Some folks are bigger than their critics. When I asked Gerry Spence to look over a draft of my new book, I expected him to decline. But he did not. He wrote the introduction, proving once again that a kind gesture speaks far louder than noisy recrimination.
To understand the nefarious carryings-on of the justice system you must ignore as irrelevant the professors who peddle to unwary law students and to the lobotomized bar ideas that are as archaic as the medical profession’s leaches of old. You must uniformly disbelieve as naked fraud the promises of politicians who holler and rot as they swim in their own political excrement. You must irreverently question the pronouncements of judges who pound their judicial breasts like drummers on soggy drums and demand the nation to dance to their doleful tunes, and finally you must read this book written by a man who knows the justice system, because he has not only lived in it for many years but examined it, absorbed it, tested it, peered at it like a pathologist examining a diseased spleen, confronted it, challenged it to be real and honest, a man who has refused to accept its mythology, who has been disappointed by the system, amazed at its deficiencies, disgusted by its lack of human compassion, confounded at its hypocrisy, amused by it folly and disappointed by its failure to respond to live people instead of dead money.
Pattis is one of the best, a genuine trial lawyer, who has labored and wept and hoped and skillfully fought just battles in these temples where justice is said to reside, and who, over these pages, reports his findings on certain questions: Is this system even marginally adequate to protect the revered rights of a free people? Is it sufficient to admit it has faults, but with a shrug, acknowledge it is a human institution and, as such, it will suffer its own pathology? At last, is it permissible to offer one’s lips to that worn out aphorism holding that, despite its faults, it is the best system in the world, and thereby, having made our confession of its deficiencies, to bounce blithely and blindly along, decade after decade, in a judiciary that has betrayed the people’s trust? So is the justice system in this country broken?
Do we care?
We are lied to so thoroughly and skillfully that we don’t appreciate how sick the system is until we must face it ourselves, until we look for the few lawyers and judges who understand it and who, if they understand it, care enough or are brave enough to expose it. We must not undress it, for if we do we may be approaching heresy considering the system’s demand that we be ever reverential in its face – sort of like the maxim that forbids publically condemning at his funeral the villainous dead lying in his open coffin. Lawyers are taught they must respect judges some of whom are not entitled to respect, even as members of the species. Lawyers are charged with the duty to bow courteously to an opponent no matter that he is a retched cur and a blight on the profession. Lawyers are required to respect the institution of the court despite that in the hands of unfettered and ignorant power it produces pain and injustice that would occasion any honest person to rise up in loathing and horror.
I am reasonably fond of the polemic I have just written. But I like the facts and the examples, the elegant prose, the tough and intelligent insights and stories of Mr. Pattis better. We yearn for someone to tell us the truth. Please do not lie to me any more. Please do not defraud me again. Please do not promise me justice when, in most cases, it is available only for those with money. Please do not turn untrained lawyers loose in the courtrooms to fight for the accused, public defenders, who have a hundred cases and who are given neither the time nor the facilities to prepare for even one, and who are forced to join in the nauseating games being played in every jurisdiction in America where clients are pled guilty to crimes they did not commit or who possess valid defenses against the charges -- all of which is performed in the name of due process but proves to be little more than the nation’s barefaced lie proclaiming, without embarrassment, that there is liberty and justice for all.
Mr. Pattis does not write with such dripping vehemence. He is far too able and gracious to do so. But what he writes in well-balanced, well nourished prose is true. The courts belong to us. They are not the property of judges many of whom sit on high because they suffer a latent and virulent lust for judging others. The courts are not the property of mediocre lawyers, now judges, who could not otherwise make a go of the devilish demands of a private practice. The Courts do not belong to the politicians who infect our hoped-for wholesomeness of the judiciary with the pernicious political agendas of those who appoint them to these scared posts. The courts belong to the people. The function of our courts is to keep presidents and congressmen and corporations contaminated with greed for money and power from destroying our dreams of a more fulfilling life and from denying justice over the broken rights and bodies of the people. The courts are diseased. Justice has become an empty word. The people see themselves as helpless. Pattis tells us we must take the courts back. He proves his case herein.
And, now what? Well, let me say it: It got this way because of you. It will remain in this devilish condition as long as you are willing to endure it. When you finish this book you will have been put on what the law calls "inquiry notice." You will have been fully advised, enough so that you must inquire further. The condition Pattis describes will become terminal if you do nothing, and all the while we will hear the same blaring rhetoric about the beauty of our court system. But you ought not care. The system only fails those who do not have the means. At least it fails only those who come before it seeking the promise of justice or who are dragged before it in cuffs and chains. That will not be you, of course. Not ever. That will not be your child or loved one.
No. Not ever.