- ‘What WAS he doing here?’ thought Jim Valenti – he knew the question was rhetorical – Diane Evans knew damn well what he was doing here – he was engaged in a conspiracy to commit justice with perhaps the most unlikely co-conspirators. The irony, he thought, was so thick he could cut it with a knife.
He’d had no clue when he came in to the office today that he’d be doing anything like this – not even when the telephone call had come from Judge Felicia Lopez’s somewhat concerned clerk.
Superior Court Judge Lopez was NOT one of Jim Valenti’s favorite people, in fact it was probably safe to say that there wasn’t a single law enforcement officer in Chaves county that liked the woman – but then, the feeling was pretty much mutual. Judge Lopez had been in college in the turbulent 1960s – joined La Raza, the SDS, the ACLU – all the liberal campus groups that flourished during the Vietnam era. It was rumored the woman wore a Che Guevara t-shirt under her judicial robes. Somewhere in the sit-ins, die-ins, and campus riots, the woman had apparently had a run-in with the police that left her permanently hostile toward law enforcement. She had, Jim firmly believed, gone to law school for the primary purpose of making life miserable for police.
Felicia Lopez was the judge that all the defense lawyers hoped their clients drew, and the one the police avoided like the plague when requesting search warrants. Appointed as a Justice of the Peace by some governor decades previously, she had been made a superior court justice to fill a vacancy when the elected judge had died of a heart attack. Despite the opposition of the local law enforcement union, the woman had never fouled up quite badly enough to be turned out of what was basically a non-partisan and uncontested office. Indeed, her fellow judges had even recognized the problems with Lopez, doing their level best to send her a caseload that it was – for the most part – straightforward and non-political. She was, for example, the judge that got all of the requests for domestic violence restraining orders, which she routinely rubber-stamped – including a recent no-contact order granted at the request of Jeff and Nancy Parker against one Maxwell Evans.
Apparently, a heated discussion was already going on in the Judge’s chambers when her legal clerk had arrived that morning with an irate Diane and Maxwell Evans on one side and a defensive and at times tearful Felicia Lopez on the other. Upon receipt of a panicky call from the clerk, Jim Valenti had decided to run across the parking lot separating the Sheriff’s Office from the County courthouse – more in an effort more to save Diane and her son from getting themselves in any trouble than any particular desire to stand up for the judge herself. His assumption at the time – like that of the clerk – was that the bone of contention was the no-contact order levied against Maxwell. As it turned out, it had nothing whatsoever to do with that.
Where Diane and her son had gotten copies of the insurance company correspondence to the hospital, Jim Valenti wasn’t sure, although likely there was a federal violation of the girl’s medical privacy involved. But Jim wasn’t a federal law enforcement officer, and when he’d seen what was going on – and what they were trying to force Judge Lopez to do – it was pretty easy to decide to take their side.
It was clear from the paperwork that the insurance company was NOT paying Liz’s bills. It wasn’t denying them – simply not paying them. The documents made it clear that they intended to pay the bills only AFTER the girl was transferred to a minimal care facility. Who exactly had hacked in to the insurance company’s mainframe, yet another violation of federal law, Jim really didn’t feel the need to explore, although he suspected a certain lanky musician friend of the comatose girl. The emails between the company’s lawyers and both their own medical consultant and the local claims manager, Ms. Habercrombe, clearly spelled out their strategy. If they could stop treatment on the girl for a few months, the whole issue would become moot. She’d decondition to the point that she would never recover, making the expensive physical therapy and rehab unnecessary. Basically, if they stalled long enough they won, regardless of merit.
Judge Lopez – despite being a touchy-feely throwback to the flower-children days of the mid 1960s that made even Amy DeLuca seem positively stodgy by comparison – was adamant that she wasn’t going to do what Diane Evans was insisting that she do – ‘impose the police power of the state against private individuals – at least not on the basis of evidence that was clearly obtained illegally, however damning it was. But Diane Evans was NOT in the mood to take ‘no’ for an answer. Diane had threatened the judge – not with violence, but with something worse – running against her at the next election. And what made it clear that she meant it was she’d already done her research and had presented it to her. Individuals she had let go had the highest recidivism rate of any group of arrestees in the county. A dozen people that she could have sent to jail or at least to rehab had reoffended – including one drunk she’d let off with warnings twice after DUIs – the one whose subsequent drunk driving had put Liz Parker in a coma. Unless Judge Lopez did what Diane Evans was asking – and recused herself from everything but her beloved domestic abuse cases in the future – Diane Evans had every intention of taking her job away from her in seven months at the next election. It was naked extortion – and perfectly legal.
The woman had wavered then – almost looking at Jim Valenti for support – but she couldn’t quite bring herself to invoke ‘the police power of the state,’ against anyone – at least anyone whose ‘constitutional right to privacy has obviously been brutally violated.’ Ultimately it was Max Evans, of all people, who had come up with the rationale. Max had come up with the legal fiction that allowed the judge to change her mind. In a very real sense, it was the humanity of Max Evans that had allowed Diane Evans to extort the summons from Judge Lopez. That too seemed ironic to Jim Valenti, because until recently he hadn’t trusted Max Evans. In fact, until recently, Valenti had been half-convinced that Max, his sister, and the Guerin kid, were ….aliens.
Finished stories set in an alternate universe to that introduced in the show, or which alter events from the show significantly, but which include the Roswell characters. Aliens play a role in these fics. All complete stories on the main AU with Aliens board will eventually be moved here.
- Once a year the town sponsored the Crash festival and the county filled up with conspiracy theorists and all manner of whackos who believed in aliens. Most of the townspeople had no such beliefs. The festival to them was just a means to bring tourist dollars to the local economy and few if any actually thought there were aliens. Jim Valenti knew differently – it was one of a very few things he and his father had ever agreed about.
