Back in the day when giant mastodons roamed the courtrooms, I applied for admission to the Connecticut bar. This involved completing a simple questionnaire, with approximately 4,796 pointed enquiries, not including subparts. The Examining Committee wished to know everything about me, such as whether I had ever served detention in elementary school.
Before taking on the questionnaire, I was warned. The single impediment to admission which would afford me no recourse, I learned, was to omit any salient information, or worse, lie about it. Fear of these repercussions caused me to confess everything: even the fact that I was fired from Baskin Robbins in 1973 over the catastrophic assembly of a banana split.
It did not occur to me to think that the Committee would not check the details of my application. I am still sure that I forgot to include something which will be interpreted as a material misrepresentation of the facts, and have my license whisked away, at which point I will return to a life of iniquity.
The belief that any story will be taken at face value, however, is rampant. This affliction seems to affect both politicians and plaintiffs with similarly profound severity. I have heard a name for this state of mind: these people have been described as feeling that they are “terminally unique.” Such blithe determination always impresses me.
My very favorite example of this misapprehension occurred in a case defended by my office while I was still in law school. It was a personal injury action in which the injured plaintiff, a thirty-something former construction worker, wept copiously at his deposition as he recounted that the injuries to his back and neck sustained in the accident caused him to be unable to pick up his 3-year-old son. He had had to give up his avocation, playing in a rock band, too, as the result of his alleged injuries. He gave the name of the band. Possibly, this was his undoing.
Several months later, he was serendipitously caught by a videographer who happened to attend an outdoor performance by that same band. There was our hero doing a back flip, on the stage, caught not only on tape, but by a beer-soaked audience of hundreds of witnesses. The claimed condition of his cervical and lumbar spine did not appear to affect his gyrations. I recall with pleasure the account of the defense attorney of the jury’s reaction to the film. They found for the defense.
This was long before the era in which investigation into sex, lies and food allergies had been inflated to the degree in which, say, the Senate Judiciary Committee indulges routinely. What is astonishing is that people still think that their misrepresentations about themselves will never be detected. This includes a plaintiff who failed to advise his attorney that he was a convicted felon, something which was a matter of public record; an allegedly disabled person filmed throwing bundles of shingles around on top of a roof whilst working under the table for his brother-in-law; and others who boast in publicly accessible blogs that they have successfully perpetrated fraud against the system in a variety of ways.
In all cases, I wish to ask these individuals how it was that they thought they would get away with it. Did they really think that no one would take the trouble to examine the Internet, peruse the police blotter, call the school, bring along the camera or the tape recorder?
All this puts me in mind of an overplayed 1980s anthem, the chorus of which entreats the object of the song to remember that, regardless of the activity in which the listener is engaged, the singer will “be watching you.” This is probably copyright infringement, but I digress.
In the interests of full disclosure, there was once a warrant for my arrest issued for overdue library books.
Amy F. Goodusky, a former paralegal, rock ‘n’ roll singer and horseback riding instructor, is of counsel at O’Brien, Tanski & Young in Hartford.