Who cares?

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” (Frederick Douglass)
“Thank you for calling…how may I help you today?”
It was my usual greeting on a usual busy-beehive day at the office where probate files and billing records were calling my name. This was not a usual call.
“Can I just ask you a question?” The voice was young, female, and slightly quivering.
“You may…” I waited.
The story came spilling out about a first-time offense, a class-A misdemeanor, assault with bodily injury to a family member, does she have to go to jail or could she get probation, bi-polar disorder that can’t be cured, please just answer the question! The young voice choked back tears, the fear audible. I wondered how old she was…18, maybe?
“I’m sorry, we are a civil law firm and don’t handle criminal cases. Would you like a referral to someone who could help you?”
She just wanted me to answer her question.
“Do you have a court date?” Yes, in another month.
“Do you have an attorney?” Yes. I suggested strongly that she talk with him or her.
“She’s never available to talk.”
Flashback to a county courtroom some months ago as I watched Robert meet with indigent criminal appointments, calmed them, connected with them, and almost always persuaded the judge to leave them in a better position from whence they came. Then gave them his business card and told them to call if they had any more problems. Case after case of young offenders who saw the light when their attorney couldn’t even see them. Did they need a stern talking-to? They got it. Did they need some compassionate understanding of difficult circumstances? They got it. Week after week at the courthouse I watched a young blind attorney give everything he had as he treated each person as the individual they were and made sure that justice was available to them.
“What do you mean, she’s not available? You call her office right now and leave a message for her to call you, that you need to speak with her. Ask your question until you get an answer. She works for YOU!”
Righteous anger is real. If you can’t give an individual the minimum time to talk with them as fellow-humans, what on earth are you doing in the legal profession? Law is people. Justice is for everyone. Thanks for living it out, Robert, and happy birthday!

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