The other thing they’d agreed about was that – well, Valenti men were not exactly blessed with a lot of luck when it came to their romantic life. The old man – and his father was considerably older than Jim Valenti – had actually married three times, as well as having a seemingly unendless string of brief unhappy affairs when he wasn’t married. Jim’s mother had been wife number three, and that marriage had lasted almost ten years. There hadn’t been a whole lot of love that he’d ever seen between his father and his mother and when he was very young he wondered why the two had ever gotten married. When he was a little older he did the math. His mother had been barely eighteen when she’d married his father and they were divorced when he was nine and a half years old. His mother never had finished high school although she did get her GED and eventually went to work for the state after her divorce. That and the child support let his mother and his sister and Jim himself live a reasonable enough life economically, but he was still ‘the Sheriff’s kid’ to everyone in town and that even included his father. Jim’s feelings for his father weren’t exactly the most loving back then although after his own marriage failed after five years – after the cheerleader girlfriend he’d married right out of high school ran off to the bright lights of Hollywood to pursue an acting career, leaving him with an infant Kyle and a pile of divorce papers – his feelings mellowed a little bit. Happy marriages apparently were not quite as easy as Jim had once believed. But during that time, his old man had shared something with him – proof that aliens existed.
It wasn’t just the scraps of silver metal that his old man had found over the years – scraps that the spectrograph at the state lab was unable to analyze, or his stories about murders by shapeshifters, it was the old man’s ongoing relationship with something called the Special Unit of the FBI. It stood to reason – Jim Valenti decided even back as a teenager – that the US government wasn’t going to all the trouble of having his father make special reports to them from Chaves county every couple months if they had really just found their own downed weather balloon. The fact that the Special Unit even EXISTED told a lot, and the older the old man got, the more he’d mutter to Jim – spilling more stories that – eventually – his father shared the documentation with him about. Jim still had some of the paperwork between his dad and the Special Unit he’d gotten when he’d moved the now senile old man out of his house into the nursing home– carefully locked away in a bank box in Las Cruces. Once – going to a conference on new techniques in forensics in Washington DC, he’d actually ‘accidentally’ gone down the wrong hall at the Justice Department and found the office of the Special Unit – now apparently run by some guy named Price. Four years ago he’d almost contacted him – back when Kyle, Liz Parker, and the two Evans kids got to Middle School.
By then it had been six years since the Evans kids had been found, and their story had never made sense to Jim Valenti – not even the first day. But he’d been a fairly junior deputy himself back then with the history of his former-Sheriff father – known in later years as the guy who believed in Martians – to live down, so he’d kept quiet about it – but it never had made any sense. Before his wife had run off and he’d moved back to Roswell so his mother and sister could help him with childcare for Kyle, he’d been on the force in Albuquerque, and in the big city he’d certainly seen child abuse and neglect. But six year olds – apparently quite healthy six year olds dumped naked out in the desert and found wandering? Six year olds who not only didn’t speak English, but didn’t speak ANY language? That just didn’t seem possible. Jim had seen a case once, a horrible case – several kids raised by their parents in cages – totally neglected socially – never talked to – both parents apparently were schizophrenic, but even in that setting the kids had communicated with each other – they had DEVELOPED their own language of grunts and clicks. Kids didn’t just act like vegetables for six years, no matter what you did to them. What’s more, the two kids the Evans adopted had NOT been obviously either abused or neglected, physically they had been perfect. No, the ‘explanations’ the Child Protective Services people gave, repressed memory, probably raised in some religious cult – they never had made any sense. So Jim Valenti had started a file on the two kids, observing them and making notes. Two years later it got easier, when they were put in the same third grade class as his son Kyle.
Over the next few years it had been easier to observe them, but the brother and sister remained an enigma. They seemed to be loners – except for each other – and that might have been written off to the fact that they had been through trauma – then home-schooled together for two years – even their little paranoia when they saw him in his uniform might have been that – but if you are going to survive as a junior deputy, riding in a one man patrol car through the isolated desert wastes of Chaves county, you learn to be observant and you learn to read body language and there was something about both kids that just didn’t feel right.
Isabel Evans never went off alert. Not ever. Max – well, Max could be distracted but it wasn’t obvious at first to Jim Valenti what it was that was distracting him because he was making an effort to conceal it from everyone – including his sister. But both kids reacted to situations like – well like it was the two of them against the whole world. Max seldom and Isabel never let the guard down. They weren’t living life, they were more like a couple of cops on a stake-out. They never relaxed, it was always business, and they never got too close to any of the other children. Jim had made notes on the children for years, tucking away the documentation every couple months in the bank vault in Las Cruces – never really getting his suspicions to the point of doing anything until their sixth grade year. That’s when he struck paydirt.
It was sixth grade and a new school and he’d dropped Kyle off on the first day. He saw the Evans kids get off the bus – as uncertain as any of the new sixth graders – and then they’d frozen as they’d seen the boy in the scruffy looking clothes. They hadn’t said anything – even to each other – but when the other kid’s eyes finally looked up and saw them, he’d frozen too. Thirty seconds later, all three kids were in the most distant corner of the playground – isolated from the other students – talking.
