Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Delaware Client

A few years ago, I had a client (let’s call him “Del,” not his real name ) who lived in Columbus who had to face charges in Delaware, the county seat twenty miles north of the capital. He was in danger of doing jail time if he didn’t pay the County of Delaware a fine of several hundred dollars.

I made a couple of phone calls in his behalf, trying to fix him up with a job. Somewhat to my surprise, I lucked out and found him one. I called a man who had a business putting liquor initiatives on the ballot, getting people to sign petitions. It’s a couple of bucks a signature, and if you manage to get fifteen signatures in an hour, that’s a pretty decent day’s paycheck. The guy I knew remembered me for having done good work quite a few years earlier when I (and my legs) were a whole lot younger.

He told me he’d give my client a job one Saturday, provided I worked too. I figured, what the heck, I’m going the second mile for a client. Since my cash flow situation was less than ideal, I took him up on his offer.

I told Del to be ready at 11 on a Saturday and told him to be ready, wearing a dress shirt and a tie. When I arrived, he wasn’t ready because his grandmother was out getting him a dress shirt from Goodwill. I drove him to my ex-boss’s office and learned that this petitioning project was in Columbiana County, on the Pennsylvania line. I thought, what the hell, I’ll be in the Guinness Book of Records for this one.

We had a pretty productive day. My client cleared a hundred bucks worth of signatures, while I made two hundred bucks in signatures and mileage. As we drove back from Columbiana County, Del asked me, “How far are we from Mansfield?” I told him the sign just said ten miles. He said, “That’s where my father is. I hate him so much.” Turns out Del pere most of the boy’s life in Mansfield Correctional. When we got our checks a few days later, I told my client this was not his get-out-of-jail-free card, but definitely a break. All he had to do was sign his check over to the County, and they wouldn’t toss him in jail.

At this point, Del said, “Well, I don’t necessarily agree.” I had to be in Delaware Court anyhow, so I offered him a ride to pay the fine. He walked home instead. Del skipped his next court date and the court issued a warrant for his arrest. I then withdrew from the case.

Almost a year later, I got a call from the Delaware County Court informing me that Del was in their custody after a spell in Franklin County Jail, and that I was assigned to represent him again. When I went in to see my client, what do you suppose he said to me? “This is all your fault!”

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