Inalienable rights…for sale?

The ABA Journal recently posted an article about affordable legal representation or, mejor dicho, the lack thereof for the middle class. 

This article got me thinking.  First, if a person cannot afford representation, then they cannot afford justice.  If this is true, then aren’t our “inalienable rights” really just a commodity, a luxury item? 

There is an old saying, “a man who defends himself, has a fool for a client,” but what if self-defense is a plaintiff/defendant’s only option? 

Most potential litigants go from attorney to attorney, a hope-killing, demoralizing experience.  They are shown, like a Neman Marcus store window, beautiful things by the sales clerk (attorney)- like “freedom” and “justice.”  The customer’s eyes light up, their heart begins to feel light.  Someone is about to come in to their corner, someone who will make everything better, turn the wrongs into rights.  Then, just as the light at the end of a proverbial tunnel is starting to emerge, the sales clerk snatches these hopes, dreams… justice, from the customer’s anxious, desperate hands and says, “That’ll be $200 an hour please, with a $5,000 retainer upfront.” 

Suddenly, that light which seemed almost within grasp, fades as the customer’s heart sinks. “But…I was wronged!  This isn’t fair! What am I supposed to do now?” or, arguably worse, “But, I’ll go to jail,” or “lose my kids,” or “lose everything I’ve worked my entire life for.”  And, then, desolation sinks in as the customer leaves yet another law firm that they can’t afford and, along with the law firm, leaves their rights, their property, and the future that they’ve been told they can’t afford.

This has happened to me- can you tell?  I’ve been wronged.  I’ve been faced with losing everything I had spent my life building.  I’ve been devastated.  I’ve searched for help in an attempt to protect everything I knew was right and fair.  And I’ve been told by my, supposed, potential, protectors, “You’re right.  You have rights that can and should be protected.  We could fight for you and win. But you can’t afford our protection.”

This is outrageous.  And it is not justice.

Our courts, our police, our laws, our jails all operate under the fiction that every individual who crosses their paths will have access to the protections guaranteed in our founding documents. Without being able to afford these protections, our system of justice does not function the way that it is supposed to.  Innocent people lose their homes, their children, their livelihoods, their freedom. 

This is not “truth, justice, and the American Way.” At least, it shouldn’t be.

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Published on August 3, 2010 at 11:05 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Useful post ! Thanks..!


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