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Who Are You Calling a Liar?

Who Are You Calling a Liar?

It seems to be verboten to flat-out call an opposing lawyer, or client, a bald-faced liar – but in fact, lies are told. Clients lie to themselves, to their lawyers, to their opponents. Lawyers lie or abet their clients’ lies. It is frowned upon to call people liars. Clients don’t want to hear it from their lawyer. They get even more upset if they are caught in a lie, or are accused of lying by their opponents. In all my years of practice, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the word “liar” applied to an opposing attorney. People will get very close to it, yet say everything but. One of the things I find most troubling is why people lie. That may seem like a simple-minded or even a dumb question to you. You might assume people do it because they think they can get away with it, and that it would help them; or they don’t want to be caught in the truth, because the truth is that they did something bad, and they’re trying to hide it. That is short-sighted in my opinion. You have to assume you will get caught, that the “truth will out,” as Shakespeare said. As we learned in the days of Nixon and Watergate: The cover-up is always worse than the crime. So, I don’t think lying is worth the risk. But I have known clients and opponents for whom that whole notion is foreign to their experience. And so, they don’t believe it. I have also come to find that there can be a certain elitism underlying the belief that the truth will make you free. There are people who come from powerless or difficult circumstances where the truth is hard and doesn’t seem to do much good for them. They have no reason to think that the world works fairly. I’d be the last one to argue that it does. Sometimes I also find that liars can’t help themselves. It’s just not in their nature to be able to overcome the temptation or the drive to say whatever it takes that they think will help them. There are also some people who really have no respect and no consideration for anybody outside of their community. Lying to the other is permitted because the other is simply not entitled to any respect. For various reasons, then, being ruthless and truthless might strike folks as the way that the world works. Nevertheless, there is a realistic and not merely moralistic argument for sticking to the truth in court. At least in the United States, where the courts are generally not corrupt, the odds just don’t favor liars – and regardless of the odds, the results of getting caught are too high to take the chance. It can be hard to convince people of that – but you never will unless you understand why they might want to lie anyway. What do you think of the truth?

Andrew Weltchek
Weltchek Law
weltchek@weltcheklaw.com
www.chalegalteam.com

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