The kids name was Michael Guerin, and he was a foster child. His history, to say the least, was …interesting. He too had been a foundling – picked up by a passerby dehydrated and half starved in a neighboring county three weeks and a little over two hundred miles from where the Evans kids had been picked up. He’d been naked – spoke no languages anyone could discern – and had been in an orphanage up until about three months previously when he’d been fostered out to Hank Guerin and his wife, neither really the most sterling of personalities. If you looked at it on the map, it was easy to make the case that the three kids had been released together – that the two had been picked up almost immediately by the couple who had adopted them, and that the Guerin boy had wandered down the road along the path of least resistance for three weeks, until hunger, dehydration, and exhaustion had allowed him to be captured, and captured it was – the kid was an antisocial little bastard who had been bounced out of a series of foster homes before winding up with the Guerins. That would have been suspicious enough, but the actions of the three kids made it all the more suspicious. Each child had, in their own way, been somewhat of a loner. Guerin had – as best Valenti could determine – never had a friend. The Evans kids – in three years of prior schooling, had never really had any close friends – which he might have written off as shyness until he saw the two of them and the Guerin boy become almost inseparable.
Over the course of sixth grade, Valenti knew – absolutely KNEW that the three kids were different – and knowing that all three had wandered out of the desert from near the area of the old saucer crash site – well, he’d put all his observations into an appropriate file, written a summary, and put a cover letter on it addressed to Agent Price at that office in the Justice Department. But he’d never sent it. There were, Jim knew, two reasons he never sent it. The reasons were Liz Parker – and Max Evans.
Sixth grade marked a number of milestones besides Middle School. It also marked, for many of the kids, the start of puberty. All at once the reason for the years of distraction for Max Evans became obvious to Jim Valenti, as did the behavior of Isabel Evans, who had always somehow seemed to ‘accidentally’ come between Max and the perfect Miss Parker. Quick glances by him when he thought no one was looking – after first making sure that his sister WASN’T looking made it obvious to Jim Valenti that young Max Evans was thoroughly – what was the term? – Oh yes, ‘smitten,’ by the young girl. What’s more, the shy girl was equally smitten with him, casting her own surreptitious glances his way while she thought no one else was looking. Oh, Max wasn’t fooling his sister – probably not the Guerin boy either – but no one else – not even the Parker girl herself really seemed to notice, of course, they hadn’t been watching intently for years and likely didn’t have the trained observational skills of a law officer.
It was that relationship – tentative as it had been – that was the reason that letter still sat in the vault in Las Cruces – over three years after it had been written. No, the Valenti men sort of sucked at romance, but Jim recognized the real thing when he saw it. And how could an alien boy – after all – really be romantically inclined towards a human girl? So Jim had hesitated, month by month, never sending the letter – and since Liz’s accident – well, he certainly wouldn’t be sending it now. No one – NO ONE – human or otherwise, would go under deep cover for ten years for some evil purpose and then highlight themselves like Max did, going ballistic when his one unrequited love was hurt. Whatever Max Evans was - wherever he had come from - his priorities were very human.
Jim was probably less surprised than anyone else in Roswell, Isabel Evans perhaps excepted – when they’d heard that Max had sped north to be with Liz. And with all due respect to the Albuquerque police department – of which once he’d been a very junior member – they were idiots if they thought that Max was any menace to the girl.
No, Max’s love for Liz had been longstanding and real, even if Jim Valenti was the only adult in Roswell that realized that. And that – in Jim Valenti’s opinion – meant that Max really wasn’t an alien at all. Max Evans was human – Jim hadn’t any doubt of that – Oh, he wasn’t altogether sure just WHERE Max and Isabel and Michael had come from – but Max was human – he proved that once again today – although Jim wasn’t altogether sure whether the kid himself believed that. Jim had also seen Isabel having coffee with Alex Whitman the other day – seen that look in her eye as well. Chances are she was going to turn out human too.
“I’m here with a summons for these gentlemen,” said Sheriff Valenti, smiling at Diane Evans – wondering if she even knew about her son and daughter “Judge Lopez would like to talk to them – now.”
Last edited by greywolf on Sun Jan 25, 2009 8:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.
- The four people from the insurance company were more or less herded by Sheriff Valenti into Judge Lopez’s courtroom, the physician and Habercrombe somewhat apprehensive, the junior lawyer visibly irritated, the older lawyer holding his expression neutral. Jeff Parker was accompanied by Bob Stevens – both of them trailing Diane Evans. As soon as the last person was in the room and the doors closed, Judge Lopez’s clerk called for everyone to rise, and she entered the courtroom. It didn’t take her long to get down to business as she looked at the two lawyers for the insurance company.
“Mr. Sanford and Mr. Arbitage – would you kindly approach the bench?”
“Certainly, your honor,” said Arbitage – the senior lawyer, “… in fact, I’m quite anxious to find out what this is all about.”
“What we have is an allegation by Ms. Evans that you, Doctor Gillingham, Mr. Sanford, and Ms. Habercrombe are conspiring to cause harm to Elizabeth Parker by denying a legitimate claim for coverage under an insurance contract sold by your company in violation of article 59A of the Insurance Code and also making a qui tam claim of fraud under New Mexico State statute against you for this denial, since the Roswell Medical Center is partially tax supported – basically alleging that by cheating the Parkers you will wind up cheating the taxpayers, since the hospital itself is partially funded through a public hospital district and that without the payment to which the Parker girl – and the hospital – is entitled, the hospital itself will be stuck with the bill.”
“Judge – that’s preposterous,” said Arbitage, “…as far as the Insurance Code allegation, I fail to understand where Ms. Evans even has legal standing for such a claim. She is not listed as counsel for the Parkers, and even if she was this isn’t a denial of payment – it’s simply that the company has not yet gotten around to paying the bill. This is a simple accounting matter, and Doctor Gillingham is ready to testify that any alleged simple delay in payment will have no effect whatsoever on the ultimate outcome for this patient.”
