I’m actually keying this post off the recent Washington Post article about a young man’s suicide. You can read the article here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/19/AR2011021904528.html
What aroused my absolute and complete indignation (other than what seems to me to be the disproportionate punishment) are these statements:
“Fairfax parents tell stories of going into the process without an attorney and finding their children under fire at adversarial hearings. These families contend there is no impartial judge but instead a presumption of guilt. ”
Then there is this one: “[when his parents arrived at school they were] told that Nick had confessed in writing to buying …. As was common in such cases, Nick had signed the admission before school officials had alerted his parents of the trouble.”
Finally, there’s this one: “they had not talked to a lawyer, following the advice of a Woodson administrator who [dad] said cautioned against bringing in one because it might create a confrontational climate.”
Where should I start? With the violation of the kid’s rights (he was only 15)? Or with the intimidation factor of not contacting his parents before they got a “confession?” But I think the most outrageous comment was the one about lawyers. Of COURSE you need a lawyer. You are already in confrontation mode! They took a written “confession” from the kid. How can this NOT be confrontation? I don’t know. I guess people just trust authority or something.
Is there a moral somewhere for business people in this story? Yep. What is it? VERY LOUD Alarm bells should go off in your head when you hear someone tell you that you don’t need a lawyer, that lawyers only screw things up. In my experience, the minute you hear that you should run, not walk, to a lawyer. There’s a very good chance that, if someone says this to you either they have a lawyer coaching them to screw you, or they’ve been down this road often enough that they’re trying to screw you. In other words, the most important time to get a lawyer is when the other side tells you that you don’t need one.