So Sue Me

4 Jan

by Roger White

As our civilization has lurched along, century after amazing century, I have noticed (well, I haven’t personally noticed the centuries roll along; I’m old, but not like Phyllis Diller old) that despite sweeping cultural changes brought on by all the sensational developments throughout human history, one true constant remains: Everyone hates lawyers.

Although those brave stalwarts of the legal profession have been the target of jokes and tirades and much gnashing of teeth since man first sued man (see Estate of Abel v. Cain, Isr. Court of Appeals, Sec. I [a], sub.nom.; sub.sand.; mayo.held), the art of insulting those of the barrister bent has now reached new heights.

And why? I’ll tell you why: They’re still lawyers.

Not to be accused of resisting acculturation, and against my better judgment and any warm, fuzzy feelings I may have begun to nurture in my dealings with the legal staff at the little nonprofit association I work for, I must cease running astride the bashing bandwagon and leap onto it.

For those who don’t follow serpentine sentences (which is a must if one is to edit lawyer-ese), I’m saying I have some bashing to do, as well. This is a kinder, gentler bashing, however. Consider my bashing as conducted with a Nerf hammer. (I should be hearing from the legal staff representing Nerf any day now.)

My beef? I could sit here and tell you that it has to do with the great misconnect between the original intent of the justice system to guarantee fair and impartial trials, how it seems today that so many courtrooms are no longer sanctuaries that seek the truth (especially when you have a multi-million-dollar defense team swaying a jury that the defendant—still holding the 21-inch kitchen knife in his bloody hands and laughing uncontrollably—is not guilty due to MoPac traffic or undiagnosed carpal tunnel syndrome or something).

I could passionately impart to you how blind lady justice weeps for today’s civilization. (I originally intended to take a swipe at Lady GaGa here, but I tactfully refrained.)

No, you know what sticks in my craw? And there are few things more painful than a pointed stick in the craw. It concerns the attorney’s genetic predisposition to attach a footnote to any utterance, syllable, hand gesture, or eye movement. When editing legal stories for my little nonprofit association magazine, I have to remember to save several feet of column space for footnotes. The all-time potentate and grand poobah of the footnote no longer works at this little nonprofit, but I can tell you that in one of his stories, his list of footnotes ran longer than the story itself. Not kidding.

In the name of decency and privacy rights, I shouldn’t mention the writer’s name, but it’s Bob Johnson, and he now works in Fort Worth. There’s another suit right there, I’m sure.

The following may give you an idea of something Bob the lawyer would give to me:

“According to1 the attorney general2, the Texas3 Constitution’s4 guarantee5 of privacy6 forbids requiring school district7 or other government8 employees9 to submit10 to random11 drug12 testing13 except to achieve14 a compelling state objective15 not achievable16 by less intrusive17, more reasonable means.18
1Meaning this is what the attorney general opined in his latest AG opinion.

2That would be the attorney general of Texas.

3The 28th state of the Union, admitted in 1845. See also Alamo, John Wayne, Luckenbach.

4Not to be confused with the smaller U.S. version of the Constitution.

5See dictionary definition of guarantee just to cover my rear.

6Id at privacy.

7Id at district.

8Id at ego.

9Super ego.

10Allow, also give in to, knuckle under.

11See busted.

12Wow, man.

13See Footnote 11.

14I forgot.

15Footnotes are cool.

16AG nom re 469 U.S. 134, In re E Pluribus Unum.

17Quite intrusive, arent they, these footnotes?

18Means. See Ways and Means. See the world. See Spot run.

Given the barrister’s instinctive penchant for protection—to the point of attaching a footnote to the word the—I sometimes try to imagine what lawyers were like as children, squabbling on the playground:

Little Lawyer #1: “Oh, yeah? Well my dad can beat up your dad, given that my dad is allowed proper training time and facilities and gives up smoking, plus with the codicil that your dad has to be blindfolded and bound.”

Little Lawyer #2: “No way. Your dad is so obese given his proper height-to-weight proportions that he could never catch my dad. And please sign this waiver that your dad won’t take action regarding possible libelous remarks about his body fat content.”

Little Lawyer #1: “Oh, no. I’m not signing. I demand a new argument. Teacher!”

Little Lawyer #2: “Ow, my eardrum! Damages! Damages!”

Ah, yes. These are the things I ponder instead of finishing up the Mediocre American Novel.19

19Copyright pending.

[Published in the Oak Hill Gazette, December 22, 2010]

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4 Responses to “So Sue Me”

  1. Brittany T. January 6, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    Hilarious! I was laughing out loud, drawing attention from someone near me wondering what had me laughing so hard. And I can laugh about this because I myself work with a handful of lawyers and am not a fan of endnotes or footnotes – especially, as described, when more of the page is filled with notes than actual text.

    • oldspouse January 6, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

      great thing about legal types, they CAN take a joke, yea? most of ’em, anyway! thanks, Brittany!

  2. MLR January 6, 2011 at 9:47 pm #

    True confession: I kind of like editing footnotes. Perfect pastime for someone who is slightly OCD. OK, a little more than slightly. I love finding that one missing period after et al or an incorrect abbreviation of Texas. The joy!

    (Yes, I have a life.)

    • oldspouse January 6, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

      You need help, MLR. Professional help.

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