Dream of: 08 March 1996 "Ethical Problem"
Riding abicycle on a sidewalk. On my right a spacious green park; on my left the street, with cars parked next to the sidewalk, head-in – not parallel – a parking meter in front of each car. There was no curb between the sidewalk and the street, but there was a slight incline about 15 centimeters wide from the sidewalk to the street so it was obvious where the sidewalk began and the street ended.
Suddenly, up ahead of me perhaps 20 meters away, I noticed a policeman walking toward me on the sidewalk. It occurred to me that it might be illegal to ride a bicycle here on the sidewalk. I quickly decided that the best thing I could do would be to turn off between two of the parked cars and continue riding the bicycle out in the street. But before I could slow down enough to turn between two of the cars, the policeman rushed up, grabbed my bike and stopped me.
The cop was probably only about 5 foot 6 inches tall – shorter than I – and he was probably only in his mid twenties. Although he was wearing a hat, I could see that he had black hair. He was wearing a blue shirt buttoned all the way up to the neck.
He wasted no time in taking my bicycle from me. I protested that I was intending to take the bike out into the street and ride it there, but that made no difference to him. With me following he pulled my bicycle over into the park. In front of us in the park, a few yards away, was a log structure which looked like something children would climb and play on. It was round and over three meters in diameter. It had two levels, each with a wooden floor, the second floor being about three meters above the first floor. The second floor could be reached by some wooden steps.
It was up to the second floor of this log structure where the cop now drug my bicycle. I followed along, increasingly apprehensive. Once we were up there, I saw that the cop had a computer which he quickly turned on. Apparently he had already found an identification number on my bicycle and was going to enter it into the computer to check on it. I was becoming more and more nervous, because I couldn't remember where I had gotten the bicycle. I thought it was possible that I had stolen it.
I was concerned that the computer was going to bring up a message that the bicycle was stolen, and I didn't know what I would say then. I thought I would probably just say that I had found the bicycle in some trash. I knew the bicycle was very old – probably from the 1930s – and not worth much. But then again, I thought, it might be worth something as a collector's item; I knew many people collected old bicycles. So I wasn't certain whether the cop would believe me if I told him I had simply found the bicycle.
As the cop waited to get a response on the computer, I walked back down the wooden steps to the ground. I was wondering why the cop had singled me out. It looked as if other people were riding bicycles in the park. And besides that, there were other devices with wheels on them in the park – why didn't he do something about them? For example, I noticed quite a few grocery shopping carts sitting around – there must have been 20 of them. And I saw several people pushing baby strollers – shouldn't they also be illegal?
But what most aggravated me was when I saw someone riding a bicycle right toward me. As soon as the person reached me, I stopped him. He was a boy (about 12 years old). I immediately pointed to the cop who was still in the wooden structure, and I told the boy that the policeman over there wanted to see him.
The boy was quite polite. He got off his bike and immediately walked over to the wooden structure. I was surprised by what happened next. I thought the cop had signaled me out and that he wouldn't be interested in doing anything to the boy. But the cop quickly grabbed the boy's bicycle, pulled it into the structure, and began processing the boy just as he had done me.
I walked over to the structure and up to the boy. I felt awful. I now realized I had made a terrible mistake by turning the boy into the cop. I looked at the boy and said, "I'm sorry."
Now what made everything even worse was that the boy was so polite and understanding. He wasn't at all angry with me, although he was visibly shaken by what the cop was doing to him. I sorely regretted my action and wished there was something I could do to help the boy.
Suddenly something occurred to me. I thought to myself, "I'm a lawyer." Maybe there was something I could do for the boy. I could represent him and try to get him out of this mess. I could simply tell him right now that I was a lawyer and ask him if he wanted me to represent him. But I hesitated. I reflected that it was against the ethical cannons of attorneys to approach someone in person and offer legal representation. That could especially be a problem for me if the cop would overhear my offering the boy to represent him. But suddenly I made up my mind. I was going to do it. This whole thing was my fault, and I was going to offer the boy to help him, even if it did end up causing me problems.
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