“Well, Ms. Evans disputes that, but even if she did not, she has plainly established both her legal standing and an adverse affect of your failure to pay – or if you would prefer, your DELAY in making payment. I have here a letter signed by a clinical psychologist treating Maxwell Evans, Ms. Evans minor son. He indicates that the boy has a fixation on the girl, he is clinically depressed by her situation, and the thought that she may suffer additional incapacity due to your failure to provide prompt payment puts the boy at serious risk. He has already had problems with the law due to this – is already the subject of a restraining order – and his psychologist lists potential consequences up to and including suicide if he deteriorates further due to his fear that she will worsen.”
“But I already said – our medical consultant is willing to testify that the girl will NOT be worsened by a delay in payment. Regardless of what is done, she will have a bad outcome.”
“It is not this court’s job or intention to ascertain that here, Mr. Arbitage,” said Judge Lopez, “…for the purpose of establishing Ms. Evans legal basis for bringing this action, it is sufficient to establish that the boy BELIEVES that your failure to provide payment for treatment that Miss Parker is entitled to will cause her to have a bad outcome. Clearly, he’s not rational about the subject, or I wouldn’t have had to issue a restraining order to keep him away from her now, would I?”
“But – this is outrageous, your Honor,” said Arbitage. “Because some PSYCHOLOGIST says that this – this – stalker son of Ms. Evans MAY be harmed if he BELIEVES Miss Parker will be affected by discretionary actions of my company – that somehow gives Ms. Evans status to bring action against my company on behalf of Miss Parker? Why, that’s simply ridiculous.”
Jim Valenti moved his hand up to cover his mouth, pretending he was coughing, but in reality just trying to conceal his grin. He hadn’t been sure until this very moment that Diane Evans was going to pull this off. Judge Lopez had agonized over the issue of the copies of the emails that someone – almost certainly Alex Whitman – had illegally obtained, even with the added threat of Diane Evans running against her in the next election. It had been Max Evans idea to run across the street to the psychologist’s office and get the letter. Perhaps the psychologist even believed that Max would hurt himself if these guys were allowed to shortchange Liz Parker, although somehow the pleased look on his face as he had returned with the letter suggested to Jim that the boy was too goal-oriented to take his own life even for Liz. At least not before he settled up with these guys.
But Jim had years of experience with Lopez, and the insurance company lawyer had just stepped in it big time by challenging psychology and by challenging the woman publicly in her own court. Judge Lopez really BELIEVED in all that psychobabble, and more than one prosecutor had been slapped down for expressing skepticism of the opinions of psychologists and psychiatrists in her courtroom. He could read it in the judge’s face. Suddenly these guys had stopped being the victims whose illegally tapped emails Diane Evans had somehow gotten a hold of, and had now become arrogant corporate greed personified – subhumans that were contemptuous of two ill children and that had the audacity to call her ridiculous in her own courtroom.
'These guys,' he told himself, 'are toast.'
- “Mr. Arbitage,” said Judge Lopez, her lips taking on somewhat of a feral grin of their own, “… I will admit that Ms. Evans has requested a novel and I might even add unique application of the New Mexico Qui Tam statute, but after reviewing the statute in question for over an hour this morning, I must say that her actions are neither outrageous nor ridiculous – although certainly your counsel, once you have obtained it, can tear into the intricacies of the statute to attempt to make that argument if they so choose. Clearly, the legislative intent was similar to that of the federal Qui Tam law –The federal fraud statutes that were meant to encourage whistleblowers from within organizations to reveal illegalities done in billing against government contracts. For her to use it to further a claim of fraud perpetrated against a public hospital district seems entirely within the scope of the law as written, however, although certainly your counsel might argue that if they wish. The use of the statute for a civil action involving Ms. Parker or Mr. Evans seems somewhat more of a stretch, but certainly not anything this court would find ‘ridiculous’ to hear arguments about. Perhaps you should consult with your own counsel before making further statements?”
“Judge, both Mr. Sanford and I are lawyers. We will defend this case.”
“Are you certain that is a good idea, Mr. Arbitage? The axiom that ‘a lawyer who defends himself has a fool for a client,’ has always struck me as very close to the mark. Besides, that is not a decision that you can make for your three co-defendants. Perhaps it would be better if I had the Sheriff escort the four of you to a conference room where you can discuss this in private. Sheriff, conference room B for the gentlemen, please.”
As soon as they were in the room with the door closed, Arbitage turned to Sanford. “Get out your Blackberry and find out everything you can for me about this Diane Evans.”
Habercrombe and the doctor both looked frightened. Habercrombe was the first one to talk. “I’ve dealt with her before and I do NOT want to see her looking at me across the courtroom without the best damn criminal lawyer in the state on my side. You guys got me into this – I want somebody who knows New Mexico law inside and out defending me, not you two. This gal is sharp.”
“She’s right,” said Sanford, looking up from his Blackberry, “She was editor of the Stanford Law Review her senior year – had offers of all sorts from big name legal outfits in San Francisco and LA.”
“What the hell is she doing here in Mayberry?”
“She got married her second year in school – to another law student. Her husband is from around here and attended law school under a state scholarship that required him to come back and spend two years providing low cost legal aid to people here. The big firms wanted her badly enough that they kept the offers open. There was a bidding war going on for both of them but then they adopted a couple of kids – apparently decided that it would be better for the kids to be raised here rather than the big city – at least that’s what she told the law school alumni magazine.”
“Shit – that wasn’t what I wanted to here.”
“Maybe we better get local lawyers,” said the doctor.
