Every day I receive telephone calls from people who have urgent problems and are facing deadlines requiring that something must be done under the law to preserve their rights, and that deadline is often that very day or that week. When I give them the information they need, and urge them to consult or retain a lawyer, they just seem to sputter out. This leads me to believe that many people put their heads in the sand, do not want to face their problems head on, and hope that the things they have to deal with, or are happening to them, will just disappear.
However, if someone is involved in the legal process, that process forges on, and there are stringent deadlines when things have to be done under the law, whether people want to face them or not.
For example, if you are one of those unfortunate people whose real estate is scheduled to be sold by the sheriff, usually because real estate taxes have not been paid, or a mortgage is being foreclosed on, hiding your head in the sand will not work. YOU WILL LOSE YOUR HOUSE IF YOU DON’T DO ANYTHING, AND YOU MAY LOSE IT ANYWAY IF YOU HAVE WAITED TOO LONG TO DO SOMETHING.
A man (I will call him the nephew) who called me recently said he had permitted his uncle to stay in a house the man owned for years, and his uncle was supposed to be paying the real estate taxes on the house. The man had not checked if the real estate taxes were current. The nephew never received notice of the sale because the legal documents from the court system were being delivered to the house, where his uncle was living, and his uncle never shared them with the nephew. The nephew called me on the last day he had in which to file a response with the court system, which may have preserved his legal rights to make a payment plan, or at least delay the anticipated sale. I told him it was possible, through electronic filing, for us to assist him. Instead he sputtered out, saying he would check with the uncle, meaning the same uncle who was costing him his house to begin with, and he disappeared and I never heard from him again. This is not the first person who has called me with this situation. For some reason people often totally disregard their deadlines and seem to think the legal system doesn’t apply to them or they can later talk their way out of a serious legal problem.
A woman called me recently because she had collected funds from the welfare system because she cared for her sister’s children on weekends. Welfare apparently determined these were not payments she was entitled to, so welfare pursued a wage garnishment (the withholding funds from a paycheck) and wound up garnishing substantial amounts from her sister’s paycheck. I told the woman this was a serious matter, and may even involve fraud allegations, which may have criminal penalties. She stated that she had filed her own document in court, and used some legal term she mispronounced (she certainly did not know its meaning), and that she planned to go to a hearing herself the next morning. When I suggested that she at least pay us for an hour’s consultation and review of her documents, because she didn’t want to be charged with welfare fraud, and make statements in open court which could be considered to be legal admissions, she acted insulted.
There is a saying that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. I think the more appropriate statement is that someone who thinks they are a lawyer, without any legal training or understanding of the legal system, and who disregards the advice of a lawyer and continues to represent himself, does so at his own risk, even if they can afford legal representation or advice, most likely has a fool for a client.