I'm not sure where I learned my sense of what I felt the legal system should be growing up.

If I had to guess, I would probably have to say shows like: Matlock, Murder She Wrote, Columbo, and Miami Vice.

Maybe I should blame TV for my innate need to speak truth and expose wrong doing.

In all of those shows, common themes were portrayed.

  • Bad guys were caught and brought to justice
  • Lying is bad
  • Good judges and good lawyers never lie
  • Judges could see what was wrong, who was lying and rule rightly
  • The victim of the crime had something in their life that made things right again. Only when I would grow up, would I understand the proper term for that is "remedy."
  • Sometimes it's very necessary to speak up and speak out when certain things are at stake. Your reputation could be harmed in the process or threats could be made toward you.

I grew up with an unwavering belief that this is how things were. One of my grandmothers was a legal secretary for 35 years (give or take) prior to her death.

I grew up visiting her office, meeting with other legal secretaries, paralegals, and of course, the attorneys themselves.

As a child, I was kept from the case details of the clients that made their way in and out of the office. And rightly so. Much of it would not be age appropriate and divulging details would break confidentiality agreements.

I didn't know everything that happened behind closed doors, but I did know somehow that every time my grandmother had to type up some paperwork or hurry to the courthouse to file it before closing, a bad guy, somewhere was about to pay and the victim would have things set right for them again.

Afterward, as a child, most of the family would even be home in time for dinner.

Bad guys caught. Justice served. Dinner eaten. Life was good.

It wouldn't be until fifteen or so years later, that I would experience first hand what was actually happening with those various pieces of paper.

Bad guys were caught and brought to justice.

man wearing jacket and black mask
No offense to the guy in the ski mask. Photo by Lasaye Hommes / Unsplash

But sometimes they aren't.

Sometimes bad guys elude the police force or the detectives that were hot on their trail. Sometimes lawyers do lie or even take bribes in order to not tell the truth.

Other times, the judge lets the bad guy go and not because the judge wanted to let them go. Instead, via our lovely legal system, a loophole was found and exploited. These are called "technicalities".

The system as is, is meant to provide everyone, even the guilty party, a fair chance before the judge. Sometimes things in the system can be exploited for all the wrong reasons benefiting the guilty party and never their victim.

To this day, I do not understand why this is even allowed to remain to happen.

Bad guys are supposed to be caught and brought to justice.

Lying is bad.

grayscale photo of woman doing silent hand sign
Photo by Kristina Flour / Unsplash

The bible says so. So there. When I was eight, this was all the evidence and authority I needed.

Some people can't help but lie. Later in life, I would learn there are actual personality disorders with nifty names like "pathological" or "sociopathic" to attach to other just as long and nifty terminology.

Growing up, I was taught that "Honesty is the best policy." It was touted at home, at school, and from the firemen and police offers I interacted with.

And definitely according to all the evidence I'd ever seen (TV shows), you are definitely not supposed to lie in court. This was unfathomable.

I even knew as a child that lying on court paperwork, you sign swearing that it is the truth, is very, very, very, very bad. To top it off, the judge would always catch you and you'd pay one way or another for lying.

As I got older, I learned the court systems today actually, at times, reward those who can lie the best in front of the judge, either in person or on paper. Lawyers collect handsomely from these behaviors.

I learned that statements made on those papers weren't actually fact checked. Those that were (and had evidence to support the statements) can be flat out ignored.

To this day, I do not understand why this is also allowed to happen.

Lying is bad.

Good judges and good lawyers never lie.

man in black suit jacket
Photo by rawpixel / Unsplash

You were held the epitome of standards. You were to be above reproach when it came to fighting for truth and justice.

You were superheros. Your suits were your capes, your pen your weapon of choice.

The elongated finger would be pointed at the wrongdoer with absolute conviction and those watching would know that you had wrapped up your case, presented your evidences, and would be assured victory for your client, righting wrongs that had been committed.

You were never ever supposed to lie in court. Ever.

The thought of a lawyer or a judge doing so was unfathomable. Almost as unfathomable as some humans who actually like cooked spinach that comes from cans.

Getting older, I learned my parents were telling the truth about the canned-spinach-lovers. I would also learn that judges and lawyers do actually lie in court.