“Are you guys crazy? That’s what she wants. This isn’t about right or wrong – it’s about money. The whole idea of this was to save the company money – you heard the judge – “novel and unique application” – sure, the company can hire lawyers to defend us – but it’ll pay $250 an hour for God alone knows how many hours just to get themselves up to speed on that law. Then you KNOW that old crone judge will grant her maximum discretion – it’s obvious that she’s pissed off. We'll probably have to appeal the local decision -- causing even more legal bills at the appellate level. We’re paying – what $200 an hour to keep that girl in the rehab center? What the woman WANTS is for us to pay a small army of local lawyers more than that to process this case. The company will see the writing on THAT wall pretty quickly, and just cave. No – the only chance to do what we intended – and to get our OWN bonuses for getting this case under control, is for us to take her on ourselves.”
- In the courtroom the judge was in her chambers and Bob Stevens took a deep breath as he looked over at the woman sitting at the other end of the table from him. Diane Evans seemed to be lost in thought – thumbing through her paperwork and … Bob could tell, he did it himself … mentally preparing for the future points and motions she was to make in this case. Then he looked at his client. He’d tried hard – several times – to get Jeff Parker to let him call her in as a consultant. Parker had been adamant – he wanted no Evans involved in this case – and that should have ended debate on the issue – would have, but for that letter from the boy’s psychologist. It had been a stroke of genius although he doubted that even Judge Lopez really believed it. But it had opened the door for Diane Evans to participate, even without the specific permission – oh Hell, might as well be truthful – despite the specific wishes of one Jeff Parker. Bob had to believe that even Jeff realized how close they were to getting steamrollered back there, and how much they owed the woman. But even if he did, Bob wanted to be sure. He edged closer to his client and whispered in his ear.
“We owe her – big time. YOU owe her big time,” said Bob to his longtime client and friend. We were on the edge of losing the whole thing.”
Jeff Parker nodded. He did owe Diane Evans – he knew that. She was a good woman – and he’d let his fear and dislike of her son blind him to that. He’d studied up on the boy – going back over the reports that had made the newspaper about the two foundling children that had somehow been abandoned by some religious cult or something. He was sure Diane Evans was a good woman who had done her very best to raise those kids and Isabel actually seemed a nice enough kid – it gave Nancy so much pleasure to go see Liz and see that Maria and Izzie had shampooed her hair or dressed her in something – well, less institutional than the drab hospital gowns. She’d no doubt worked hard on those two kids – the woman clearly cared a lot for children – and even salvaging Izzy from the mess of her former life was a major accomplishment. The fact that Max was still fouled up – now even potentially suicidal – was not her fault. He did owe the woman and he had been stupid to refuse Bob’s suggestion that they get her to help. She was a capable woman and likely would have fought this hard for Liz, even if she hadn’t been forced to butt her way into this case by his own obstinacy and the threat to her own child – the defective one that she just couldn’t stop loving even if he probably would never be quite right.
- Back in the conference room:
“I still think the company should get us local lawyers,” said the doctor.
Arbitage looked at the man with undisguised anger. He wasn’t really familiar with the New Mexico Qui Tam statute – he mainly did contract law and sat on the corporate advisory board – but he had at least nodding acquaintance with the federal law. The purpose of that one was to help protect whistleblowers and give them an incentive to expose fraud in federal contracts perpetrated by the contractors. Millions of transactions occur every day, and without an insider to blow the whistle, it was difficult to prove anything when fraud was committed. Conspiracies were just as hard to crack unless someone was stupid enough to leave evidence around or someone on the inside turned state’s evidence – or in this case, testified to the benefit of the plaintiff. But to get out of this they were going to have to be united. He wasn’t so much worried about the other lawyer, Sanford, but both the doc and the claims manager looked scared. Scared conspirators sometimes came to the conclusion that the first one who turned state’s evidence was going to be the only one to get out of the situation with their hide intact, and he had to make sure that those people understood the consequences if they broke ranks.
“Well first of all, doctor, you are an independent contractor – the company is under no obligation to provide you with a lawyer at all. I’ve already told you this case could run up big money – hundreds of thousands of dollars at least – maybe millions in lawyers bills. Are you going to foot that bill?”
“Well, if I had to – I guess I could go to my malpractice insurer – my rates will go up, but that’s what malpractice insurance is for.”
“Hummph,” said Arbitage. “Have you ever READ the contract on that insurance? That most definitely is NOT what the malpractice insurance is for. It is to cover you for mistakes made in your medical practice. Conspiracy to commit fraud is not a mistake, it’s a crime, and if this woman’s court case uncovers that, we can all go to jail – and as soon as your malpractice insurance company discovers that this is really about a criminal act, they will disallow any legal coverage whatsoever.”
“But this isn’t right,” said Habercrombe. “I have done nothing but follow company policy. I’m instructed to do this on all the cases. The company HAS to provide me with a defense lawyer.”
“Do you seriously think those bastards at corporate are going to ADMIT that this is company policy?” asked Arbitage, hoping that neither the doctor nor the claims manager was going to remember that HE was one of those bastards at corporate, “They provide ‘goals’ and ‘quotas’ for claim reductions, and incentivize this through bonuses, but do you seriously believe there is a single written document in Chicago saying that this sort of stuff is company policy? Don’t be crazy.”
“So you’re saying we are all screwed?” asked the doctor. “Then why don’t we just give in?”
“Look, what I said was we don’t want to go making allegations about corporate, we don’t want to make allegations about each other, either. This woman is NOT a criminal lawyer, she does mainly contract law, and she lacks the resources that a DA or a Grand Jury would have at their disposal. She probably doesn’t have anything but rumor and innuendo, but if we start this going through the process now – today – we certainly have the advantage on our side. The key thing is discovery and request for production. Now tell me Ms. Habercrombe – have you talked about this case with anyone locally?”
“Well, Jeff Parker and his lawyer…”
“No, that’s not what I mean. I mean have you told anyone that the plan was to shut off the girl’s rehab medical care until it becomes moot to save the company money?”
