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Spam (In)Justice

Posted by RickH · September 19th, 2008 · 1 Comment

I was going to post this on my legal blog, but I just couldn’t.  I don’t care how low my standard of review for Probable Cause is:  as ashamed as I am to admit I’m a part of this faux system of justice, this is one rant that just has to go here.  I can’t put it on my professional site.

Here we have another example of how the courts have decided that the quaint concept of “justice” is no longer compatible with modern life.  The court in Pace v. United States Automobile Ass’n, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49425, 9-10 (D. Colo. 2007) has held that because the courts decided to put themselves in the same class as pornographic spammers and stop using the United States Postal Service with its more than two centuries of service, law firms and their clients will be punished.

The Internet, for all the good that it has brought otherwise, is still relatively new and unreliable when it comes to the consistent and competent dissemination of information — time-sensitive or otherwise.

This morning, for example, I received a phone call from a program placement counselor.  I had requested my client be evaluated for in-patient placement before an upcoming hearing.  Several days ago, I emailed the evaluator to inform her the client’s family had paid the evaluation fee and she should proceed.  Now, I’ve exchanged several emails with this evaluator, so I had no reason to think my email would not be received.  But this morning’s message on my voicemail had her asking me to notify her when the family made its payment so she could get started, since the hearing date is fast approaching.  So, I sent her another email, but (to be safe) I also called her (and was forced to leave a voicemail when I could not reach her).

On this blog, not to mention email, I daily wade through tons of spam to avoid missing comments people might post in response to my articles.  While looking for an old missing email this evening, I happened to run across a different email than that I originally sought, concerning the Pace case.  Although I thank the gods (no, judge, I didn’t mean you) it’s not a case to which I’m assigned, I missed the message because my filters kept it from my Inbox folder!

The Pace court stated:

The court acknowledges that Mr. Bridgers,’ Mr. Markel’s, and Ms. Baxter’s [the attorneys who were not notified of the hearing because the court allowed itself to be identified on the Internet as a pornography spammer] absence was not wilful or contumacious. It was, instead, simply negligent because of the manner in which their computer was set up to deal with notices the court issued through its ECF system. While that may explain the absence of plaintiff’s counsel and help to make it somewhat understandable, that is not enough.

And, since “that is not enough,” the court penalized the attorneys by requiring them to pay attorneys’ fees to opposing counsel.

On the one hand, some smug self-righteous individuals (yes, of course: judges) might count this as justified on the grounds that the firm responded to its female employees’ complaints by tightening its spam filters when it should not have.  On the other hand, the reality is that the courts don’t give a rat’s ass about justice, which requires notice, among other things.  Instead, ironically, they behave more and more as arbitrary, procedure-oriented (except when the procedure benefits the accused), content-blind and unfeeling bits of computer code.  They’re apparently sophisticated enough to hire secretaries who know how to use the Internet (you don’t think the judges themselves actually send email notices to attorneys, do you? half the living judges wouldn’t know how!).  But they’ve never heard of telephones and couldn’t suggest that when the attorneys didn’t show up after an email — EMAIL! — was sent, that someone call the firm so they could send someone to attend the hearing.

What the hell is wrong with you people?  Have we truly reached the point where following imperfect procedures matters more than justice?  Why aren’t you ashamed of yourselves?

Someone, please: shoot me now!  I don’t know how much more “justice,” I can stand!

Categories: Law and Legal Issues

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Joni // Sep 29, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Holy spam filter, Rick. That’s insane. I appreciate e-filing and all that good stuff, and emailing large pleadings is a lot faster than faxing them (because god forbid, we wait for them to arrive in the MAIL!), but you are right. It’s an imperfect system and mail servers have been known to go down in flames. It’s okay to use email, but I wouldn’t rely on it, as you have stated, and for those very reasons. Why can’t the judge’s clerk or secretary (oops, excuse me, ASSISTANT) call all the counsel involved to make sure they will be present and have received notice? Is that too much to ask? Maybe it is if those clerks, secretaries (oh, all RIGHT, ASSISTANTS) weren’t so busy playing sudoko or updating their Facebook profiles on the Interneck. 🙂

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