Stuck On The First Letter

, , , | Right | September 27, 2020

My very first job after graduating is at an office within a courthouse where people can get their official documents pertaining to their lawsuit or verdict. Mostly, they need a version of the official verdict that they can take with them — the original always stays in the archives — e.g. a verdict wherein the judge says that their insurance does have to pay them, which they can then use to take steps to receive this payment.

One day, a little old lady shuffles into our office, and when I ask what I can help her with, she pushes forward an envelope and says, “Letter.” She has an obvious accent, but that’s nothing new, and usually, I can work around the fact that people might not speak Dutch very well.

But it soon becomes very clear she only knows this one word: “Letter.”

I can see the letter she’s given me is from an insurance company, but she is unable to answer any of my questions so I don’t know how I can help her. Even asking if I can read it doesn’t get me any other response than her pointing at the letter. So, I read it in the hopes that there are instructions in it and that they are asking for her to bring a certain document, which I can then provide.

But there’s no such thing; it’s about something completely unrelated.

I try suggesting she come back with a translator, but of course, she doesn’t seem to understand that, either. I decide to make her the most common document mostly used for insurance cases and she seems happy with it, so I think that’s that.

The next day. “Letter.”

Yup, there she is again, with that exact same letter. No translator, nothing. I try my best to show her examples and work around the language barrier, but she doesn’t get any of it. I decide to make another type of document, thinking maybe it was the wrong type.

The next day. “Letter.”

At this point, I’m lost. I get a second opinion from several coworkers — even though they work at totally different services and don’t know as much about our documents — just to see if they can understand. Nope. The only other thing I can do is just give her a copy — which has no “value” or use at all, short of reading what’s on it — and besides, she would have already gotten a copy by letter when the verdict came out, so I cannot imagine it’ll help. Again, she seems happy and leaves.

The next day… you get it.  “Letter.”

I try to say as clearly as I can that I have given her every document she could possibly get from us, and I can do nothing else. She does not move and just repeats, “Letter,” every once in a while.

My patience has finally worn out, so I just say, “There is nothing I can do with that letter. I have given you everything we can. I can no longer help you. Bye!” I even make a point to wave goodbye and just go sit at my computer and begin working on something else. 

She stands there for a minute, during which I pretend she isn’t there, until she finally shuffles away. 

At least I haven’t seen her since!

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Get Some Blinds Before You Go Blind

, , , , , , , | Working | June 5, 2020

I am working as a court clerk in civil cases. Our courthouse is in the middle of the city and is several storeys high. Modern development has built up around the court, so that from levels four up, the back of the court overlooks and looks into a flashy five-star hotel.

One day, I am assisting in a settlement conference, and the judge and I are sitting at opposite ends of a long table, with the parties down either side. The judge is sitting in front of the window with his back to it, and I can see clearly everything going on behind him.

The judge recalls to me later that suddenly my face changes and contorts, and I busy myself in a piece of paper, looking horrified. 

He decides we should have a break and when the lawyers have cleared, he asks what happened. I raise a shaky hand to the hotel across the way, which does not have frosted or tinted windows, and the very large, naked man doing Zumba. In front of the windows. 

The judge laughs so hard he extends the break for an extra fifteen minutes so he can calm down, and he teases me about it for the rest of the week.

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Guilty Of Not Doing The Reading

, , , , | Legal | April 30, 2020

My mother is a prosecutor working for the UK Crime & Prosecution service. On this particular occasion, the person on trial is a “Freeman-On-The-Land,” a person who claims that no English law save “common law” is valid. These people often produce documents which they claim trump statute law.

This particular defendant is pleading “not guilty” on the basis of his own law code. He’s presenting evidence that follows the strange rules of the FOTL. Unfortunately for him, my mother does her research.

Lawyer: “The defendant would like to present a signed affidavit.”

The lawyer hands it to my mother, who gives it a look.

Mum: “Sorry, I can’t accept this.”

Defendant: “Why not?!”

Mum: “Well, that’s not robins-egg blue paper, is it? And this signature is definitely not your own blood. It’s not valid.”

There is a pause. The defendant and the lawyer have a quick chat.

Lawyer: “My client would like to change his plea to guilty. He knows when he’s beat!”

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I Sentence You To A Year Of Awkwardness

, , , , , | Legal | April 3, 2020

At the start of my final year of high school, the school makes us all undertake a week of work experience. As I want to study law at university, I go to a local criminal solicitors’ firm. On my last day, one of the solicitors suggests I might be interested in going to a sentencing with him. On the way to the court, he tells me the client’s name and that they’re being sentenced for mugging someone. He parks the car, and we get out and start to head up the steps outside the court.

Solicitor: “Ah, that’s the family on the steps. Come on, we’d better go say hello. It’s polite and, you know, we’ll have to lend a bit of emotional support. I’ll also check they’re okay with you shadowing.”

Me: “Got it.”

I obediently follow him to a huddled group. As we approach, they fan out and say hello. I glance at them and then frown because one woman seems weirdly familiar. The woman is staring at me, as well.

Solicitor: “Hi, all. I just thought I’d come over and–”

Woman: “Don’t you go to my school?”

Everyone pauses and looks at me.

Me: *Very meekly* “Hi, Mrs. [Woman].”

It turned out that the client was the nephew of a teacher at my school. I hadn’t had any classes with her, so the surname hadn’t really rung a bell. Her family was incredibly lovely about me being there, saying it was at least nice that one of the teacher’s students could get some good out of it, but the teacher didn’t come into the courtroom — I think because I was there. For the remainder of the year, whenever we passed each other in the corridor, we couldn’t quite look each other in the eye.

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Does This Mean Google Maps Provides Legal Advice?

, , , , , | Working | March 18, 2020

(Many years ago, before cell phones and even before personal computers are common, I receive a court summons. I’m not familiar with the location of the courthouse, in a town over an hour away from where I am residing, and I can’t find a map that lists it — neither the mailed summons or phone book I find in the local library have a street address, just something like “Courthouse Square” — I call a week or so before the hearing date to get directions. My bad; the very short conversation goes something like this:)

Receptionist: “Thank you for calling [County] court; how may I direct your call?

Me: “I’ve received a summons to appear at a hearing on [date] and I’m unfamiliar with where the courthouse is located. I’ll be entering town on the main highway from the west; could you provide directions or connect me with someone who can?”

Receptionist: “I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to provide legal advice.”

Me: “I just need directions from the highway to the courthouse. I’m not asking for legal advice at all!”

Receptionist: “I’m sorry, no one is here who can provide you with that information. As I stated, I’m not allowed to answer legal questions. You’ll need to contact your attorney. Have a great day!” *disconnects the call*

(I didn’t have an attorney as I’d been called to be a witness and was not a party to the suit, but I did eventually find the courthouse, just a block off the highway, no thanks to her. Although, upon arrival, I discovered that the civil matter I’d been summoned for had been resolved out of court days prior, my presence wasn’t required after all, and no one had bothered to let me, or at least two other witnesses, know.)

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