Dream of:10 June 1996 "I Have AIDS"
I was sitting in the front passenger seat of a car which was being driven by a man who was probably in his late thirties. The man had black hair, was tall and thin, and was dressed in a handsome blue suit. I was also dressed in a blue suit and new white shirt. Both of us were lawyers and we were on our way to court for a jury trial.
I could already envision what the trial would be like. The other lawyer with me would do most of the examination of the witnesses, then at the end of the trial, I would stand up and deliver the closing argument. As I saw myself walk up in front of the jury, I began realizing that we actually had a very weak case and that it was going to be difficult to convince the jury. I also began to realize I wasn't yet sure what I was going to say, and that I needed to think some more about my closing argument.
There had actually been two cars of people when we had started out. But one of the cars had turned off another road and had taken another route to the courthouse. I was in the main car; in addition to the lawyer who was driving and myself, our client was also in our car, sitting in the back seat. Thus, it was vital that our car arrive at the courthouse on time – an arrival which was suddenly threatened when our driver began to slow down. Chagrined I looked at him, already sensing what the problem was: he announced that we were out of gas. He said he had already even used the spare tank. I was especially troubled because this was my car – a large dark-colored model – and I thought I must be at least partially responsible for not having made sure that we had plenty of gas.
With the last remaining bit of gas, the driver started to pull down a small dirt side road. But I stopped him and told him to pull over on the road we were on. I told him that the driver of the other car which had gone ahead would eventually come to look for us, and it was necessary that we be on the main road.
Finally our car ground to a halt and we sat there. My mind was racing, trying to think of some way we could still make it to the courthouse, some way we could get just a little more gas.
The other lawyer and I were standing in the hallway outside the courtroom. I looked inside and saw that the courtroom was crowded with people waiting for the judge to come. The interior of the courtroom looked like a classroom with rows of tall stools sitting in front of what looked like drafting tables. The stools were filled with lawyers, and I saw that one of the stools was waiting for me. But the other lawyer and I couldn't go in yet – our client hadn't yet arrived. I knew our client was with another lawyer whose car had run out of gas. Help had been sent to them, and I was anxiously hoping that they would make it in time.
In the meantime I noticed a lawyer named Duesler with whom I had gone to law school and whom I hadn't seen since law school. Since we had been on friendly terms in law school, I sidled up next to him and asked him what he had been doing lately. He curtly replied, "I've been doing what I've been doing," and he walked away. Taken aback, I just watched him walk inside the courtroom, thinking how rude he had been and how much he had changed since I had known him.
But then something more important caught my attention: I saw the judge's clerk – an attractive dark haired woman (probably in her late 30s). Since I knew her, I quickly approached her and began asking her some questions. I was interested to know if she could give me any insight on how the judge might rule in our case.
Our case was a bankruptcy case in which I was representing the debtor. In the bankruptcy case the debtor had been making monthly payments to a bankruptcy trustee who would then pay the debtor's debts. This particular case concerned one of the debts which we were trying to avoid paying completely. I knew it was going to be difficult to avoid paying the debt, but I wasn't prepared for what the clerk told me. She told me that the judge was very strict about this kind of case, and that if the debtor had missed any of his payments to the trustee, instead of canceling the debt, the judge would simply dismiss the case. I immediately knew we were in deep trouble because the debtor had missed some payments. I turned to the other lawyer who was working with me and I said, "We better settle this thing."
I knew the opposing side had made overtures of a settlement, but we had rebuffed them. Now I began to desperately hope a settlement might still be possible. I dreaded the idea of going into the courtroom with a losing case. I had hoped to present the case to a jury and try to persuade it. But now I saw that the case would probably never even make it to the jury because the judge would probably simply dismiss it.
I was watching a scene at which I wasn't actually present. Our client was a thin blond-haired man (probably in his early 30s). I could now see him sitting in a hotel room. After the car in which he had been riding had run out of gas on the way to court, inclement weather had also set in, and he had sought shelter – with an attorney – in a nearby motel.
The attorney was a blonde-haired woman also probably in her early thirties. As she and the client had waited in the motel room, they had had a long discussion in which she had learned that the client had AIDS. As she had continued to question him, she had also discovered that the client had an excellent legal cause of action against someone, a cause of action which was related to the fact that the client had AIDS. It was not clear to me what the nature of the lawsuit would be, but I did perceive that the man's medical condition had somehow been worsened by the actions of someone else, and that as a result he would soon die.
As I watched, at a certain point it became clear to the female attorney and her client that they weren't going to make it to court on time and that the case in bankruptcy court would be dismissed. But something far more important became clear: the client was going do die soon, probably this very day. The female attorney, realizing that the client wouldn't live much longer, quickly asked if the client would allow her to make a video recording of him which she could later use in evidence. When the client agreed, the woman quickly set up two large boxes – which looked like round hat boxes, but which apparently were some kind of video camera boxes – and she began filming.
At first I thought the woman was going to be asking the man about the bankruptcy case. But as the man began talking, I realized this had nothing to do with bankruptcy. The man began by saying, "I have AIDS." This testimony would be used in the AIDS case, after the man was already dead.
From that point on I witnessed an extremely heart-wrenching poignant scene. But what affected me most was not so much the condition of the man – his face was badly bruised with dark marks on his left eye and left cheek, as well as a cut on the left side of his upper lip – but what affected me most were my thoughts of myself, of the petty nature of my concerns about bankruptcy when the man wa just about to die. Here before me was a matter of life and death, here was a case I had overlooked while I had only been worried about avoiding some debt.
I was most impressed with the lady lawyer. She was obviously of the highest caliber, quickly seizing the moment to preserve the man's powerful testimony – I heard him say, "No one seems to care" – she was the one who was to be admired. At least I saw a little more clearly how effective a truly good lawyer could be. The testimony she was preserving was going to make a remarkable piece of evidence.
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