President's Page by Brad Hall
In the early spring of this year, I began thinking about the monthly column I would need to write each and every month for an entire year. Stress associated with developing something new to impart to fellow lawyers every month turns out to be a pretty common concern for incoming bar presidents if the amount of advice available on the internet is any measure. The most common advice was to not stress out about the column and write about what you know or enjoy.
When I started planning how these monthly masterpieces would play out over the year, I had no intention that it might turn into a travelogue. But after last month’s trip to Germany, I had the opportunity to travel to Thailand to visit my brother, who has retired there. This column comes to you from the beach in Phuket. It is great work if you can get it!
Something that I always try to do when I visit another country is stop by a local courthouse or law office and see if I can learn something firsthand about a different legal system. I had the opportunity to watch a very small portion of a first degree murder trial in Hobart, Tasmania, a very rare occurrence. The bailiff invited me into the courtroom as the crown was making its closing argument. I declined given I did not want a packed courtroom turning to see me standing there in cargo shorts, t-shirt and sandals.
To this point, I have not had the opportunity to get into a Thai courtroom, but I hope to next week when we move on to Chiang Mai. I do want to pass on a story he told me about a neighbor of his who had a run-in with the Thai legal system. A dispute in a bar over a couple of drinks led to a young woman being pushed, a punch being thrown, and ultimately a femur being snapped, which ended the fight. Neither of the two combatants was Thai. The victim had several thousand dollars in medical bills and a permanent rod in his leg. He was told both by the police and his lawyer that the matter just could not be pursued because no Thai citizens were involved and no one would care. I am sure there is more to this story, but I was struck by the sheer blatancy of him being told that the justice system is not for him because of his nationality.
I know that too many times our justice system can turn a blind eye to those most in need of justice. I also know that when I think about whether to accept a new client, one of my first thoughts is how he or she will be perceived by whatever decision maker might pass judgment on the matter, regardless of the merits of the case. I imagine we all do this in some form or fashion. So, if I actually come back from Thailand next week, I am going to do my level best to do my small part to help ensure that we can, as a profession, make sure that it will never come to pass that we will have to tell a client we are sorry but the justice system just is not for them.
The sun is now setting in Phuket, and it is amazing. I am sure it will help lessen the stress of writing next month’s column.