Saturday, September 29, 2012

Are My Lawyers on My Side?

     This is a dangerous question, somewhat like, is your spouse being unfaithful, or are your kids, who got power of attorney to take care of you, stealing your social security checks and mortgaging your house?
     Do I really want to know the answer?  Because if I do, it may change my orientation to my little world, and alter my mood.  I may not be able to foster hope if I get an unhoped-for answer.
     Maybe it's easier to live in a little hobbit of a life with happy trolls and trees that talk, and butterflies, and weird TV news of how horrible it is out there, far away from one's everyday life.  I know people who live like this.  "Just give me happy news," they say.  They want the fabrications that make it possible to get their creaky, corporeal selves out of bed every morning.
     I've accumulated $115,000 in legal fees, and still don't have a clue what's going on.  You'd think this  amount of money might buy me something--but I think it amounts to enough for introductions.  My lawyers have warned me that $100K is a dribble in a deep, dark well when it comes to federal cases, which are full of really important, and powerful, and expensive people.
      My legal fees include those from lawyers hired to defend me against other lawyers who acted with gross disregard for standards of professionalism, mainly when it came to presenting their bills.  And it includes lawyers who advised me about the lawyers who might defend me against lawyers who grossly overcharged once they started to defend me against the government, whose charges are invisible.  (See the July 1, 2012, "Why I Was Forced to File a Pro Se Motion," and August 4, 2012, "Another Lawyer Tale.")
     When the Gainesville Sun called one of my lawyers, Gilbert Schaffnit, the reporter asked for a comment, and Schaffnit gave what amounted to a defense of the government, not me.
     According to the article, Schaffnit said a court order in the case enables patients to get access to copies of their medical records that were confiscated in the raid.
     In fact, it has been exceedingly difficult for patients to obtain their records--and most of the ones who have tried gave up in frustration.  The FBI requires a ten-step process to retrieve specific records, as well as payment up front for copying and postage--for documents I created, safeguarded and still need to care for patients properly.  One prosecutor, Bobby Stinson, said after our flunked court hearing that it was too expensive for the government to copy large numbers of charts, and it would take about two weeks to mail a copy of any document.  Two weeks is no help at all in an emergency--so far there have been twenty such emergencies in which a patient's chart would have prvented pain, confusion, or hospitalization.
     I'm not sure why my lawyer, Mr. Schaffnit, didn't say any of the other things that happen to be true about my situation, such as:

          1.  It's very difficult for Dr. Colasante to get copies of the records she needs for patients.
          2.  We have NO IDEA why the government is investigating Colasante Clinic.
          3.  We hired an independent coding expert, who did an outside audit, and could find nothing to justify the federal investigation.  
          4.  The government has been accorded terrific powers, alongside which ordinary citizens like Dr. Colasante have very few options.
          5.  This has got to be difficult for a doctor in a small community.
          6.  The government has a seven-year statute of limitations, therefore this case could go on and on without our having any clue about its nature.
          7.  It often happens that when a federal case falls through, government agents try to save face by drumming up civil charges, and collecting fines that help pay for the inapposite investigation. 
          8.  It's likely that one or more grand juries have convened for the purpose of indicting Dr. Colasante, but so far an indictment hasn't been delivered.  Perhaps it's because she's so innocent that even a grand jury--known to indict just about everyone--can't find cause for the government's intrusion.
          9.  A court hearing failed to allow Dr. Colasante access to the affidavits that gave the FBI permission to raid her clinic and bank accounts.  The government's reason keeping the affidavits sealed seems to be, simply, that they can.
         10.  For the past ten years the prosecution of choice for the government has been healthcare fraud.  Although large scale medical fraud scams are bankrupting Medicare, they're hard to track down because they doesn't involve real doctors or medical facilities.  So government agents go after clinics, because they're easy to attack, in the hope of giving the appearance of doing their job for taxpayers.

     Maybe Mr. Schaffnit didn't say any of these things because he's skillful and experienced, a real tactician who understands that this case, like so many others, is not about guilt or innocence, truth or lies, but about greed, manipulation, position, money and politics.
     Neither is the case concerned with a noble pursuit of justice, something we might hope for as the hallmark of our preeminent judicial system.  It's not about lawyers choosing ethical positions from which to speak in defense of clients;  it's not about using facts and rhetoric, in the manner of Seneca, to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
     No, our cultural and organizational ethic allows opposing parties to flout or bend the rules in order to "get the job done."  What is "the job"?  To recollect money for an impoverished federal government, and to do it by going after doctors, no matter what the cost to the country.  The money taken back justifies the means used to do it.
     Mr. Schaffnit is sympathetic toward the government's tenuous position.  He knows that if he offends the federal prosecutor and his agents he might make matters worse.   He's looking after their reputations.  "You've got to understand, these guys are under a lot of pressure from above," Schaffnit appealed to me.  Then I understood that it must be his plan to tiptoe around their egos, and preserve their reputations.
     Wait--isn't he supposed to be looking after my reputation, and managing my defense?
     That's what I thought.  But this is a contest, not a case.  In a contest you don't crush the other person's ego.  It's not even about winning, or my getting exonerated.  Oddly, I seem to be involved in a situation requiring that we all keep the government's (shaky?) image intact, even if people like me have to pay for it.  
     How am I going to help those government agents who need to worm their way out of their wrongly-held position?  How can they justify the money they have spent on my case?  These are the questions, it seems, that should concern me--not, selfishly, saving my own skin.
     Why can't the prosecutor admit he has made a mistake, and back out of my case?  Because a prosecutor who wants to run for political office, eventually, is more likely to succeed as a conqueror than a seeker-after-truth.  Besides, he can't afford another failure, at least not this year.
     I guess I'm not ready to know whether my spouse has been unfaithful, or my children corrupt, or which side my lawyer is on, at least not yet.  I'm still making an effort to defend Mr. Schaffnit, because he has a reputation for success and decades of experience behind him.  Besides, he's a nice guy--despite his defense of the government, his insistence on inaction, and this waiting game--which is like having to keep my manners at a tea party.
     The problem is, it's a tea party before a decapitation.  Government indictments, when they happen, can lead to years in prison, if someone doesn't get the defense right.  That's not a party I want to attend.  

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure that you have asked the same question but what have they done for your money?

    Curious Reader