For lawyers and attorneys, it is generally not a good PR move to say, for example, "litigation rocks!"
But we do love litigation ... for the sport of it.
At the same time, good lawyers and litigators recognize that what is usually financing litigation is a real person's blood money and a real person's life (or lives, if one includes that of the other litigant), is very much at stake.
But like a brain surgeon who cannot be spooked by blood in the middle of surgery, a good barrister will not be unsettled by emotions but will be charged by the intellectual challenge of frontline justice, which we call litigation.
Which is why we love the honourable Ernie Chambers.
The most important feature of the Ernie Chambers (pictured; left), up until last Friday anyway, was that he was a Black legislator in a primarily White state; a real-life role model and member of a a legislative assembly of a free and democratic society; not that of Timbuktu, Cambodia or Kazakhstan. But that of the solidly Republican American state of Nebraska, home of Dick Cheney, Gerald Ford, Fred Astaire, Johnny Carson and Henry Fonda and now... well, let’s not spoil the surprise.
Mother Jones magazine, in an article written on January 5, 2006, refers to Chambers as "the maverick of Omaha, "the angriest black men in Nebraska" and, as if it were the missing piece of his biography, Nebraskan Senate’s longest-serving member.
In January 2006, the College Democrats blog reported on the Senator's formula for determining how many handguns a person ought to be allowed to carry. Intended to be tongue in cheek, it begins as follows:
"To determine the number of pistols a licensee may lawfully carry concealed under the Concealed Handgun Permit Act or section 28-1202 on any given occasion (except the United States or the State of Nebraska shall be at war), the body weight of the licensee shall be multiplied by ten-times the licensee’s (admitted) age, then divided into the year of the licensee’s birth plus one hundred thirty-seven and one-half, then add the number of inches of licensee’s height rounded up to the next full inch which shall be subtracted from the number of the current century (2100), if the number of the current century exceeds the other number, otherwise subtract the number of the current century from the other number, then, after multiplying the size of the licensee’s right shoe by three-times the girth of the licensee’s waist after a full meal, measured and certified by a professional tailor…"
What we must expect of legislators, if nothing else, is respect for the judiciary.
All barristers receive in their office, from time to time, clients afflicted with litigation fever, who would sue Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, and God if they could.
But not the legislator.
Such a thing – unless the litigant was deranged – (Larry Craig comes to mind), would be blasphemy to any constitutional lawyer. To bring the court and the justice system into such disrepute would undermine the people's confidence in that system; something we cannot afford.
Well, folks, meet Mr. Chambers.
In the District Court of Douglas County, Nebraska, Docket 1075, page 462 is the September 14, 2007 Petition for Permanent Injunction filed by Ernie Chambers.
The Defendant, referred to by His (Her?) surname (I presume) of God, is described as "also known by various aliases, titles, names, designations (and) is present in all places at the same time ("Omnipresent"), is the admitted perpetrator of the deleterious acts complained of herein".
In his Petition, the Senator is careful to point out that he did attempt personal service on God by calling out "come out, come out, wherever you are", but it seemed that the defendant, by not appearing when properly summoned, was evasive toward service.
In any event, argues the Petition, since God is "all-knowing (omniscient)", delivery and knowledge of the Petition can be presumed.
The Petition claims that the District Court of Douglas County has jurisdiction because the "Defendant, being omnipresent, is personally present in Douglas County" and, in any event, "is present ... by and through putative agents ... of various religious denominations, persuasions, cults and the like, who publicly and notoriously hold themselves out to be agents of Defendant who are authorized to speak for and represent Defendant".
In the Petition, Senator Chambers says that these agents of God "appear to be hopelessly alienated, fractious, separate from and antagonistic towards one another".
The Petition claims that God, through his agents, has done the following bad things:
- Unspecified terrorist threats and that the ongoing "terrorist threats are credible, based on defendants past conduct in history";
- Fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, devastating drouths (sic), genocidal wars, birth defects, and the like";
- That the defendant God has admitted this by publishing through "hand-picked, trusted chroniclers of yore".
This is not all.
Chambers alleges that God: "...has manifested neither compassion nor remorse, proclaiming that Defendant will laugh when calamity comes".
In his claim for relief, Senator Chambers asks the court to give him summary judgment and a permanent injunction against God "from engaging in the types of deleterious actions in the making of terrorist threats".
This Petition gives new meaning to be usually pro forma claim seeking "any other and further relief that this Honourable Court deems proper to serve the ends of justice and equity".
Although no medical evidence is available or, presumably, would be difficult to obtain, the good Senator is not crazy.
The point of this litigation, albeit overkill, is to draw attention to the American disease of frivolous lawsuits, a significant public issue right now in the United States.
According to Ketv.com, what pushed Chambers over the edge was the aftermath of a local judge’s decision to disallow a victim from using the words "rape", "victim" or "sexual assault" in her testimony against an alleged rapist.
The victim vehemently objected having to use the replacement word "sex" as in her mind (and mine!), what happened to her cannot be thus described. In part because of the publicity surrounding the judge’s decision, two attempts to have the offender tried have resulted in mistrials.
The victim, Tory Bowen, subsequently filed a complaint against the judge with the federal court, alleging that the judges interlocutory decision violated her right to free speech.
That set off Chambers.
The anti-frivolous lawsuit campaign is financially supported by the medical profession, much of it well-intentioned. After all, how many doctors want their surgery reports picked apart in a deposition?
In spite of a number of institutional safeguards against frivolous lawsuits, not the least of which is the summary judgment process which is specifically there to a lower court strike a frivolous lawsuit from the get-go, there remains a steady flow of frivolous lawsuits (see, for example, "outrageous lawsuits" at duhaime.org/LawFun/LawArticle-41/Outrageous-Lawsuits.aspx).
Another good example is Stephen Dunne who, according to Majikthise.typepad.com (a New York City-based blog), has filed a claim against the Massachusetts Bar. Apparently, Dunne "refused" to answer a question related to gay marriage and this caused him to fail his bar exams. Mr. Dunne seeks $9.5-million in damages.
Lawyers have a lot of sport and fun in what we do but the cat's meow, that's what we and the world wait for; that global mystical experience, that White Light when the sheriff of Douglas County, Nebraska, calls out for the Defendant "God" to appear.
Will it be another disappointing silence or will we hear the heavy crash of thunder and witness an old gentleman with long white hair and white robes enter the courtroom and with the voice of James Earl Jones, speak those immortal words of first contact ....
[Ed. note: at this point, the electricity was mysteriously cut off.]
References and Further Reading:
- Mother Jones Magazine, January 5, 2006
- "State Senator Ernie Chambers Sues God", Ketv.com, September 17, 2007
- "Banned Words Debated In Sex Assault Case", www.journalstar.com, June 17, 2007
- "Woman Sues Judge Over Language Restrictions Imposed in Sexual Assault Trial", law.com, September 11, 2007
- College Democrats blog at unodemocrats.com/blog/2006/01/10/ernie-chambers-unplugged/
- "The Myth of the Frivolous Lawsuit", corpreform.com
- Beyerstein, Lindsay, "Christian Flunks Bar Exams; Blame the Gays", June 6, 2007, at majikthise.typepad.com/majikthise_/2007/07/christian-flunk.html
- Chambers' Petition has been reproduced as a PDF at media.graytvinc.com/documents/Chambers+v+God.pdf