Monday, January 12, 2004

Working from a public computer has its drawbacks. I had the computer with all of my stuff on it crash (again) this morning. Luckily, there was nothing in there that I had not saved elsewhere. This is the fourth such crash since I started this project. Oh well…
For an overview of the case, just scroll down past this to yesterday’s blog. And I am planning to concentrate a little on Belarus over the next few days. Today I have a short essay about polish lawyers. And thanks again for the letters.

Polish Attorneys.
I always think of Dan Quail as tell us all that we had too many lawyers and that this was to blame for all of our problems. What a great quote to try and use to get yourself elected to the presidency: “We have too many lawyers…”
I think that complaint he was referring to was that we have become too litigious as a society. That we go too quickly to the courts to settle our problems and that too many of us try to make that nest egg through civil suit rather than by our work. And obviously this would be true for the lawyers themselves. Now I am not going to sit here and tell you that Mr. Quail was right or wrong, but I am going to try and tell you about the Polish legal system insofar as it concerns the people who actually do the job of being an advocate. I think this is an interesting thought, and how it connects to my own situation seems to be a logical path within the thought, which is why I am blathering about it today.
In the states, if those who want to be a lawyer, for 99% of them they complete a four-year undergraduate degree and then go off to a three-year law program. Completing this, they then sit for an exam, the passing of which entitles them, after getting a state issued license, to practice law. They can hang a shingle as they say, work for a firm or use the title in whatever fashion it suits them to do so. They have a license to practice law.
In Poland, the situation is much different. The amount of schooling is much less. I believe one simply needs to study law in their university, so they are out in the world much faster. But attaining the document that actually allows them to be a lawyer does not come from any passing of any paper tests but from the acceptance of a several pre-existing lawyers into the fraternity. The way of obtaining acceptance comes from working very close to pro bono for several years as legal assistants, the equivalent of our paralegals. This sets up a situation where the actual lawyers carry a great deal of power. Because there is no open market system for being able to do the job, little things like free consultations and payments upon judgment simply do not exist. One simply cannot shop for an attorney in Poland. There are also limitations as to the number of attorneys there can be.
So what this does is set up a system in which actually being a lawyer gives one an amazing amount of power. Because of this, no one who actually is a lawyer in Poland wants any part in anything that might possibly cause any problems with their position. Certainly in the states lawyers talk with one another. Plea bargaining is at the heart of our justice system. But in Poland, the relationships between the attorneys themselves, transcends apparently any legal problem that they should encounter.
During my 10 month ordeal, it became apparent very early on that I was to be told who my attorney was, that I had no choice in this, and that the attorney felt that there was no need to consult with me in any particular way about the goings on in my case. I mentioned in the book that I was not even given the name of my first attorney for six weeks, until the day before a meeting that was supposed to close the case. The attorney was not at that meeting, saying he had read the file in the court. He did not however have a copy of it- this not being normal in Poland, and he did not discuss anything about it with me before filing complaint against some things that were presented.
Now, as I have mentioned several times, there was a great obviousness, even from the first day that Zaremba was lying. However, there must have been a meeting determining the results of the case between my attorney and the prosecutor what the results would be because my attorney simply refused to have anything to do with what I wanted done in the case. I made an ass of myself writing papers and riding out to his office trying to get through to these people that the case was an obvious farce but the attorney would never even broach the idea of attacking the actual accusation. This was not strategy, he simply wouldn’t do it.
I even had one of his assistants scream at me that I was guilty and that this screwing me over they were doing was somehow going to help me. I mean, they wouldn’t even tell me about Zaremba’s trying to pass off his estimate made after a second accident. And this is my attorney I am talking about, not the prosecution.
The second attorney seemed as oblivious to this as I was. In our entire relationship, and I printed all of the letters in the book, he never once even made mention of that document or even that the case could have been easily ended by simply doing what I had requested. Instead he thought it would be a great idea to spend his time arguing for my passport. Trying desperately (apparently) for a victory technicality, he doesn’t even ask the cop about the papers or about his previous testimonies. Hell, knowing that there was a previous insurance claim from the January accident, he doesn’t even ever think to ask to see the insurance documents or the signed off work so as to prove what damages were actually on the car before. And he certainly doesn’t attack the fact that the cop had said that there were no previous accidents for four months until he admitted to actually having had one in court. Or for that matter that his witness verified the second accident and that the document turned in to the court an estimate contained damages from that crash as well.
And when I called him on this, what he did was threaten to quit unless I accepted his theory of defense. And I got that one in writing folks! And this was the guy told me they were all waiting for me to sue BECAUSE I was American. Nice joke, right?
So what is a guy supposed to do?
My feeling is that if there is ever a hope for anything even resembling justice in Poland, a far less personal relationship needs to be set up between the establishment and those who would aspire to be a part of it. It became obvious to me that the only aspirants who might have any chance of being selected as attorneys needed first and foremost to understand who it was that controlled their destiny and doing this of course means acting just like them. What this basically means as far as I can see, as it does for all of the rest of Polish society, is that idealism should be checked at the door.
Perhaps Mr. Quail was right and our own system has become bogged down by too many superficial suits that people could otherwise have solved privately. However, I think in general people, given an honest choice, would prefer to be able to make those choices, rather than be handed arbitrary and biases judgments they have no control over. It is one thing to have a lawyer advise to sue because there is a chance at a third of a judgment, it is quite another to know your layer gets paid no matter what the result, and that their attachment to their own position far supercedes any obligation to the client.
I say open the doors. Let them make money. If we are not going to let them live together anymore, let them fight it out like we do- all of them; the established and the up and comers. Let’s go ahead and add a little social Darwinism to the polish legal system. Let those tired old windbags work for their money like the rest of us. Let’s turn the lights on ‘em and then see how easy it is for cops to run down people in the street and then extort some money from them. Want capitalism and democracy? Why not let people see a $5,000,000 judgment for the biker in such a case, and then tell me there ain’t going to be any social activism in Poland!