Good Lawyer and Good Judge
A Plea for Legal Aid
Edna Jane Favreau was already an award-winning sales agent for Century 21 in Ohio when she moved to Florida in 1980, where she soon met the man she would marry, Walter Favreau. She thrived in Daytona Beach, where she became Century 21’s Top Salesperson in 1984 and Top Producer in 1985, and began accumulating real property of her own.
Walter had no property when they met except for rights to his Air Force retirement plan – his previous wife had gotten everything. He helped Jane with her business, and managed to get his name on her properties. He proceeded to severely abuse her. She made multiple complaints against him with the authorities.
Fortunately for her, a police officer arrived on one occasion and interceded when Walter was bashing her head against a wall. Unfortunately, Walter would also try to strangle her to death; the lack of oxygen and traumatic stress left Jane permanently disabled.
Walter was found guilty of battery in 1992, put on probation, and ordered to pay restitution for the damages he had caused her. She filed a lien with the court for the damages herself because the State Attorney’s office was not doing its job. She proceeded with the divorce.
Walter got control of everything, thanks to Jane’s incapacity and the tricks of the trade pulled by certain pettifogging lawyers and careless judges in Brevard County. Walter died. Jane’s property wound up in his estate, controlled by his new wife. Jane was told the lien was no good because she had filed it herself. Her own lawyers took what little cash she had on hand, and abandoned her. The court denied her legal counsel when she argued that the American Disabilities Act entitled her to it.
Jane was therefore forced to represent herself as a “pro se” litigant, something that happens to many pauperized litigants. That in itself dooms the most of them to defeat, despite the occasional success of the best jailhouse lawyers, in courts operated by a monopoly that helps provide us with our freedoms but is still largely exploitative, overpaid, reactionary, arrogant, obstructive, pompous, jargon-laden, under-regulated, and impervious to market forces hence unaccountable to the public.
Although Jane did not fare well appearing in court on her own behalf, she took lawyers to task with The Florida Bar and helped get them disciplined. Yet she expresses no malice towards the legal profession at large. All she has asked for is a good lawyer and a good judge.
She knew her legal rights and cited cases to support her pleas, but she had not been to law school, she was not familiar with the complicated procedures, and she was mentally and physically disabled: her briefs, affidavits, and pleas were virtually ignored. She filed so many of them that she was ordered to desist from filing anything, including appeals, lest she be held in contempt. Therefore, the court is deaf as far as she is concerned; she has no legal rights unless she can pay a licensed lawyer to obtain them for her or find one to represent her pro bono.
Yes, she went to Legal Aid, but Legal Aid was unwilling to help her with her case. Although she was financially eligible for legal assistance, stated Susan L. Christmas, Executive Director of Brevard County Legal Aid, in a formal letter of rejection to Jane, she should pay private counsel because BCLA had limited resources and her case did not fall within the “case type” guidelines set at that time. In other words, Legal Aid simply does not have the funds to pay lawyers even poorly to handle relatively typical cases – what could be more typical than a woman beat up and thrown to the sharks by someone she loved, to have her injuries compounded in the courts?
Jane is sorely impoverished and elderly, but she is a diehard. She has been deeply offended and is not about to lie down and roll over. Maybe she will file an inappropriate appeal somewhere and go to jail for trying to help herself to her rights again. She clutches the last straw, the slim chance that someone will finally listen to her case and do justice, not only for her but for everyone like her. The only complaint she makes about her abject poverty is that it keeps her from her great grandchild.
Jane’s case is a tangled mess of perseverated motions made over many years, yet one that any competent lawyer could get to the bottom of in a few frustrating hours of wading through the redundancies – in fine, the case is rather simple: the woman was royally screwed by everyone involved. The difficulty is in getting it reopened, which appears nearly impossible at this late date. But there are precedents where fraud on the court is evident. And if her case were reopened, even if it were not won in the end, that alone would do a world of good, for not only for poor women and children and disabled people, but for the reputation of the legal profession as well. And winning a seemingly hopeless case is sure to give people hope for a better future.
Do you know of anyone who may be willing to help? Then please contact the author at the email address below:
September 28, 2010
David Arthur Walters
Miami Beach, Florida