My Uncle Louie always referred to Montgomery County, Maryland as “Monkey County”. I never knew why. Now that I am an attorney, I do.
I’ve learned the hard way that there are too many smirking chimps in Monkey County’s legal system. In the past, I was told by a Montgomery County judge that I couldn’t represent a client in Maryland (even though I am admitted to the Bar and may practice before any court in the Free State). In the same case, the judge refused to rule on any motion I made, without explanation. I later learned from a chance conversation in a Virginia courtroom that the judge, now fortunately retired, had been law partners with the opposing attorney and didn’t want to harm his case. The Maryland Bar Counsel, charged with policing local lawyers, saw nothing wrong with this.
Now, I am afflicted with a Monkey County attorney who has spent most of a year trying to get my client, a lifelong alcoholic, out of an assisted living facility so he can drink himself to death. In several statements, the court-appointed lawyer told me that her job was to represent him and, since he wanted to go home, she would work to effect that, no matter that doctors who examined him didn’t think he could survive being outside a controlled environment.
Worse, the court-appointed lawyer, knowing that doctors who had evaluated the client wanted him to undergo psychiatric treatment and join Alcoholics Anonymous, filed a blizzard of pleadings attempting to divert the court’s attention away from the client’s mental state. This has run up the elderly man’s legal expenses, jeopardizing his ability to cover his other debts and provide for his healthcare.
Other attorneys have told me that they no longer refer cases to this woman and suspect that her irrational behavior and intransigence result from a belief that her connections to the Monkey County courts will trump justice and the best interests of the client.
Despite 50 years of hard-drinking, the poor man has suffered no untoward consequences of his alcoholism and failing mental faculties, unless you count three failed marriages and the estrangement of his children, and the alienation of his brothers. Despite this, the family, along with his social worker, herself an alcoholic, asked me to file a petition for guardianship in Monkey County. The client, hospitalized after a terrible fall while drunk, recovered enough to go on several more drinking binges this year, twice resulting in detoxification at a local hospital followed by months of rehabilitation at a nursing home.
When I related this story to a French attorney (who had studied law in the United States), he sneered, saying, “What do you expect? American lawyers want to make money at any cost and don’t have the wit to tell a good case from a bad one.”
Add in a jurisdiction like Maryland where an annual continuing legal education requirement (with at least one ethics course) is continually voted down, attorneys are free to do as they please.
J. Michael Springmann was a diplomat in the State Department’s Foreign Service, with postings to Germany, India, Saudi Arabia, and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in Washington, D.C. The published author of several articles on national security themes, he is now an attorney in private practice in the Washington, D.C. area.
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