Monday, May 26, 2003

Heller, Joseph:

Several months ago, a crown attorney from Canada asked me to testify in a case for a crime I had witnessed in the mid-70's. The crown offered to reimburse me for my travel and lodging costs during the trial. That trial is starting soon, so the gears of travel arrangements started to move.

I work for the U.S. government, so, like a good little boy, I mentioned this to our legal office, and they reminded me that I cannot receive payments from any foreign government, whether I am on duty or not. So if I paid for the travel, I couldn't accept reimbursement from Canada.

OK, how about if Canada pays directly for the airfare and the lodging? I would have to be on official travel, and get the OK from my super to go. My super looks at the travel request and the legal office's opinion, and says (understandably) "But this has nothing to do with your official duties! I'm not signing this!"

So... I can go and testify at a trial to make sure a dangerous person is finally put away, but only if I pay for it myself.

1) The less I earn, the less likely it is that I will testify.
2) The more serious the case, the more likely it is that the trial will last longer, and the less likely I am to be able to pay for travel to it.
3) There is every incentive there for me to break the law and accept the payment.
4) I was honest and forthright, and now I have to deal with a re-opened can of worms.

I went through the unofficial appeal process, and back to the legal office. Their answer: "Tough. Grow up."

The lessons are plainly here for me - growing up means choosing more and more carefully when to be honest. Greater justice is available with greater wealth. Foreigners are bad (even if I happen to be one of them).

I'm blogging mad. Well, OK, disappointed. In the legal system. The US one, that is.