Anonymous Tip: Late Night Tears

Anonymous Tip: Late Night Tears August 19, 2016

A Review Series of Anonymous Tip, by Michael Farris

Pp. 351-357

So we’ve just got through Peter’s dramatic rescue of Gwen from Gordon. We’ll get back to the Gordon situation in a moment, but first we get another moment of Rita and Donna. Rita’s pretty excited. She tells Donna that she’s found a job in Sacramento, starting in December, and that she “will get a $15,000 a year raise.” That sounds excessive even for 2016, and this book was published in 1996. Perhaps the point is that social work lobbyists get paid enormous amounts of money? Anyway, Donna points out that it’s more expensive to live in California, and Rita says she’ll be “far enough from the bay area to keep the prices reasonable.” At least one thing has stayed the same, lol!

Anyway, there’s another mention of Rita’s daughter. Rita’s daughter is yet another invisible child in this book. We learn that she thinks she can go to Disneyland “every day after school” if she lives in California, so she must be in elementary school. Donna says Stephen has been calling more often, and that he’ll be back in Spokane for Christmas. Rita tells her to “Go get him.” For some reason feminist Donna’s escape plan involves a man, and feminist Rita approves of this.

Now back to Gwen and Gordon.

Gordon called Gwen’s house twice that week. She hung up each time. Her father waited at her home for thirty minutes longer each night. He was glad Peter had responded so effectively for his daughter.

But actually, that’s basically all we get, except for Stan wondering why Gwen and Gordon don’t just get together for gracious sakes. Apparently their mutual attraction is obvious to absolutely everyone around them. So much for being discreet!

Next we learn that both Peter and Gail submitted their briefs on October 10, and that both briefs were “the maximum allowed by the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.” Joe told Peter his brief was awesome-socks. Matt Bartholomew told Gail her brief was the bomb. And then this short section is done too—that’s three short, completely different sections in a row, if you’re counting.

Okay, what’s next? Joe has arranged for a “moot court” session to help Peter practice for the next hearing. He calls in favors with some friends to do so.

Joe’s friends were two former federal prosecutors and two others who had clerked in the Washington State Supreme Court. All four had fewer total years in practice than Peter, but each had substantially more exposure to the appellate process.

And again we get to wonder why Peter didn’t pass the court on to someone with more experience in this area, or at least call on a more experienced colleague for advice and input. Oh, and all these learned people meet in “the large conference room” at Joe’s old firm, where he worked before joining Peter. We learn that this old firm had an entire appellate department.

What follows is a description of their practice, and it’s extraordinarily boring.

“May it please the Court,” Peter began. “My name is Peter Barron, I represent the plaintiff—”

“Peter, let me stop you,” Dan Henderson said. “In the Court of Appeals you are the respondent-cross-appellant, not the plaintiff.”

They do get into some of the actual argumentation, but Peter’s really just saying everything we’ve heard before—that social workers only have immunity after charges are filed, and that this makes the forcible search of Gwen’s home and Casey’s person unconstitutional. The only interesting thing is that Peter does get hung up on one question Joe throws out there—this one:

“Aren’t social workers protected because of their association with the judicial process? We give them basically the same protection we give to judges, right? Aren’t judges protected for virtually everything they do? Judges can only be sued if they act in some capacity other than in their role as a judge before they can be sued. Why shouldn’t we adopt a rule that says that social workers can only be sued if they are acting in a capacity totally outside of their jurisdiction as social workers?”

Peter says this is a really hard question and can they stop the timer for a moment and that Gail has never raised this question.

“The way I would answer it,” Dan Henderson said, “is to point out that there is no such thing as social worker immunity. The doctrine is called ‘quasi-judicial immunity.’ There is no immunity until the social worker steps into the arena where the judges theoretically are supervising their conduct. When social workers are acting outside a judge’s supervision, then they should possess no social protection.”

In retrospect I’m not sure that was actually interesting, but seriously, that was the only even quasi-interesting thing about this section. Farris tells us this went on for two hours, and that whenever Peter got stopped the others would pitch in and find the answer they felt “was most likely to appease a panel of federal appeals court judges.” The moot court session leaves Peter feeling much better. Farris tells us he hadn’t realized how invaluable it would be when Joe first suggested it. And yet somehow this doesn’t come across as him admitting to being cocky and overly self-confident. Which it probably should.

This whole bit has been very very boring, so I’m going to plough through and keep going and see if we can’t find something interesting. Peter goes through the Wendy’s drive-through and then heads home. It’s already late. Farris tells us Peter has “spent a four-hour session in his office re-reading all the briefs and many of the cases which were cited by both sides,” and that he’s determined not to let the judges “detect any lack of preparation or appellate experience in his presentation.” Farris says Peter, Gwen, and her parents are driving to Seattle the next day, and that they’ve “booked three rooms at the Holiday Inn Crown Plaza” near the courthouse. I find myself curious why Gwen and her parents aren’t rooming together—I thought money was tight?—and whether we’re even going to learn where Casey will be during this time.

Peter throws himself on his couch determined to sleep, but he ends up thinking about Gwen and her divorce, and wishing he’d given her some deadline other than the end of October. It’s apparently just “too much to think about.” He picks up one of the books Pastor Lind gave him and starts re-skimming him, but finally throws it down in frustration, “tired of the confusion, tired of wrestling with God, and just plain tired.” So he starts reading the Bible instead. He picks Chapter 11 and prays he’ll find something relevant to his life right now. I know this game. I know it well. You pick a passage and read it until something stands out, like it was written just for you, at this very moment.

Nothing in the chapter seemed to particularly stand out until he got to verse 17. That verse, and the two just after it, seemed to jump off the page and speak to his heart.

“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice, He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” 

He remembered his conversation with Pastor Lind, comparing his situation with Gwen to Abraham and Isaac. He laid the Bible down on his chest and just thought. Tears were welling up in his eyes, but they did not spill over.

“I don’t have any choice,” he said aloud chocking back the tears. “I’ll have to break it off.”

He tumbled off the couch onto his knees.

“God, this is the hardest prayer I’ve ever prayed. I don’t want to sacrifice Gwen. I wanted to find a way around your Word. But I know that kind of thinking is wrong.”

And etc. It goes on for a while. After praying he decides to tell Gwen “after they were back from Seattle and away from her parents.”

On some level, this was predictable. The moment Peter considered rethinking his religious beliefs so that he could marry Gwen, it was obvious that he’d have to conclude that he couldn’t—after all, evangelicals are huge on teaching that beliefs have to come first, and that you should never rethink your beliefs because of life circumstances. Because that’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? Peter came face to face with the dire and unpleasant consequences of his belief that believers should not marry anyone divorced for reasons other than infidelity. He realized that his belief that believers should not marry divorced individuals prevented him from marrying a woman like Gwen. He liked Gwen, she liked him, all in all it seemed a perfect match—but they couldn’t get married.

Look, it is only natural and normal for people to question or rethink a belief when that belief has real world consequences that don’t make sense, or are bad, or when confronted with new information. I’ve done this myself, many times. Beliefs are not supposed to be frozen and unchanging. Underlying values, sure, but there are a huge variety of beliefs that can be formed and reformed, thought and rethought, within a similar ethic. But the evangelical idea that changing a belief based on changed or new circumstances is always always always wrong circumvents that very natural process.

Peter has several times wished that Gordon would just die already. That is the consequence of his belief vis a vis divorced women—it least to wishing death on the other divorced partner. If that’ snot enough reason for rethinking this belief, I don’t know what is. But then, this is Peter we’re talking about.

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