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Saturday, November 1, 2014

The least of these

She wobbles into my office on the arm of her much healthier and burly friend. I pull out a seat for her and sit across from the woman who has been charged with a host of drug offenses.

At the end of our meeting I am thankful that the prosecutor on her case is one that will at least listen to me without me resorting to cursing and name calling to get her attention. I explain, with my client permission, my clients situation and why the offer the prosecutor made needs to be tweaked before my client can accept it. My client wants to settle her case, for a host of reasons, all her own, and that is her right. But I can't stand next to her allowing her to enter into an agreement I know she can't uphold.

Luckily, the prosecutor agreed to do what I was asking of her so I called my client to relay the good news. After discussing with my client what the next step in her case was going to be, she also shared some good news with me. Her son has made it on to a sports team. She is so proud of him and he is so happy. But then she found out something that broke her heart.

The sports team has an optional warm-up/training suit that all of the guys on the team will be getting. All of the guys, except one. Her son. The thing that broke her heart wasn't that he wasn't getting the suit, it was the fact that he didn't come home and ask. She feels as if she has done such a poor job as a mother that her son knows not to even come home and ask for anything. They can barely afford the bare minimum. Because the state has granted her an amount of child support (that she is not collecting) that the SAME state deems is more than enough for two people to live, she gets less than $60 in food stamps to feed herself and her growing, sport-playing, teenage son. They are barely making it from day to day. Her son, old enough to realize this, did not want to burden his mother with a request for something that was not a necessity.

I made suggestions, talk to the coach, speak with the principal, request help from the PTA, but truthfully, what I wanted to do was ask her how much the suit cost so I could write a check to the school. I was raised, at home and in church, that you feed, give drink and clothe the less fortunate if you are in a position to do so. I know her son isn't going to school naked but I can also imagine the negative feelings, and possibly negative comments, he is going to have to deal with when the team walks into a venue and he looks like the water boy, not a member of the team. Those feelings will bleed over into his attitude, how he responds to people and, ultimately, authority. Too many bad experiences with a teacher and he is labeled a trouble-maker in school. A label that is hard to shake once it has been placed on you. It won't take long for him to not want to go to school because everyone there expects the worst from him, so he will find some friends he can skip school with. Those same 'friends' will give him something to do in order to occupy his time during the school day. It may be stealing, it may be drinking, it may be getting high.

It may be all three.

He will, inevitably, come into contact with law enforcement. He will either run and get another charge placed on him for resisting arrest or trying to elude a police officer. Or he will cooperate with his arrest and willingly walk into his first felony.

I know what you are saying-you got ALL of that from a kid you have never seen not getting a training suit? I grew up with guys who are now convicted felons because they got tired of wearing K-mart tennis shoes to school. Yes, I got all of that from a kid not getting a training suit.

Despite my christian conviction and my personal moral compass saying 'buy her son the suit', the state bar forbids it. For some reason, I'm sure you could guess a few, the state bar does not permit assisting your client in anyway beyond covering the expense of filing fees in their court case. Thanks, I believe, to the actions of those who have taken advantage of their position and the power they feel comes with it, attorneys who really just want to help their clients in their time of need, cannot do so. I worked with an attorney that broke the rules and would pay his clients electricity bill, rent or grocery bill, state bar rules be damned. But he did not have the discernment to see when he was being taken advantage of. It got to the point where clients would be waiting outside of the office for him to get off work so they could ask for some money. He always relented.

I understand it can be a slippery slope. I know it could possibly get out of hand. But if I want to buy all of my clients' sons a training suit in order to prevent them from becoming future felons, I think I should be allowed.

I still haven't decided what I'm going to do.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, never consent and never confess