I’ve got about two atoms of trust left in the political process, but I was trying to maintain some kind of hope in the legal system. Yesterday didn’t do that trust any good.
I’m training to be a guardian ad litem, and I was in court completing my required four hours of court observation before my swearing in. The first matter proceeded smoothly enough. But in the second case, the attorney for the mother screwed up. Badly. He stood up in court and made some kind of argument that left everyone in the courtroom scratching their heads. It had no apparent bearing on the case.
Turns out that everyone was so confused because the argument truly didn’t have any bearing on the case. He was talking about someone else. The court-appointed lawyer didn’t know anything worth knowing about the woman that he was supposed to be representing.
Later on in the day, another court-appointed lawyer showed up 45 minutes late to an adjudication. She hadn’t contacted her client in over 60 days, and she didn’t recognize him when she walked into the courtroom. To her credit, she did seem to know something about him and his case once she got going, but she got off to a rough start.
In theory, our legal system sounds like it should work pretty well. Put both sides of the story in one place with equal representation, and the truth is most likely to emerge. But in reality, the system founders badly when qualified representation is frequently only available to those who can afford to hire it. I have no doubt that somewhere there are court-appointed lawyers that care and work hard to represent their clients as well as they possibly can. But too many people get a lawyer who is only working for the court because (s)he can’t get a job anywhere else.
Justice isn’t for sale here as overtly as it is in other countries. But it’s for sale nonetheless.