Sunday, January 24, 2010

Stay Away From Lawyers

A quote from my last blog entry continued to linger in my mind. I did a little more research on other scriptures related to 1 Corinthians 6, where the Saints are admonished not to go to secular law one with another. The conclusion seems to be that lawyers are unrighteous and judges at best a necessary evil. Ideally the Saints should be taking care of legal matters within the faith.

At the beginning of 1 Corinthians, the Saints are told they will "judge the World" and "judge angels," and therefore should be able to handle the smallest legal details. Instead of taking on this responsibility, "brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers." Such reliance on judgment outside the faith is seen as both shameful and spiritually problematic.

It might seem silly and rather insular to keep from going to court to wrong grievances, but I believe it is the key to understanding how to love our enemies. One of the hardest admonitions of Christ is that we should love our enemies and not go after them. Part of this is not understanding exactly what he meant. Of course we shouldn't fight, seek revenge, or otherwise hate those who do us wrong. However, I think a closer reading of his examples in the sermon, along with other scriptures, leads to an even more radical interpretation. In Luke 6: 27-31 he states:

27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.
30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise

Considering other scripture's bleak look at lawyers and the legal system, it might be not taking our enemies to court is part of showing love. If we do seek justice then we might find something less satisfying to the conclusion. As verse 39 says, "Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?" The search for justice ends up as retribution. The outcome is no better than an eye for an eye that makes both participants blind.

More than one story in the Book of Mormon demonstrates the destructive nature of lawyers and judges. They hold the power over the people and too often decide the fates of others. During the mission of Alma, he ran into the lawyer class as he tried to teach them the gospel. They found him in contempt of both the law and their profession. In some ways rightly so, as he said, "And now behold, I say unto you, that the foundation of the destruction of this people is beginning to be laid by the unrighteousness of your lawyers and your judges." (Alma 10:27). What he mostly condemned was the unethical practice of "ambulance chasing" as it would be called today, and more. Alma 11: 20 says:

Now, it was for the sole purpose to get again, because they received their wages according to their employ, therefore, they did stir up the people to riotings, and all manner of disturbances and wickedness, that they might have more employ, that they might get money according to the suits which were brought before them; therefore they did stir up the people against Alma and Amulek.

This system of paying lawyers was set up by the righteous King Mosiah, but they were seeking profit unchecked. In the end the goal was to find a way to get Alma and Amulek to shut up, put in jail, or worse. This would not be the first time the lives of prophets had been endangered by lawyers. When Jesus finished up reproaching scribes and Pharisees for their legalities, a lawyer recognized his profession was also questioned. After all, they were the ones that often interpreted and made judgments according the laws. Jesus reply in Luke 11 was, "Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them." They are the ones that built up the cases making it possible to sentence prophets to death. More than that, "for ye [lawyers] lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers." They don't do any of the hard work, but simply place the work on other shoulders. Worse, they make it difficult for the judged to get from under the law. I don't believe Jesus was talking about those found guilty of serious crimes; although that can always be a possibility. At any rate, lawyers lived an easy life while making it hard for others to do the same.

What kind of law and judgment does Christ want from his Saints? It isn't based on adversarial opposition. One side should not be going against another to prove some kind of case. That creates contention that has been announced as of the devil. In Doctrine and Covenants 58: 19-23, it reads:

19 For verily I say unto you, my law shall be kept on this land.
20 Let no man think he is ruler; but let God rule him that judgeth, according to the counsel of his own will, or, in other words, him that counseleth or sitteth upon the judgment seat.
21 Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.
22 Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.
23 Behold, the laws which ye have received from my hand are the laws of the church, and in this light ye shall hold them forth. Behold, here is wisdom.

In the book of Exodus 18:20-22, the Lord explains:

20 And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.
21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:
22 And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.

Today's litigious culture is spiritually toxic. Going to court for every little grievance has produced too many laws and unscrupulous lawyers ready to stoke hatred and animosity. This isn't to say that we should allow laws to be broken, but the Saints should be slow to seek justice. Too many times the reasoning ends up retribution rather than set things right. The purpose for law in mortality, as the Lord has revealed, is not to prosecute and defend. It is for finding truth and helping those in the wrong to repent. How can modern Saints under the hand of secular government achieve those goals? It is not an easy question to answer.


C.J. said...

I'm a lawyer (yes, really, and so is my better half) and I agree completely. There's nothing like seeing the process from the inside out to really turn you off the law. What I think upsets me the most is the way many lawyers actively sow dissent to increase their business. Also, and this is something I've experienced personally, many lawyers do a less than ideal job, in order to extend their time on a case and increase their billable hours.

