Part 20 in a Series
By the time young people are old enough to drive they soon become accustomed to the requirement to buy insurance before taking to the road. Not everyone does, of course, but awareness of the law is practically universal. Some even bother to learn why it’s a good idea to be insured beyond the obvious reason that supporting the second largest industry (insurance) is a form of captive confiscation.
Insurance in any form is a tax on everyone.
Positive theory about insurance is that it prevents loss of monetary value, or money. Without health insurance, many families would be “wiped out” in the event of a catastrophic illness. Even with limited insurance, this happens to many people. A sudden and severe illness does bankrupt many in this country. Too often, so does becoming a victim of crime.
The worst thing to happen to someone who is a victim of crime is to be thrown into those circumstances without a sound insurance against an event deteriorating to the worst possible outcome. Some standard insurance policies from the insurance industry offer limited protection from this happening. They use the term “made whole” to describe payments that reimburse an insured individual or family when expenditures are necessary to recover losses. For auto insurance on new or nearly-new cars, “gap insurance” is recommended. When facing
the consequences of a fire at home, it is also desirable to have adequate coverage to regain the value of all that is lost, not just an arbitrary value that an insurance estimator comes up with. Too often the number offered is a “low ball” that an insured victim of circumstance is expected to accept without complaint or negotiation.
When this happens, those circumstances can be almost as bad as relying on a lawyer to be honest.
This brings us to the point of an exceedingly important form of insurance that almost no one has: protection from bad lawyers.
Almost no one is prepared to deal with lawyers as they ought to be dealt with. First of all, there is a critical set of rules that lawyers are supposed to be governed by, and essentially because of a void in supervision, lawyers govern themselves. We can look to Cornell University to read the Nevada rules of professional conduct:
These rules define what a lawyer can and cannot ethically do. And some of these rules, such as how much a lawyer can charge a client in fees or hourly rates, are entirely subjective based upon what other lawyers consider reasonable or excessive. Even this rule is tricky, and less of a hard and fast rule than legally sanctioned extortion. All things being equal, what lawyer is going to say that fees charged by another
are “excessive” when he or she hopes for an equal opportunity to make the same monetary killing in the future? Landing a lucrative case becomes a matter of opportunity and circumstances, and sometimes depends on each lawyer’s willingness or inclination to bend, ignore or twist other rules of professional conduct.
Cynthia Turner had these experiences with lawyers that she hired to represent her in court. Like almost everyone else faced with sudden negative circumstances that required, or so it seemed, the services
and expertise of a decent lawyer, each and every one failed to follow their rules of professional conduct. Once she hired a lawyer to represent her in court to defend a proposed modification of child support for her son, Jason Ryan Turner-Shenker. Arthur Shenker claimed to be poor and struggling, although he was receiving $10,000 per month from a trust account as its beneficiary. Cynthia hired a lawyer “to appear in court” on her behalf. That female lawyer did collect a fee, exactly what she had demanded of Turner “to appear in court.” On that fateful day, Turner’s lawyer refused to open the file of evidence on the table that would have proven Arthur Shenker’s claims to be false, and that Arthur had perjured himself by presenting falsified affidavits to the court. But Turner’s lawyer would not open her mouth.
She sat one row behind Turner, not at the table with her. She asked the presiding judge to be excused from the case. When the judge asked for grounds, Turner’s unethical lawyer claimed that it was failure to pay her fees. This was an outrageous assertion it would seem because she had been paid in full. The problem was, though, that she had quoted her fee “to appear in court” but not to review the case materials or to provide an argument. Turner’s lawyer violated just about every applicable rule of professional conduct possible in that lawyer-client relationship. She opted to “throw Turner under the bus” during the court proceedings, in the Family Division of District Court.
Turner’s experience was typical of many client-lawyer relationships here in Clark County and Nevada, and across this nation. Just as every person of driving age and older ought to have an insurance policy before getting behind the wheel, every person of voting age is wise to obtain an insurance policy against corrupt and unethical lawyers by investing the time required to obtain and read, multiple times, the codes of ethical representation for lawyers. In addition to the usual registration and insurance papers that we carry in our cars, everyone ought to insure themselves by carrying a copy of those rules of conduct wherever they go. Get them. Read them. Insure yourselves by preparing for that case of emergency circumstances in which you suddenly find that you need honest services of a member of the state bar. Public service announcements tell us to know where our insurance policies are in case of an emergency, a fire, or a sudden death. Each one of us is better insured against theft, fraud, extortion and other common crimes perpetrated by lawyers every day of every year by learning and remembering that set of rules proposed to govern the professional standards of lawyers.
Further wisdom is found in demanding that every lawyer hired put in writing the terms of that agreement between a needy person and the member of the court, the lawyer. When people invite a plumber into their homes they don’t expect that the plumber will begin changing the wiring in the walls. Plumbers fix pipes and running water problems.
Electricians have their purpose distinct from plumbers. No one hires an electrician to fix plumbing problems when circumstances require that “expert” knowledge. Like plumbers and electricians and automobile mechanics, lawyers are specialists. Their rules of professional conduct require them to tell you specifically what they can do and what they cannot do for their clients. Make sure that they do that, in writing at the time you pay them a retainer.
Coming next: prosecutors are lawyers, also bound by rules of ethical conduct. We are due to hold our prosecutors, and the district attorney, accountable for following these rules.
Thomas A. Nagy is the author of Cannabis Consumer Handbook available at Amazon.com, and the blog ReGeneration at blogspot.com. Email direct at: firstname.lastname@example.org.