A Review Series of Anonymous Tip, by Michael Farris
It’s the question of the hour: Can Peter do it? Can he treat Gwen as a client and nothing more?
Gwen and Peter talked briefly at church on Sunday. They sat in the same pew—on opposite ends of the Roberts family. They caught each other’s eye once or twice and smiled.
NO HE CANNOT.
Look, I don’t care that the Roberts family sat between them, Peter should have sat elsewhere as soon as he saw that Gwen was with them. He also needs to stop catching her eye and smiling at her. Not cool, Peter, not cool.
The bulk of the week went by without any contact.
See? See? No contact seems to be the only way Peter can avoid acting unethically around Gwen. Ergo, he needs to stop being her lawyer and find someone else (preferably someone more experienced in this area of law) to be her teacher. STAT.
But then on Thursday Peter received Gail’s motion to dismiss—two weeks earlier than he’d expected, I might add—so of course he had to call Gwen. Oh no! Peter arranged for Gwen to come in the next morning to look at the documents. When she arrived, Sally was away at the office supply store, so she let herself into Peter’s office.
Peter looked up, startled to see her standing there. But he recovered quickly, “Gwen, don’t you look nice!”
Peter, Peter, Peter, STOP. Not okay.
She had her hair back in a loose ponytail tied up in a bright red ribbon. She was wearing white denim jeans and a blue button-down oxford shirt, with a red-and-white striped sweater tied over her shoulders.
So she does wear colors other than pink, and she does wear pants. But of course she has a ribbon in her hair. Because of course she does.
“I was beginning to think you weren’t working on my case any more. I hadn’t heard from you in so long,” Gwen teased.
“With this latest load of garbage from Willet and Corliss, I think we’ll be seeing each other quite a bit for a few days,” Peter replied.
They both secretly hoped it was true.
Good god Peter, if she’s flirting with you it should be obvious you can’t interact with her simply as a client. For serious.
So anyway, Peter begins walking Gwen through the documents.
“There are basically four different documents: a motion to dismiss, a brief supporting motion, an affidavit from Donna Corliss, and a spy of their initial intake report.”
“Am I supposed to understand what you just said?” Gwen asked.
“Not yet,” Peter laughed.
Could we not with this demeaning of Gwen’s intellect? The titles of those documents are not a foreign language!
Anyway, Peter explains what is completely obvious from the titles of the documents. He then says that they are making two important arguments—that Donna “believed that Casey was in immediate danger of real abuse” and “that social workers are immune from civil rights suits.” The first argument, he says, is faction, and the second is legal. Peter says he can respond to the immunity argument, but that he needs Gwen’s help with the factual argument. “I need you to remember, with as many details as possible, exactly what happened,” he says. Gwen says she already put everything down in the document she wrote up for him before the previous hearing.
Peter asks Gwen whether Donna told him when they received the hotline tip. Gwen asks if she mentioned it in the document she wrote up, and Peter says she gave two different versions and wants her to try to remember it “fresh” and without looking at the document she wrote. She can’t and asks for the document and Peter gives it to her.
“Look at the two different spots I have highlighted in yellow. On the first day—the day Corliss came alone—you wrote down that she said they had received the hotline call on Thursday, which would have made it six days earlier. Now flip over to page eight. This time, after Corliss had strip-searched Casey, you wrote that she said the call had come in ‘night before last’—that would have made it Tuesday night. Now what I—“
Gwen stops him and and says she needs to read through the document and think. After some time, she says she wrote it all down correctly, that as a nurse she has to have good recall for medical charts. She says she is “positive” Donna told her tow different stories. Peter says he hoped she’d say that, and she says she’s glad to make him happy but doesn’t see why it’s important. Again with making Gwen dense. Peter has to explain the obvious, again—namely that if the tipster reported severe bruising Donna would have visited immediately, and not six days later. Gwen reminds him that the second time Donna indicated that she had investigated right away, and Peter says it’s “just all too cozy.”
I have a question. If the report had involved severe bruising and Donna had been turned away at the door the first time, as she was, wouldn’t she have immediately called for backup? Why wait until the next day to visit again with backup? Exigent circumstances is supposed to involve fear of literally immediate danger—wouldn’t the fact that Donna waited a day before coming back suggest that there weren’t exigent circumstances, regardless of when the tip was called in? Am I missing something here, or is Peter missing it?
Anyway, Peter says he believes Gwen that Donna first said the report was called in the previous Thursday, and Gwen asks how they’re going to prove it, and Peter says the real problem is the intake report, which states that the call was on Tuesday. Gwen assumes that means the issue is settled, but Peter says he thinks Donna is lying, because she lied about the fading bruises, and he suggests they can argue that the intake report was insufficient cause and—hang on a second. When Donna changed the intake report, she changed it to “severe bruising reported.” Peter is seriously going to argue that this was insufficient cause? Also, Peter has yet to suggest that the intake report could be doctored, but he’s telling Gwen he believes Donna said the report was the previous Thursday, but he acknowledges that the intake report says Tuesday, and how is he resolving that?!
You know what? This all just got really tedious. Sigh.
“Peter,” she said with a quivery in her voice. “Peter, what are we going to do?”
He walked around to the front of his desk and turned his chair around to face Gwen’s. Peter sat down and reached out and took both her hands in his. “The first thing we’re going to do is pray about this. Form a lawyer’s perspective we have definitely got an uphill fight—with a very steep incline. But you are now a child of the King, and we need to talk to your Heavenly Father about this.”
No no no no no, Peter! Look, it would be one thing if your lawyer was a fellow parishioner you’d known for ages, and you and they were on an equal footing, but that is not what this is. Also, the holding hands? Really? Really, Peter?! I mean good grief, even Farris tells us that Gwen was “a little embarrassed and confused to be holding hands with Peter.” This is why lawyers have ethical codes. Except for Peter, of course. We already know he doesn’t care much about ethics. As far as I’m concerned, he needs to be reported to the bar alongside Bill Walinski.
Peter prayed first, and then Gwen prayed as well. Peter was struck by the clarity of her prayer. She was just talking to God without all the routines and formulas that Christians develop over years of listening to other people pray in public. He could tell that Gwen’s love for God was real and growing. While he was happy to see signs of real spiritual vitality in her, it made him ache inside all the more.”
What. Peter needs to let Lynn be Gwen’s spiritual mentor and stay the heck out.
After they both said “Amen,” Peter’s hands held hers a little longer than necessary. They both knew what was happening, but neither said anything. Finally, Peter stood up, turned the chair back into its place and said, “I’d better get to work finding some cases to answer her brief.”
OMG will someone report Peter already?!
You know what this book needs? Sally needs to notice what is going on, tell Peter to knock it off, and then report him to the bar when he refuses. Yeah, she’ll lose her job, but she’d be a hero in my book. But guess what’s not going to happen? That.
Anyway, Peter says he has ten days to file his response, they talk details, etc.
She left the office and got in the elevator alone. As she glided down the ten stories, she spoke her thoughts aloud. “God, what’s wrong with me? Why am I not good enough for Peter?” Tears were starting to form in her eyes when the elevator stopped.
Oh good god. Someone report Peter to the bar already. I think we’ve more than amply answered the question we began this post with.