Freedom of Speech, Explained

My client's girlfriend cornered me as I walked out of the courtroom the other day.

"I want to talk to you, I'm a witness that he didn't resist arrest," she told me.

"Sure, let's see if we can find a quiet spot where we can talk for a few minutes," I said, walking with her towards a quiet(er) hallway in the courthouse.

"No, you're not blowing me off in a few seconds," she said, "I want to come to your office."

"Um, sure. I can't go to my office right now, but we can set up a time."

As I usually do, I let her choose her appointment time. I do this because clients and witnesses so rarely show up for their appointments, I figure that maybe if they choose their own appointment they'll be more likely to make it.

She chose 5:30 p.m. yesterday.

"I don't mind staying to 5:30 to meet with you. But I have plans that night. You can't show up an hour late and expect me to still be there. If you're running late or you can't make it, you need to let me know," I said, handing her my card.

She assured me that, no, no, she would definitely be there, she really needed to speak to me.

5:35 yesterday, I hadn't heard anything, so I decided to call her cell phone. It was the most annoying conversation I've ever had. And I've had a lot of annoying conversations.

"Miss Witness, this is Blonde Justice. Are you on your way?"

"No. I'm not coming. But at the same time, I don't think I should have to come all the way there just to speak to you."

She kept saying "but at the same time" and saying the same thing again.

"I agree. We could have spoken in the courthouse. We could have spoken on the phone. You said you wanted to come to my office."

"I did want to come. But at the same time, I want you to listen to my whole story in person, and not just in the hallway."

"Well, that's fine. So, we made an appointment for you to come to my office. You chose today. Are you on your way?"

"No, I'm not on my way. But at the same time, I'm not going to come all the way to your office just to speak to you."

"Well, that's fine. You don't have to."

"I'm a grown woman. I'm 22 years old. But at the same time, you can't tell me that I have to be somewhere and then I just have to be there."

"No, I sure can't. But, as a grown up, you can handle making your own appointments and keeping them. I gave you my card and told you to call me if you couldn't make it."

"I didn't call you. But at the same time, that appointment is already cancelled."

"Already cancelled?"

"Yeah. If I'm supposed to be there and I'm not there, but, at the same time, I'm not coming, that appointment is already cancelled. You're the one calling me to cancel it now."

"Well, I'm not cancelling, I'm just calling to see if you're on your way."

This same exchange went on, around and around, for quite a while, and all the while I was thinking how I would never be able to use her as a witness anyway - can you imagine this on direct examination? I decided I had to try a different approach.

"Alright," I said, "why don't you just tell me what you saw when Mr. Client was arrested?"

"YOU CALL YOURSELF A LAWYER? YOU CALL YOURSELF A LAWYER? YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW THE CONSTITUTION! YOU CALL YOURSELF A LAWYER? YOU'RE VIOLATING MY FREEDOM OF SPEECH! I GOT FREEDOM OF SPEECH! THAT MEANS I CAN TALK TO YOU AT YOUR OFFICE IF I WANT, I DON'T HAVE TO TALK TO YOU ON THE PHONE! I WANT TO COME TO YOUR OFFICE! AND YOU HAVE TO BE THERE! YOU'RE VIOLATING MY FREEDOM OF SPEECH! YOU DON'T KNOW THE CONSTITUTUION! YOU'RE GOING TO LOSE YOUR LAW LICENSE!"

And with that, she hung up.

Call me crazy, but I have a feeling that's not what the First Amendment says.

18 comments:

  1. OMG..what is wrong with her? Do you think she was strung out when you talked?

    It is a funny story, though. You have the patience of a saint. I would have reached through the phone receiver and strangled her with the cord.

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  2. This is the funniest thing I have read in a long time! Would love to hear her on the witness stand!

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  3. Snakes on a plane sista...snakes on a plane.

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  4. I'm imagining her on the witness stand. It's causing me to giggle in my cube. So funny.

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  5. She sounds like a wonderful witness.

    Hey, if he comes up guilty, maybe you can argue that whatever he's done, he's already suffered enough.

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  6. I think one day we should write a constitution that contains all the things our clients think it contains..."The Constitution of the Accused."

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  7. Ooo, I like that. The Constitution of the Accused would have to include: Once you've been arrested for something, you can't ever be arrested ever again because of, you know, double jeopardy.

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  8. Yow. Za.

    I can't believe you didn't hang up on her. You show more restraint than I... but it made for a GREAT read.

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  9. that's pretty effing funny. but at the same time, it's funny that you would violate her constitutional right to speak to you when, where, and through whatever means of her choosing.

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  10. Wow. You are very patient. The line I always use is "you need to stop yelling at me or I'm hanging up" and I usually have to hang up 2 or 3 times before they calm down enough to listen to what I'm saying.

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  11. No, no, no, I think it does in fact. "Congress shall make no law prohibiting crazy bitches from speaking to attorneys at their office." Please don't tell me I've been getting it wrong all these years . . .

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  12. Reading that was way too real for me... Gotta love the ladies in our clients lives - girlfriends, baby mommas, mommas... There is absolutely no reasoning with them. Also, I love when people ask me for their "Motions of Discovery". When I show the 3 page document to them that i already filed with the court, filled with legal mumbo-jumbo, they're like "No, I don't want this, I want my motion for discovery."

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  13. That is funny! The constitutional right to representation does not include crazed whacked out girlfriends of the accused, etc. Luckily she wasn't your client, but only a witness!

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  14. WTF? She's wack. Good luck with that.

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  15. Unbelievable! But the attorney teaching my recent real estate transactions class swore he couldn't make up some of the wild stories he told us about clients.

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  16. What a great post! I had a client come in on Thursday to tell me she was divorcing her husband because he pays his ex-wife too much in child support, and that her children were suffering. So she wanted a divorce to get child support from him. Seeing that she was a little odd,I was trying to usher her out of my office, nicely.I quoted her my fee and she told me that I was too "pricey" and that she needed to shop around; when she spun around and asked if I took checks. She whipped out her checkbook, paid my fee and announced that she wanted this started as quickly as possible.....Can you guess what happened next? She came into the office the next day, notified me she stopped payment on the check and yelled at me for taking advantage of her in such a fragile state! Good Riddence! As an old boss of mine used to say..."you can't make this stuff up!"

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  17. I could have sworn that was what the 1st Amendment said. Chemerinsky said that during bar review!

    And what Mariam had to say re: Motions of Discovery -- I hate that! That is one of my pet peeves at our office. It's amazing that all these jailhouse lawyers don't know the difference between a Motion for Discovery and the actual discovery.

    I can't wait to start my job!!

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  18. I love your blog. I really do.

    I worked with a similar demographic in healthcare for 6 years. I found that the strategy of setting up an (overly) convenient appointment doesn't work well. This lady had no respect for you or your time from the very beginning.

    Also, I learned that calling like that can totally backfire. They can be "on the way" and still be an hour out. Now I'm a cynical old fart: I'd have locked the door and left after 5 minutes. But I think I'm much meaner than you are.

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