“No – just on the telephone to you two,” she replied indicating the two lawyers.
“She’s not a DA or Grand Jury – No way she had the phones tapped legally, and even if she did illegally, it wouldn’t be admissible. Did you e-mail to anyone.”
“Just you two.”
“Sanford – check those emails….”
The junior lawyer consulted his Blackberry again. “The stuff we sent to Ms. Habercrombe is ambiguous at best. On the emails to her we talked all around the issue, but there aren’t any smoking guns there. No jury would convict us on those emails. The ones between the two of us, and between us and the doc – those would be a major problem.”
“Well those emails she’s not going to get. Here’s the plan – we go ahead and get to this right now – go right to requests for discovery. That ought to give us an idea of what she’s got and what she doesn’t. If she asks for the emails with Habercrombe, we give that up.”
“But what if she asks about the emails between us back in Illinois?” asked the doctor. What about then?”
“That won’t make a damn bit of difference. Those are on the company’s machine, and she isn’t bringing allegations against the company, she’s bringing them against the four of us. We make a little fuss in discovery, but eventually say OK. Then we are off the hook for failure to produce if the company refuses to give them up - and the company WILL refuse to give them up.”
“But can’t she just subpoena them?” asked the doctor.
“She can subpoena them until the cows come home, she’ll have to go through Illinois courts fighting the company legal team and the company has been giving campaign contributions to those judges for years. After the discovery today the three of us will be out of town and Ms. Habercrombe will have given them every scrap of documentation she has and it won’t do them a damn bit of good. When they gripe about the company not producing the three of us will express shock – yes, SHOCK, that the company is stonewalling them. They are going to hit a brick wall that clearly won’t be our fault and that gorked-out 16 year old girl will have time to die of old age before they get through the first layer of it.”
“That girl isn’t going to die of old age,” said the doctor. “I doubt she’ll last three months in a typical nursing home.”
“But what if she - Diane Evans - already somehow has the emails from Illinois?” asked a frightened appearing Ms. Habercrombe. “If we deny the conspiracy and she has those emails, they’ll knowo we lied. Then they'll have us on perjury too.”
Both lawyers smiled at the middle-aged woman, shaking their heads. “It isn’t what the woman knows,” said Sanford…”
“It’s what she can prove,” finished Arbitage. “And she has to prove it with documents that can be verified. If she had Mr. Sanford’s Blackberry records it could be established that the emails were authentic…”
Sanford manipulated several keys and looked up with a smile. “Of course, those have just been accidentally deleted.”
“But what if she already has them?” insisted the doctor.
“Hey,” said Arbitage, “ .. I don’t care if she hacked the computer in Chicago – if she has copies in her hand – first they wouldn’t be admissible because they weren’t legally obtained, second they could be fakes. Unless someone went right to the mainframe with a legal subpoena, it wouldn’t make any difference. She could have everything in black and white – every email – and it wouldn’t be admissible if a legal chain of custody from the mainframe couldn’t be documented.”
Arbitage looked around – everyone seemed to be calmed down. “So it’s agreed? Sanford and I represent the four of us. We don’t play too hardball in discovery – we don’t want to piss off the judge any more than we already have, and when the arguments over discovery are over, the three of us get the hell out of Dodge. That agreed?”
As the three heads around the table nodded one by one, Arbitage figured he finally had things under control.
“OK then, back to the courtroom.”
Last edited by greywolf on Thu Jan 29, 2009 11:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
- Diane shuffled through her papers again, bringing out and reading – for about the tenth time – the emails that had been given to her by her daughter. Diane looked at Jeff Parker, shaking her head. It was ironic really that the tragedy of his child might well be the salvation of hers.
She’d always been somewhat worried about Max. It was like he wanted to keep everyone – even his parents – at arm’s length. Like he was an observer rather than a participant in human existence. Whatever had made him stay aloof all those years, the disaster to Liz Parker had totally changed him. It was scary and awfully sad that he’d bottled up those feelings for so long. Now they were out, and as much as his actions frightened her, it was obvious that he had at last decided that he wanted to be part of the human race after all. She hoped and prayed that Liz Parker would get through this – not just for her sake, but for Max’s sake as well. She was, she had to admit to herself, frightened by the power the comatose girl held over her son – afraid that if the girl did wake up – then reject him – Max would be utterly destroyed. But at least he was engaged in life now in a way he never had been in the past and that gave her hope.
Izzy had been another problem. While in many ways Izzy wasn’t as remote as Max, in recent years she’d been – well – a disappointment. In her own way, she was just as withdrawn from the world as Max had been, she just used a different mechanism. Where Max came off as shy, Izzy had been turning in to a little bitch. Not at home – she was still the old Izzy at home, but she’d joined this school clique that was composed of the most arrogant, obnoxious, superficial, cold-hearted bitches that Diane had ever seen. No, she decided, that wasn’t fair. There had been cliques like that at her high school way back when too – Diane had despised them then, too.
Izzy had been dating for the last two years – if you called it that. She dated the male equivalent of the female clique she was part of – pretty-boy arrogant obnoxious, superficial prima donnas – not unlike Izzy herself had been becoming. She never dated them more than once – which oftentimes was once too many in the opinion of her parents – and she appeared to be doing it more to count coup with the other Ice Princesses rather than as any part of an actual friendship with these guys.
Diane would always love her daughter, but for the last two years a lot of times Diane hadn’t liked her very much and she had been terribly fearful for her daughter’s future. The way it had been going it looked like the girl would either end up an unhappy old maid, or go through a string of divorces with superficial pretty-boys she would have done well to have walked away from before the first date. Then three months ago there was Liz Parker’s accident. At first she was sure it was just concern for her brother – the two of them had always been close – right back to the day she’d found them walking along the road. But it turned out it was more than that.
