Has It Happened To You?
You’ve heard of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, child abuse, and so on. But have you ever heard of legal abuse? Maybe you were a victim and didn’t know it. I think attorneys are overstepping their boundaries in the strategies they use to win their cases.
I recently took a lawsuit all the way to the United States Supreme Court without an attorney. Not by choice, you can be sure. The other side had so much money and power that they influenced our previous attorney to convince us we had no case, influenced other attorneys not to represent us, and influenced the news media not to do a story so we couldn’t get an attorney. I contacted more than 60 attorneys, many of whom helped us until they had conversations with opposing counsel. Then I would never hear from them again. I tried repeatedly to settle the matter, but I don’t think the defense attorneys even told their clients, since they would make more money if the matter dragged on. For a period of eight months, I struggled through legal briefs, deadlines, depositions and 22 hearings against seven defendants and six corporate attorneys. Ultimately, I believe the defendants influenced the judges so that all of the claims were dismissed. In December, 2002, I wrote to President Bush, the FBI and the SEC, asking for an investigation of government fraud. They wrote back that they would, but did nothing. I continued to try and appeal the matter, and in December 2003, I finally reached the United States Supreme Court. I had to know whether “justice for all” really existed, at least in the highest court in our land. But three months later, they denied my request to be heard, and there was no where else to go.
So, where is the justice? I don’t know anyone who believes that O.J. Simpson was innocent. Are there that many lawyers who are loyal to money instead of what is right? I know of a case where opposing attorneys pretended to discuss issues in an empty courtroom, intentionally leaving their clients in a hallway for two hours so they would fight more and the case would drag on. I knew a young woman who filed a paternity suit against a man who was wealthy, and the attorneys dragged it on for a year and a half. She was so stressed that she ended up with no child support. My own mother worked for a lawyer she’d known for years, and was seriously ill when he called and said they had offered a settlement in her minor car accident. After learning she was on her deathbed, he ran to the hospital to obtain her signature. Luckily, she pulled through, and six months later when I asked her what she did with the settlement check, she said, “What check?” The attorney had kept her money! Another couple I knew were divorcing, and had gone to the same attorney. They agreed on everything, and merely wanted him to file the paperwork. After giving him $800, they called repeatedly, but he did nothing for six months. Eventually, they got back together, and he kept their money, too.
Our society encourages us to recycle, conserve energy, etc., but what are we doing to try and preserve justice in our country? I am tired of attorneys taking advantage of people. If intentional emotional distress is against the law, why are some attorneys allowed to use it as a strategy to win lawsuits? In our case, I believe there are those who went so far as to engage in civil conspiracy, collusion and fraud with their clients. Lawyers are not above the law, and should not be allowed to “break the law to make the law.” If such practices are not occurring to a large degree, why weren’t we able to acquire legal assistance from anyone? Although I contacted Erin Brockovich several times and met her once, even she would not assist us. I believe that even her law firm realized that exposing the illegal and unethical practices of attorneys could change the way attorneys do business: fewer lawsuits, faster justice, and less money for attorneys. I have to wonder… could they have won their suit if they hadn’t partnered with another attorney who had money and clout?
Since our case was denied review and never given publicity, I wrote a book called TEN SECRETS You Must Know Before Hiring a Lawyer and created the Association for Honest Attorneys (A.H.A!). We are still hoping to pass a justice amendment to the U.S. Constitution for two reasons: (1) so that people will have the right to be legally represented in a civil suit if they can’t afford it, and (2) to require computerization of evidence prior to filing any lawsuits or charges against a person or entity. If nothing else, please consider this advice before you hire a lawyer:
- (1) Don’t believe everything an attorney tells you (research your claims at the law library - your attorney’s advice may be benefiting the other side).
- (2) Realize that in many cases, the attorneys (even yours) are trying to stress you out - if they prolong your case, they make more money.
- (3) No matter how good your case is, the side with the most money to pay their attorney wins.
I believe there is something we can all do to preserve justice. When it comes to civil lawsuits: don’t go there. In this day and age where everyone wants to sue everyone else, it is best to try and resolve our differences. Try mediation, or make a settlement offer that meets someone half way. If the issues are minor, let it go and chalk it up to lessons learned. Until our government takes steps to ensure “justice for all”, don’t make the attorneys richer. Don’t become another victim of legal abuse
Joan Heffington, C.E.O.
Association for Honest Attorneys