. Early in the morning as Chris and I rode to the farmers' market, I was tempted by the realization that if I was hit by a car, I probably wouldn't have to take the deposition. Bad Thinking. But this was the train of thought I couldn't derail. I was in "Flight" mode instead of fight.

But the hands of the clock continued to point me closer and closer to my doom, and I became resigned to my fate. I realized that my boss was at a lunch meeting and might be late for the deposition. Would I start the deposition without him if given the chance? Absolutely.

He arrived moments before it started and gave me permission to begin without him. The witness was sworn and I began asking my questions. Less than five minutes into the dep, I was really relaxed and getting the witness to open up. I barely noticed when my boss entered the room--and began reading his mail. EM was between us, so I couldn't see if my boss ever reacted to the dep. Besides, I was deep in conversation with the witness: I gave sympathetic, understanding smiles and head nods--but nothing that will show up on the transcript. This partner admitted fully to several matters that I couldn't have even hoped he would give me a crumb. He walked the path I set him upon smoothly and smiling almost the whole time--even as opposing counsel flinched several times as I weakened his case.

After it was over, the partner said "damn good deposition for someone who must only be practicing for a few years." I thanked him and bubbily told him that it was my first deposition ever. He, his counsel and opposing counsel started and looked at each other in surprise, before telling my boss that I have skills.

So this is why I need to get the hell out of litigation: I am good at it, and my boss knows it. He has told me that most of the time my friendliness and open manner will work perfectly well, but that more importantly, "no one will fuck with you, because you won't let them." I can tell that he is just salivating to watch that part of me in action in trial sometime. It's sort of sick, but there are times that I know he pushes me until I push back because he is pleased to see my temper flare a bit to bring out my harder side. Every experienced litigator I have met has told me that I am a born litigator.

However there are several problems with this. As I mentioned I don't want to be a litigator and hate the practice of litigation. Being good at it seems like it could somehow trap me.

Another problem is that I don't even know the truth in the cases I deal with. I know my clients' version and the opposing parties' version. From this, we develop a theory that helps our client and roll with it, adapting it as we learn more. But never, never do I actually know what the hell happened.

I remember watching TV or reading books about crimes and thinking that I could Never defend a person who I knew was guilty. I still feel this way. However, it never becomes an issue, because I never know the truth. The premise that the adversarial system of law will uncover the truth is the biggest pile of bullshit that I've ever encountered. Nowhere in the practice of law does the truth take precedent over anything.

I have no idea whether or not my client did what she is accused of in this case. I know that she says that she didn't, and we are uncovering testimony to help support her claim against the allegations. But I honestly don't know. The facts cut both ways. We will never learn.

This explains a lot about defense attorneys--they don't have to suffer a crisis of conscious, because they never have the need. As long as they seek to prove their case, they need not be concerned about the truth, or lack of it. Very bizarre. Our work is the manipulation of words and the solving of puzzles. The facts of a case are relevant only so far as they help or harm our theory. Testimony is more important for what people admit or who can be impeached than for what it truly means. How disturbing and discouraging--here I am, right in the thick of the matter, with access to all witnesses and much privileged information--yet I still don't have a clue about what actually happened. If I don't fucking know what happened, even though I have much more information than is actually admissible, then how in the world can a judge or jury be expected to figure this shit out?

What a joke. The system of law, which is promoted as the means to uncover the truth actually distorts and conceals much more than it reveals. Sure, Justice is blind: because it is too fucking cowardly to pull the cloth from its eyes. What a joke.


At 7:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're making me fall in love with you

At 12:17 PM, Blogger Nathan said...

I want to tell you to use your powers for good. But then, I also want to cry...

At 1:52 PM, Blogger Frick said...

I always thought that lady justice wore a blindfold because she was into the whole bondage thing. The scale is to weigh the money. Who ever pays the most can basically have their way with her.


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