Nancy Parker had called her the other day, to express her appreciation for Izzy’s visits to Liz Parker – apparently she and another girl shampooed her hair put cosmetics on her and dressed her up and made her look more human – more alive. Diane was so happy that her daughter could do something kind for others for once, but in the process of helping Liz she’d also met Alex.
Alex was unlike the usual arrogant pretty-boys her daughter had been dating. He differed in quite a few ways, actually. He had a mind – was polite – was himself kind. He was also very helpful, she thought, as she pulled out the emails. Alex hadn’t QUITE admitted that he’d hacked in to the company’s computer in Illinois to get these – which was good, because she wouldn’t have wanted him to get caught doing something like that.
It actually appeared that Izzy was starting to like the shy boy, and he was just too good a potential boyfriend for Izzy to have him locked up for computer hacking. Nonetheless, Alex had explained to her that the header indicated that it came from the server for the insurance company in Illinois which of course wasn’t legal proof of its authenticity, anyone could have faked the whole thing with a word processor, but she had little doubt it was real. Diane had enough experience on other cases with Ms. Habercrombe to pretty well intuit what the company policies were – although her intuition wasn’t legally admissible either. Nonetheless, it told her what to ask for in discovery. He’d also told her an awful lot about computers, email, and the internet itself. Unlike his predecessors. Alex actually appeared to have a brain, real talents, and a soul.
If Izzy let that fine young man get away after only one date, Diane decided, she deserved to become an old maid. Of course, she still hadn’t gotten him to ask her out the first time yet. The kid was sort of shy – an enormous improvement over the haughty young men she’d dated before.
But Diane’s thoughts were suddenly distracted as the four defendants returned to the courtroom.
Last edited by greywolf on Fri Jan 30, 2009 10:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
- It took Judge Lopez less than 10 minutes to set up a schedule. One of the legal secretaries from the pool was called in and the very conference room that had been used for the meeting of the defendants soon became the place that depositions were being taken. Depositions were the brick and mortar of civil cases, and did not require the judge’s presence. Diane interviewed Liz’s two doctors, and their testimony placed in to the record their opinions – no different from what they had given earlier in the morning.
Arbitage was pleased with the depositions she took from the four conspirators – she took his deposition first and the three others told virtually identical stories – that there had been no coaching, no collusion, no conspiracy whatever. He had actually been most worried by the testimony of Habercrombe – the claims manager had been by far the most intimidated by the Evans woman – but he knew that once everyone had their testimony on record they had even more reason to hold their conspiracy together. They had all now added perjury – if it could be proven – to the list of other charges against them. He had reminded them of that during breaks in the testimony – that they needed to hang together or they would all be in trouble – and that seemed to stiffen the will of Habercrombe. The doctor was no trouble – the man hadn’t actually practiced medicine in almost a decade, and if he was successfully impeached as a witness, his career would be over. Sanford was certainly no trouble – he understood the risks – both of them could be disbarred if what they did could be proven.
What particularly pleased Arbitage was that Evans called no additional witnesses. He knew damn well that from those depositions there would be no chance of getting a decision in her favor – let alone a summary decision. No, all he had to do was to get through the discovery stage and more specifically the request for production. The woman could get Judge Lopez to send off all the demands in the world to Illinois and it wouldn’t matter to him. He’d be long gone. And if the company doctor could be believed – at least on this one opinion anyway – the girl would be beyond recovery in a few weeks, and die long before any appeals would ever work their way through the Illinois court system. Jeff Parker simply didn’t have the money to fight this fight and win it. If he had, he’d have never needed the money from the insurance to care for his daughter at all.
It was mid-afternoon by the time the principals met back in Judge Lopez’s courtroom to actually argue over discovery. He had his three co-defendants with him and he smiled reassuringly at them as the proceedings started. Soon they were in the thick of it.
“Your honor,” said Diane Evans, “The plaintiff is requesting a copy of the contracts of all four defendants with the insurance company. Specifically, we are looking for that part of the contract that determines remuneration – whether the defendants salaries and particularly the salary of their consulting physician are affected by outcome of the cases that they handle where benefits are denied.”
“Objection, your honor. Our company contracts specifically prohibit any employee from discussing the details of our remuneration. This is a policy of Human Resources, to preclude unhealthy competition between employees and with out contractors. The penalty for us violating that contract would be termination of employment. While I personally have no objection to having Ms. Evans have that information – and I am sure my co-defendant have no objection as well, I would have to ask that this information be subpoenaed directly from the company. This appears to be a fishing expedition by Ms. Evans – she certainly has not established any foundation for her assertion that she needs this information and to ask that it be received directly from us, when providing it would impose this severe a penalty on us, scarcely seems appropriate.”
“I’m afraid I must agree with the defendant. Unless you can establish a basis that is more than just a suspicion that their payment is based upon denial of benefits, I will not allow subpoenas against the defendants personally.”
“In that case, your honor, subpoenas to the company would be acceptable,” said Diane Evans.
The two lawyers for the insurance company exchanged smiles. It would be a cold day in Hell before the company ever gave those contracts up. The could fight those subpoenas in Illinois courts for all eternity. Round one had gone to them.
“Your honor, I would like you to authorize a request for production. The plaintiff is alleging that a company policy of fraudulently denying benefits exists at the insurance company that has employed all four of the defendants. Plaintiff is asking the court to approve a request for production of all email correspondence between any of the defendants to include information demonstrating the addresses to which each email may have been copied, either directly or blindly, to ascertain just how many people within the company were aware of the contents of that correspondence.”
