As consumer lawyers, we are trained to believe that our legal system should be fair – equal justice under the law – yes, the same law and the same order for all of us. But, for those of us in the trenches doing mortgage defense litigation or representing consumers in bankruptcy cases, we all know that there has been one set of rules for us and another set of rules for the banks and the law licenses they rent. What is a “technical” violation for the banksters has been a legal disbarment case for us. What is a “ta-da” note indorsement for the rent-a-lawyers, has been a sanction imposed on us for discovery abuses or for failure to timely disclose “relevant” evidence. What has been a massive fraud on the courts at unprecedented and truly historical levels by the so-called holders of the mortgage notes has been just another debtor wanting a free house for us. I could go on and on but redundancy is boring.
The truth of the matter is that we have been playing on a field that has been tilted about 90 degrees in favor of the financial institutions for decades. But, the truly astounding fact is that we are still playing. We are still in the game. And, somehow, someway, we score a few touchdowns now and then, hit a few field goals once in a while and sack the quarterback once in a while. In fact, we have scored more points in the last year than in the last five years combined.
So, the bottom line for us as this year come to a close is that there is hope. We have made some real progress. We have opened the eyes of many judges and many more trustees. We have taken our true facts to the media and many reporters have seen the true light and have written about it. David J. Stern is no longer in business and a lawyer by the name of Baum no longer has his truly scary foreclosure mill in New York. And, we have accomplished all this while running either uphill or downhill on every single play.
But the truly sad and indeed bad news for our system of justice is not directly related to us but to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who do not have any level of legal representation. It is not fair and there is really no hope when an untrained and non-represented consumer must go into court alone. As hard as the battle is for us, the trained lawyers, what about the family that goes before a judge alone in an effort to avoid a foreclosure on their home? I mean these folks don’t have chance in hell of winning. I have a better chance of winning the Mega Millions or the Powerball lottery than these consumers have of avoiding the demurrer or the motion to dismiss.
The bottom line is that the right to have your day in court should not depend on whether those in need can afford to retain an attorney. But this is how it is in our America. Money talks and the rest of us walk right out of the courtroom with a signed dismissal order.
Civil legal assistance to low-income people has been available in the United States since 1967 but always with shoestring resources. For many years, any mode of representation for the less affluent has fallen on our legal services programs. But, the second Great Depression has hit beyond the families that legal aid organizations serve – it has also struck a severe blow to the organizations themselves and the funding they must have to do their work.
On November 15, 2011, the United States Congress cut $56 million from the Federal Legal Services Corporation for next year. As a result, federal support for the specific purpose of providing legal services to low-income people will drop by 15 percent in 2012. But, the full picture is even worse. Federal legal services funds for all programs were already cut by hundreds of thousands of dollars this year.
So, if you start feeling sorry for yourself; if you get down on the cases you lost this year or the ones you should have won; if your start to give up or give in on our mission; if you feel that what we are all doing is not worth the mental and emotional price we all must pay; if you are tired of the threats and the truly dumbass lawyers on the other side; if you think any of these things, then pause for a moment or two and think about the millions of Americans who have had no legal assistance at all and the millions more who will have no legal assistance in 2012 and beyond. Think of them and the fear they face every day. Think of the uncertainty of their lives and of their children. Think about their lack of hope and their feelings of total helplessness.
And when you are finished thinking, then give yourself a very hard and an extremely strong kick in the ass and get ready to go out there and fight the good fight every single day of 2012. And, every day means Saturdays and Sundays and holidays. And, every way means anything that is legal and ethical and proper and within the rules. We always play inside the lines. And, remember, this is not just about the unrepresented consumers or about the judges and trustees we deal with every day but about saving our system of justice and due process from the unprecedented level of fraud and the endless lies of the creditors and their lawyers. In short, it is time for us to clean up the biggest national crime scene in the history of these United States of America. Law and Order must be restored and our system of just must be preserved. The torch is in the air and like it or not we are the only ones left to catch it!
–O. Max Gardner III