Lawyers: The Bane Of Our Existence

Housing Wire's Rick Grant took off on lawyers this afternoon, especially attorneys for borrowers who fight foreclosures, and he wasn't feeling "judicious." The problem I have with attorneys getting involved in every important decision that gets made in this country is one of scope. Attorneys are trained on the details. By choosing which details to focus upon, they can guide the conversation into a corner. They can lead a judge, for instance, to want to throw out a foreclosure proceeding against a borrower who hasn't made a payment in two years because the signature on a particular document doesn't meet a certain set of requirements. I have to believe that a statesman would look at these cases differently. What "statesman"? The only names mentioned by Rick have been dead for a few hundred years. Does he mean Dennis Kucinich? He's not a lawyer. Moreover, if he's insinuating that "stateswomen" aren't the best qualified to render judicial decisions, he's going to be hearing from some female critics who will be after him with garden shears. Not Hillary Clinton, though, because she's a lawyer and, ipso facto, disqualified. While I happen to agree that our society currently is grossly overlawyered, I don't agree with Rick that just because a judge is a lawyer, he or she is not going to be able to see the forrest for the trees. With respect to robosigning and other technical procedural problems with foreclosures that have been raised by borrowers' counsel in order to thwart foreclosures, I think, as evidenced by a decision I discussed a couple of weeks ago, there have been plenty of judges who aren't diverted by the view from the weeds. That post prompted an e-mail from a borrower from another state who was on the receiving end of a judge (who is also a lawyer, I assume) who ruled, in effect, "if you don't pay, you must go away," notwithstanding procedural defects in the lender's case. That's two, and since I don't get out much, I've unjustly extrapolated that tiny sample into a huge number of judges who must be getting it "right" in Rick's view. Sure, that's a lousy rationale, but I'm trying to fight fire with fire. I guess Rick's complaint really boils down to the fact that lawyers, in return for the payment of money, do what the legal system requires them to do: be zealous advocates for their clients. It's called an "adversarial system" of justice for a reason. Opposing parties duke it out by having their lawyers put on the best one-sided arguments they can make in favor of their client's position, the judge enforces the rules of evidence to, theoretically, separate the wheat from the chaff with respect to the facts, and, where the matter is decided by the judge, the judge also makes a ruling based upon the facts and the applicable law. What borrowers' counsel are doing in trying to use procedural defects to derail foreclosure proceedings is referred to as "their job." As a counsel for lenders, I can sit outside their arena and laugh at their arguments and claim that all they are doing is trying to throw sand in the eyes of the court in the hope that they can save their clients from losing their homes, but I realize that if our roles were reversed, my strategy and tactics very likely would be the same. Yes, it's a system that can burn up a lot of time and money. On the other hand, it seems to be found to have advantages over trial by combat, dunking, the application of leaches, the application of stretching and the rack, and the ever popular "Because Gaddafi Says So." Rick also seems to be bothered by the fact that lawyers get paid for what they do, and conflates that fact into a flat assertion that lawyers do what they do solely for the money (the same as mortgage brokers, he contends). He underestimates the motivating pleasure that is derived from practicing a profession where being a jackass is not a liability, but often an asset. He also overlooks the equal disdain that lawyers feel for "journos" who write articles bashing lawyers like the low-hanging fruit they've become, in return for the payment of money. Not nearly as much money as lawyers are paid for what they do, of course, but that must be another symptom of the fetid depths to which the values of Western Civilization have fallen. I acknowledge Rick's sense of frustration with the cumbersome system of "justice" that has evolved in this country. His complaints seem to revolve around the fact that there all these individual cases being filed by so many borrowers, cases that impede the large loan servicers from making stuff up and lying through their teeth, under oath, rather than actually following procedures established by our elected representatives to ensure that a minimum standard of due process is accorded everyone, fat cat and brokeback alike, before someone severs the connection between "dwelling" and "dweller." I mean, as it is, every citizen has the right to go to court to oppose entities and persons who are more powerful than they, and that just gums up the works, doesn't it? Like Rick, many people ask, "Isn't there a better way?" I had a professor in law school who told his students that if we came to law school seeking knowledge of the means to absolute justice, we were in the wrong place. Instead, we should be seeking a PhD in Philosophy or Theology. For most of us, "justice" is the proper functioning of the legal system that human beings have erected to dispense it. If we don't like the system, then we should persuade enough voters to change the system, and "have at it." He'd been teaching at the law school for 50 years, and he hadn't been presented with a viable alternative yet. Eventually, he died waiting. I'm open to any rational discussion of ways to curb these alleged abuses. However, at some point the ignorance displayed about the purpose of the legal system we've adopted in this country (a system in which lawyers play a critical role) and its superiority in preserving the freedoms we take for granted over other systems of "justice" that mankind has heretofore concocted becomes so overwhelming that I can no longer restrain the cry of my teen-aged self and must utter the ultimate epithet, "Eat My Shorts"! Many "Our Fathers" and "Hail Marys" must then be said for my penance. You want to live in Japan or France where there are fewer lawyers? Well, go live there, although you might want to give the Japanese a break. An influx of justice-seeking "gaijin" is likely the last thing they need at the moment. As for France, bon voyage! Wherever else you think they've got a better handle on this depressing problem, you owe it to yourself (and to the rest of us) to boogie on down the road. Just get out of my country, Clyde. On the other hand, if you have a better system in mind to dispense civil and criminal justice in this country, then propose it to the legislators of your choice and "let's have at it." 1,000+ years of common law tradition be damned, let's hear YOUR brilliant idea for resolving civil and criminal disputes, and balancing the rights of parties with different interest, without those evil lawyers (and their lawyer-judge enablers) being involved. [sound of crickets chirping] Yeah, lawyers are A-holes. Life's a bitch. Get over it. //

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