A little theatrics never hurt. During one of the breaks he’d had Sanford do a background check of Judge Lopez. It was clear she was a relic of the 1960s – but just as plainly she did not like anything that remotely resembled an invasion of privacy. If Diane Evans could have really obtained what she wanted, it would likely have incriminated half the senior people in the company, but her request was incredibly broad. Even a normal judge was going to make her sharply curtail her request to this individual case, Qui Tam hearing or not. With luck – and the appropriate combination of indignation and reasonableness, it was likely he could convince the aging hippy on the bench to render a summary judgment in favor of the defendants, and the higher–ups in the company would never even know this whole incident had occurred. “YOUR HONOR, REALLY,”said Arbitage, “… I realize that Ms. Evans is frightened by having a child who appears to have severe mental health issues, but really…. This is nothing but a fishing expedition – what Ms. Evans is requesting is THOUSANDS of emails, possibly TENS of thousands, clearly involving dozens and perhaps as many as several hundred individuals. She has done this in a complete absence of demonstrated probable cause. Your honor, this is just plain overly broad. Her basis for even having standing in this proceedings is limited to the alleged potential for this one specific case to exacerbate the mental illness of her child, and I can sympathize with her emotional state, but this request goes far beyond the standard of overly broad – it is patently ridiculous. I could totally understand the court granting some discretion if she had requested a half dozen specific items, but this broad brush approach – asking the court to compel my company to produce thousands of emails in the hope that she can find some comment that she can somehow construe to be questionable? Your Honor,… please.”
Judge Lopez’s face was stern as she looked down on the plaintiff’s counsel. “I have to admit, I agree with every word that the defendant has uttered. In fact, Ms. Evans, only my sympathy for the obvious strain you are under keeps me from explaining to you in depth what a ridiculous request that was. Suffice it to say that unless you drastically limit your request for production – perhaps along the very reasonable lines stated by the counsel for the defendants – I think you will be arguing against a request for a directed verdict in favor of the defendants very shortly.”
Despite their attempt at poker faces, thin smiles seemed to creep over the faces of both Arbitage and Sanford. Round two also had gone to the defense. Behind them, the doctor and Habercrombe were even less discrete, smiling broadly giving each other a quick knuckle-bump below the table.
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- Jeff Parker looked at Diane, a feeling of sympathy going through him. Her request had seemed like a reach, even to him. She was a good woman – he had no doubt about that – but he was beginning to think that she was outmatched. But if the judge’s remonstration had affected her, it wasn’t apparent. She seemed to smile and picked up a bundle of papers and reviewed them quickly.
There were over twenty incriminating emails that Izzy had ‘somehow’ discovered – the somehow almost certainly having something to do with a lanky fellow she was planning to have coffee with tonight after visiting Liz Parker. But there were five that were key – two directly to the doctor from Arbitage ccd to Sanford, one from Doctor Gillingham bact to Arbitage, and one between Sanford and the doctor, cc:d to Arbitage, and one between Arbitage and Sanford, cc:d to the doctor.. That left her one to use on Habercrombe – just to rattle her cage a little, since she was – Diane thought likely – the weakest link.
It seemed to Ms Habercrombe that Diane Evans looked into her soul, just before she gave a smile that could only be described as evil.
“Since Mr. Arbitage so kindly indicated that he thought six specific items would be appropriate,” she said, “I would imagine these six items might be specific enough. An email sent on the seventeenth of last month from Mr. Arbitage to Doctor Gillingham at 3:15 PM Chicago time,” she said reading off the header of one of the emails, “…another email from Arbitage to Gillingham on the eighteenth at 8:37 AM,” she continued, reading from the top of the second page, “…a second email between the two on the twenty-third – this one authored by Doctor Gillingham at 2;12 PM, an email from defendant Sanford to doctor Gillingham on the twenty-fourth at 1:00PM, an email between defendants Sanford and Arbitage on the twenty-fourth at 2;15PM, and last but not least,” she continued, ruffling to the sixth page in the stack , “… an email between defendant Sanford and Holcombe from three days ago at 10:35. THAT, I assume, is limited and specific enough – and only the six requests that Mr. Arbitage himself indicated would be a reasonable number.”
As he heard the gasps from the doctor and claims manager behind him he couldn’t help looking back. Granted, he too was a little disturbed at the specificity of Diane Evans information – she apparently had actual copies of the emails themselves. That didn’t worry Arbitage greatly in and of itself – if the woman had the documents legally and a valid chain of custody she would have already asked that they be admitted in to evidence. It was a little disconcerting even to his legal associate, but Arbitage tried to exude confidence. A second look back at the doctor and claims manager worried him, however. Both appeared to be close to panic. Before he could really bring his attention back to the issue at hand – discovery – it became apparent that Judge Lopez had interpreted his silence as assent.
“Since counsel for the defense has already indicated that this would appear to be an equitable balance of the plaintiff’s right to discovery and the defense’s right to not have an overly broad request for production, I will so approve.”
Arbitage started to turn back to the judge to protest when he saw the sheer terror in Habercrombe’s eyes. He realized intuitively that he had no more urgent need than to stiffen her backbone – before she did something stupid.
“Your honor, it has been a long afternoon. I would think that a short recess is in order for a call of nature and, perhaps, a short discussion with the other three individuals I’m representing,” said Arbitage.
“The court will be recessed for twenty-minutes,” said Judge Lopez, standing and proceeding toward her chambers. “Further arguments will commence at 4:05PM.”
He remained confident as he led his three codefendants to a conference room. He knew that he merely needed to calm their unfounded apprehension. But even so, Arbitage somehow got the feeling the last round had been a draw.
Last edited by greywolf on Sun Feb 01, 2009 1:03 am, edited 1 time in total.