On the Subject of Non-Indictments

Another old post, just to get things started:

So this is a topic which I wade into with great hesitation. I have written before about the respect I have for police officers that do their best at a very difficult job under very trying circumstances. For you police officers who fall into that group, and those who support them, please read carefully and think about what I say in the following sentences before you get offended and flame me.

Moreover, I hope nobody will read any racially-related ideas into what I’m about to write. I made no comment after the non-indictment in Ferguson; primarily because I didn’t see any of the evidence, and I don’t know enough about the dynamic between white police officers and black citizens (not being either of those myself) to make an intelligent comment.

Then, came forth from our hallowed halls of justice “no true bill” in the case of the police officer who killed Eric Garner. I feel qualified to comment in this case because, while I didn’t see all of the evidence, I saw enough. There was a video, you see, and what that video shows is a murder; that is, the willful taking of a human life without justification. For those of you who disagree, you are wrong. I saw no aggression on the part of the late Mr. Garner. I saw no threat issue forth from him. What I did see is an officer using a prohibited control technique to take control of a non-aggressive citizen, and continue using this technique with callous disregard for Mr. Garner’s life, even after it became evident to the most casual observer that Mr. Garner was, in fact, dying.

Don’t tell me that Mr. Garner had a record or that he was aggressive before the camera started rolling. It makes no difference – the sentence of death does not attach to having a bad attitude or a prior record. Don’t tell me that police are always on edge because they work in dangerous areas with dangerous suspects – this fact does not, must not, create a license to kill. And for God’s sake, don’t tell me that the cause of death was his poor health rather than the control technique applied by the police. For one thing, it calls to mind the “eggshell plaintiff” problem – if I strike someone who ends up having a glass jaw and injure him badly, it is not a defense that I didn’t know he was weaker than normal. For those of you who still believe this nonsense non-medical argument, ask yourself this: but for being choked out by a police officer, would Mr. Garner have died then and there on that sidewalk?

No matter what you say, no matter what argument you choose to make, one thing is for certain: that video contained enough evidence that the police officer should have been required to appear in court and answer at law for the death that he caused.

So why wasn’t he?

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy nut (which I think you all know I am), I believe that this rash of non-indictments is part of a calculated plan on the part of those who mean to govern us. We are being taught a lesson; that lesson is that the only way to be a responsible citizen, and not get killed, is instant, abject submission to any minion of the state. We are being taught that the government can take away the lives of a citizen with impunity. We are being taught that those who murder with the sanction of the State (with a capital “S”) will never face anything that even looks like justice.

The lesson is that if you are poor, or black, or God forbid, both, and not yourself a minion of the State, that your life doesn’t mean a goddamned thing.

One wonders how many times that lesson needs to be hammered home before civil unrest seems to be, if not a legally justifiable or morally acceptable, at least, an understandable response. The alternative seems to be that we morph into a nation of well-trained, whining, cringing curs, begging for a pat on the head from our masters, the thought of sinking our teeth into the hand that beats us never even crossing our vacant minds.

The men who founded this nation must be turning over in their graves. God help us all.

Pissed On by a Debt Collector

Now that my new website is live, I hope to get a good start on posing here regularly on legal topics. For today, please have a look at something I wrote some time ago, which I think is still apropos:

Strangely enough for a lawyer in our day and age, one of the things I care a great deal about is – wait for it – the LAW. It is particularly important to me that those of us who try to live within its limits, actually understand those limits.

The other day, I was prowling the halls of the 11th Floor of the Daley Center, where many small claims cases in Chicago go to die. While I was standing outside a court room checking the call sheet for one of my cases, a woman approached me, and asked how she could check in for the case. I told her to go see the Clerk – but she needed more details. You see, she was told by the attorney for her credit card company that if she didn’t show up in court that day, HE WOULD HAVE HER THROWN IN JAIL!

Now, it bears mentioning that, her case was up for return of service – in other words, it was her very first court date. There was absolutely no chance that she could have been put in jail. This is just another of the sleazy tactics being used by debt collection attorneys to scare the hell out of the debtors they are trying to “negotiate” with.

So, to set the record straight:

1. Civil debt, in and of itself, can not lead to jail time.

2. Lawyers that tell debtors that they are going to put the debtor in jail should be disbarred.

Now, there are of course situations in a civil case when a debtor could be locked up, but they center around being found guilty of contempt. For instance, if a judgment has been rendered against the debtor and the debtor refuses to answer the questions about assets that would allow the creditor to try and collect, they could be found guilty of contempt.

In short, if you don’t have a judgment against you yet, don’t let some lowlife debt-collector threaten you. The threats are empty, and under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, illegal. As a citizen, you have a moral obligation to tell this kind of bottom-feeding scum to go straight to hell.

Stay strong in your endeavors to protect what is yours, for your own good and that of your family.