This is done for money, power, or position. Sometimes it's done as a lawyer because you just don't believe in what you're doing. As a judge it's done sometimes because your morning coffee burned your tongue, your wife wouldn't have sex with you, and or you didn't get to sleep in.

This behavior out of judges and lawyers is a heinous stain on the legal industry.

To this day, I do not understand why this is allowed to happen. Growing up we were supposed to be able to trust you.

Good judges and good lawyers never lie.

Judges could see what was wrong, who was lying, and rule rightly.

low angle photography of beige building
Photo by Sebastian Pichler / Unsplash

You were the stop gap of allowing injustice to keep spreading. You were the last defense in allowing criminals to roam free. Your superhero cape is black, flowing, and is supposed to be honored.

Everyone rises when you walk into the court room.

You were supposed to be Lady Justice's partner. She balanced the scales, you figured out who was on either side of the right or wrong and pronounced it so. You were the jelly to her peanut butter.

When you don't side with the law, exploiting yet another set of loopholes, you grieve Lady Justice, the victims, and the their families. When you do this, you're supporting the wrong side. You're helping the bad guys.

That was only supposed to happen in science fiction or other types of movies. Not in real life. And certainly if it did, all those early crime fighting role models (my grandmother included) would have made sure you were caught and eventually brought to justice.

To this day, I don't do not understand why this is allowed to happen.

Judges could see what was wrong, who was lying and are supposed to rule rightly.

The victim received remedy.

two man doing shake hands
Photo by rawpixel / Unsplash

In all of the TV shows I watched, even as I observed my grandmother's work periodically, one thing was never mentioned: The costs of going to court.

Growing up everyone knew if you needed legal help, you hired a lawyer. My child brain just assumed, being good guys, the lawyers would help you and let you make payments.

They would never purposely bleed you dry. They're the good guys.

I wouldn't learn until I was much older, you only got as much help in the legal system as you can afford.

Run out of money, then the lawyer no longer cares about your case. Doesn't matter if they're standing up for you or not. Doesn't matter if they're doing a good job or not.

When the money vanishes, so does the lawyer.

On the cases, where the victim does receive some sort of remedy:

  • Is it actually enough to both pay the exorbitant legal fees AND right the wrong for them and their family?
  • Will it compensate them for any medical expenses they had to pay or therapy bills due to the decline in their mental and or physical health as a result of the legal processes they endured?
  • Is it enough to actually get them back the quality of life they lost while they were fighting their legal battle?
  • Has the perpetrator been dealt with severely enough that they leave their victim and their families alone?

There are times when the victim doesn't win in court, where lies and false evidence appearing real are allowed to have free reign. During this time:

  • the lawyer(s) have fleeced both victim and perpetrator to the point of financial harm which will take years to recover from,
  • the mental health of the victim suffered, placing strain on their work and family relationships,
  • faith in the legal system has been broken.

To this day, I don't do not understand why this is allowed to happen.

The victim is supposed to receive remedy. Wrongs are to be made right.

Bad things can happen to you when tell the truth, but there are times when you must speak up anyway.

silhouette of personr
You might as well be strong. Photo by Miguel Bruna / Unsplash

It's never easy or convenient to do the right thing in the face of opposition.

  • Your reputation could be smeared, leaving unwanted financial ripple effects for years.
  • People could follow you to your home and intimidate you.
  • You could find yourself without a home, a relationship, work, or transportation.

Truth can be uncomfortable. I find that I have hard time keeping my mouth shut at times. Sometimes that gets me into trouble, because I did not communicate those truths in a way that was comfortable for those in charge.

It doesn't make the truth any less the truth.

The law is supposed to be followed. Lawyers and judges are supposed to uphold, defend, and follow it themselves. Justice is supposed to be served and wrongs made right again.

I suppose those TV shows helped reinforce this ideology and set of beliefs.

I want to see a legal system that eliminates loopholes, restores transparency, and provides the true access to justice at every level that I believe was the original intent all along.

If the things I've listed above are mere fiction portrayed by TV shows, if the legal system has never actually ever been or was meant to be a place of honor, then we honestly have much bigger problems than I thought.

But that will be saved for another column.