Thursday, November 29, 2007

Se What Now?

At my job, I have to sometimes address legal arguments made by people representing themselves in a lawsuit. It’s always exhausting.

Now, I should clarify that it’s not that I hate people who act pro se--people who represent themselves in lawsuits. I actually think it’s great that people who can’t afford an attorney will not let that fact stop them from standing up for their rights. And I love that we have a system of justice that allows for that.

But the thing about law school is, it teaches us attorneys to speak the same language. Pro se litigants, however, unless they are attorneys or went to law school, do not have the benefit of that common background. And these people, though sometimes they make great arguments, often they make arguments I can't respond to.

I’m not exactly sure how to explain it to you without getting into the boring details of my job, so I’ll make up a non-law example. Say that I want to go see a movie, but before I can do that, I need to get approval. The rule is that before I can go see the movie, I must present my proposal to an independent arbiter at a hearing, and then a hypothetical movie-seeing approval board (hereinafter “the board”) gets an opportunity to object to the proposal, and then I have to respond to its objections.

So I say, “I want to go see Dan in Real Life this weekend.” The board might say, “if you go, you can only go to the matinee because, according to your bank balance, you are broke,” or it might say, “You cannot go see that movie because your dad hates Steve Carell.” To those arguments I can respond, “my bank balance lies, and here, I have evidence of that, and also, I have a credit card, and I have evidence of that,” or “my dad doesn’t care if I go see that movie so long as I let him tell me how much he hates Steve Carell, and here’s my dad to testify to that fact.” I can deal with these arguments.

Now suppose that instead, the board says, “You can’t go see that movie because the sky is yellow, and because Britney Spears is a man! One, Two, Three, Four, Twelve, Twenty-Two! Eepples and Benenes!”

What do I do with that? My initial reactions are “oooookaaaay”, “how is that relevant,” and “huh?” How do I respond? I can’t just say, “in the what now?” The arbiter is sitting there, waiting to see what my responses are. So I’m sort of stuck trying to make sense of nonsense.

I really want to go see that movie, but I’m not sure I’m ever going to make it out of the hearing. And that's my day today, y'all.


Deals On Wheels said...

You can only go if you see it with me. And, yes. The sky IS yellow. Where have you been?


Amstaff Mom said...

A want to ate aepples and bananaes?