I do think there's a need for lawyers, and for the legal system, but it's been so perverted beyond what it should be. Jim is a DA, and I honestly believe that his job is necessary. Also, I'm proud to say that he pursues it very righteously, and for the right reasons. But then again, if I didn't think he was a righteous man, and a good family leader, I wouldn't have wanted to marry him. I'm a land use/municipal advocacy lawyer, and civil rights activist. Basically, I help people do what they want (and in many cases need to do) with their own land.

It's hard, though, because really, participating in this system is nobody's idea of a good time--including ours. I, for one, would rather stay home. And, while that's the plan down the road (hopefully not too far down the road), right now it's just not economically feasible.

Jettboy said...

I just wanted to say thank you for your comments. Recently I haven't had as much traffic as I used to compared to previous years.

That said, I don't know if I agree completely with what you say. At least according to the point of my post and what I have been reading in the scriptures. To me it seems the Lord is calling for the disestablishment of lawyers and the development of more direct judges. The litigant and the defender must bring their own cases or the lawyers should be pro-bonum. Even there, nothing is perfect.

C.J. said...

You're welcome. The problem with that is, ideally, yes--but in practice, unfortunately, no. The law is extremely complex, and even legally savvy people have a hard time understanding what's going on, and asserting themselves. This morning, a good friend of the family called with a crisis--his oldest son was arrested on Friday night. In this case, he'd come to a house party to help a friend (who had been drinking and needed help getting home). He hadn't been drinking, but he was arrested with the other partiers (who were vandalizing the house, apparently, and none of them had legal access to it).

The court told his parents that he had to plead guilty, or he'd never get his license, get into college, etc.--not true. The plain fact of the matter is, this kid did nothing wrong and, besides, there's nothing approaching grounds for arrest.

It happens less often than I'd like, but sometimes, as lawyers, we really do have the opportunity to advocate for people who need it. This kid, and his parents, are being railroaded into something they don't deserve. The court is taking advantage, in this case, of their a) fear and b) lack of understanding of their constitutional rights.

I think sometimes the issue isn't with lawyers--the current legal system makes lawyers necessary, to some extent, unfortunately--but with the court system itself.

Ideally, we'd solve disputes before a court system was necessary. But the answer there, I think, lies outside the legal system, such as it is, entirely. What ever happened to brotherhood?

C.J. said...

Sorry to double comment, but, you know, comments aren't always such a good thing! Recently, I've been writing a series of posts about separation of church and state, and been called, among other things, an apostate (not to mention old, ugly, and stupid) for my troubles. Surprisingly, that accusation hurts me more than I'd have thought--after all, I don't know these people, and they certainly don't know anything about me--but it has reminded me (as if I needed reminding) that I take my religious identity pretty seriously, and have strong feelings about what it should mean to be a Christian generally.

Tigersue said...

I'm not even sure what to say. I think sometimes lawyers are needed as C.J. says. I have a sister that refused to get one when her husband filed for divorce saying she couldn't afford it. Of course she ended up with nothing, zip, for all the pain and suffering she went through. A lawyer would have at least made sure she was treated fairly by the scum that was her husband.

On the other hand one of the reasons I stopped working as a nurse was the litigious nature in health care.
1. There was a law made that had to do with how often tests could be made for a specific diagnosis. (This is Medicare, Medicaid concerns) If a test was ordered before the approved time who ever put that test in the computer could potentially be prosecuted and sent to federal prison for insurance fraud. Not the odering physician but the nurse, cleck, tech, who ever puts that oder in the computer is the one responsible for the timing of those tests.

2. I was involved in a law suit where the pressure was to "stretch" the truth. I'm glad I never had to do a deposition because I don't know how I could have done that when I know my charting that day was accurate. To me if felt like they were saying lie, even though they said don't lie. It was about a week after that experience that I turned in my letter of resignation. My integrity was and is not worth a lawyer for the hospital telling me that my charting had to be off because time is always strange when in an emergency situation.
Can't say more than that of course, but it sure left me with a fowl taste in my mouth.

C.J. said...

I think two common misconceptions among the general public are that 1) law = personal injury law, and 2) all areas of the law are more or less the same. When most people think of the law, and lawyers, they think of sleazy TV "attorneys" asking if you're experiencing pain and suffering. The truth is that most attorneys are just as repelled by this kind of junk as non-attorneys. Really, no power on Earth could make me work in personal injury.