Tuesday, May 8, 2012


     I started drafting two really great posts today [ahem, yesterday when I wrote this] about little things you can do to implement a bit of sustainability into your life, but neither of them are finished because work - and a raging headache - got in the way.  One benefit to this:  I got a really great reminder today of just why I'm not completely ready to give up law.

      Yes, I want a sustainable farm.  Yes, I want to work fewer hours.  But I am going to keep working because I need to and because I'm good at it.  This morning, after a few hours of administrative headaches and child support cases that made me cross-eyed, I went home to have lunch with MacGyver and whine a little about how ready I am to be done with my job.

      When I got back to work, I had a client walk in with no appointment, but someone was trying to repossess his car, so I took him anyway.  I figured it would be a standard "Did you miss your payments?"  "Can you make your payments?"  "Ok, either return the car or start paying for it."  Then I call the company and do a little talking about my client's situation and ensure provisions of the Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act, or SCRA, are being observed.

     Turns out this was something of an error on the part of my client who thought autopay was happening but it wasn't.  Did my client fail to diligently track his finances?  Probably.  But he wasn't a 19 year old who bought a $30,000 sports car he couldn't afford and thought the Marine Corps would protect him from having to pay for it (I've had that client, too).

      I called the company to figure things out.  And the fun began.  I won't say what the company was, but I will say that it is a major corporation - we're talking multi-billion dollar entity.  You have heard of this company.  It would be like me saying I had this conversation with Nike.

      So I called.  There were two topics I needed to address:  First, getting my client's account paid up to date and fixing the autopay fiasco.  Second was making sure the provisions of the SCRA were being observed by this Corp, because I suspected they were not.  And I was right.

      In a speakerphone conference, with my client present the whole time, we spoke to a customer service rep and established my client's willingness and ability to pay.  She then transfered us the person responsible for the repossession order.  We again established my client's willingness and ability to pay, explaining the misunderstanding.  Then I told her that to ensure that the provisions of the SCRA were being adhered to, I would like a copy of the court order enabling the reposession. 

      Then a little bit of hell broke loose. 

      She said the SCRA didn't apply.  I told her, extremely politely (because, believe it or not, I am all sugar on the phone with these people - at least in the beginning), that she was mistaken.  I knew where the error was coming from; I've run into it with countless entities and individuals.  The SCRA has been updated quite a bit in the last few years, and yet most businesses and people are only aware of one or two provisions - and those are usually the older provisions.

      This woman was hung up on § 527.  She kept insisting that the SCRA didn't apply because of random factors that only have to do with § 527.  Granted, she had no idea what section she was talking about - I'm pretty sure she wouldn't be able to figure out what she was talking about if I printed out the statue and handed her a highlighted copy with commentary.  The problem was that this corporation was blatantly violating § 537 of the SCRA.

      But this woman wasn't having any of it.  I am a military attorney.  She is a customer service rep.  Not to be too self agrandizing, but I'm pretty damn sure I know this law better than she does.  Actually, I'm 100% sure after talking to her for about 3 minutes.

      Meanwhile, the enlisted Marine in my office is loosing his mind listening to this woman be blatantly, outrageously rude to me.  In the Marine Corps, very few people would ever be rude to a Captain.  At least, they never have been to me.  There is some respect that is just expected.  So this woman's attitude and disrespect were making him crazy.

       I stated, calmly, that I felt she was mistaken and I would like to speak to the legal department.  And she said "no."  Just straight up refused.  I asked her to confirm that she was actually refusing to transfer my client to the legal department, at which point she told me there wasn't one.

       I could have laughed out loud if I weren't so ready to reach through the phone and throttle her.

      I remained calm (maddeningly calm, given how crazy worked up the customer service rep became).  I explained the law to her.  Again.  I asked to be transfered to someone who might be able to speak about the policies of the Corporation.  She refused more.  She became increasingly biligerant.  At one point she said, "This call is NOT going any further than me, and I'm not going to talk to you."

      But she knew she couldn't hang up on me, and she eventually figured out that I wasn't backing down, and that she was getting herself into deeper trouble by the minute.

      She transfered me.  Within minutes, a message was taken to be given to the Vice President of the company who was apparently unavailable at the time.  I expect a call back from that Corp's legal team today.  And if they don't call?  They are screwed.  The are clearly operating outside of Federal law, and they have clearly been caught.

      Oh, and did I mention that the too-big-for-her-britches customer service rep also refused to tell my client what address was on file for him with the company?  As did the rep she transfered us to after she spoke with her.  There's a lot more to that, and I'll just say FISHY.

      What makes the whole thing even crazier is that I just wanted to make the Corp aware of the law because it is aparent they were not.  I wasn't trying to get any special treatment for my client.  It was a valid debt, and I told him he had to pay it.  He even made payment arrangements on the phone.  This woman was that crazy worked up because I wanted to inform the legal department that they were violating federal law so they could fix themselves BEFORE they get tied up in a law suit like United States v. B.C. Enterprises, Inc. ("Aristocrat") that was just handed down by the Eastern District of Virginia.

      In the end, I won.  And the letters going out today are going to make that willfully ignorant and unhelpful woman's life rather unhappy - if only for a day or two.  And if I don't hear back from the big Corp?  I've already made arrangements for the case to be heard by the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board - meaning they could be blacklisted by the military.  I also know of a few civilian attornies who would be more than happy to take this Corp to court.  After all, the U.S. v B. C. Enterprises case pulled a nice $75,000.00 sum.  I'm pretty sure the next one will be bigger.

      After finishing up with the client, I walked out into the lobby.  I realized that even though I was upset with the company, my headache was gone and I felt like I had really done something today.  THIS is why I love consumer law and public interest law.  I love the win for the little guy. 

      I also enjoyed retelling the phone conversation to the Jr. attorney I'm mentoring right now.  I had him rolling with the ridiculousness of the situation.  Who knew I could do such a bang up impression of a southern ghetto ignorant [woman]?

      So yes, I want the sustainable farm and that is our mission.  But no, I am not leaving the law.  And this is why.
Because I can't resist a meme with no rules!  Stop by and see Shawn and IA.



Impulsive Addict said...

HOLY DRAMA! I LOVE me some drama....as long as I'm not involved! I would not have had the patience for that at ALL! I'm a little hot tempered so chances are, I wouldn't make a great attorney!


Thanks for linking up with us! =) xoxo

Nadine Hightower said...

Good for you! I have a girl crush on you right now.

you are doing exactly what I wanted my daughters to do... strong educated woman that doesn't take shit! Mine are just now getting their education but had babies first. still time!

I would love to have a little farm. It's just me and Roy, it would be so easy. So far I have fruit trees and a garden.

Emmy said...

What was that ladies deal?? Why was she insisting that she was the only one you could talk with, wow! And good job! You kicked butt