The Daily

Truth Out Of Chaos

Now I’ve run out of things to say. There’s obviously no sense talking about this kind of thing … or maybe, there is at that: I find that by putting things in writing I can understand them and see them a little more objectively. And I guess that’s one of the real objectives of writing, to show things (or life) as they are, and thereby discover truth out of chaos. And now that I think on it awhile, I think that the very fact that I write this letter and that I feel a need to write it shows  the value of putting words in order on a piece of paper. For words are merely tools and if you use the right ones you can actually put your life in order, if you don’t lie to yourself and use the wrong words.

Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of A Desperate Southern Gentleman

Trial lawyers are trained in the dogged pursuit of truth for profit. We are, in a way, the bounty hunters of truth. My Father taught me an opening argument that is fine in its simplicity, detail and eloquence. There is no trick or device to the argument … no pulling of the heartstrings … no clever turns of phrase … no original insights. Just the powerful force of logic and justice. It focuses on trial procedures from jury selection to verdict and final judgment. Each step along the way, no matter how senseless the process may seem to the untrained eye, is designed to assist the search for the truth. In fact, the root of each word we use for the steps along the process derive from some version of ‘the truth’. From jury selection (or voir dire – a French word for speaking the truth) to the verdict (an English word with a Latin root – verdictum – for the truth), a trial is nothing but a search for the truth.

Remember this when you hear others talk about “tort reform”, which usually is just disguised talk about how to circumvent this process to benefit special interests who don’t need more of your help.

This search for truth is meaningless without accountability. Show trials without meaningful consequences are anathema to our system. And the greater the harm or stake at issue, the greater the consequence in order to reach full responsibility. This is the essence of ‘trial lawyering’. Without responsibility and accountability, the pillars that support the justice system, the system collapses and chaos would reign. As the maxim goes, ‘no man is above the law’.

In addition to the attack on our institutions I’ve written about here recently, there is a (perhaps related) attack on words and language. Almost Orwellian, we are told every day that news is “fake” and that we should not believe our own eyes. Parallel realities (“alternative facts”, to borrow the phrase of one spin master) alarmingly proliferate – with viewers consuming opinion as news from preferred echo chambers serving up entertainment disguised as ‘news’. It is nothing more than propaganda and frequently just plain false, leaving citizens less informed and less able to perform civic duties properly (from elected officials to jury members). Making the problem worse, radical changes to education have eliminated civics in school classrooms – leaving us with a generation of bewildered youth without a sufficient background of knowledge to understand the context in which all of this is happening (to them).

In the first book of HST’s published letters, there’s a quote in the forward borrowed from Jack London. Something about lighting out after inspiration with a club. I like that. I am not under any illusion about the Chamber of Commerce version of trial lawyers as unscrupulous predators. That doesn’t bother me: just take a look at the people who were running our most respected financial institutions in 2008 (I think our profession acquits itself honorably by comparison – we’ve certainly never demanded that the rest of you bail us out). Trial lawyers are merit based – we eat what we kill and suffer our losses without passing them off on anyone else – even our clients. There isn’t anything more American than what we do.

I feel the way HST did about the energy and exhaustion of publishing his work product and letters (the intimate secret behind his success).

Such episodes are not pleasant, but our pasts are permanent. Which brings me, as much as anything might, to this forced march through my personal history. I don’t think many people could sit calmly while boxes of intimate – and in some cases no doubt incriminating – correspondence were dredged up from the sealed basement vaults. But I did, Bubba … but always from afar, from the greatest possible distance, trying not to cause trouble – and because I wanted to stay in the shadows and act like I was dead, and others tried to act the same way. “Mistah Thompson, he dead” … We all understood that their work and their lives and their long-range professional Fate would be a lot easier if I went out on a slick black Ducate motorcycle one night and never came back.

He knew his job wasn’t to make anyone else’s job or life easier. It was to tell the Truth. Always the Truth.