Monday, May 11, 2015

Uncommon Courage - Witnesses With Nothing to Gain and Everything to Lose

When I started this blog, I wanted to write about many of the incredible people I have represented throughout the years, those souls willing to buck the status quo and stand up for the rights of themselves and others. Those clients demonstrate uncommon courage, hence the name of the blog. I have represented many amazing people and I have learned so much from these exceptional people. I have represented woman and men who were sexually harassed and decided not to take it.  I represented ordinary citizens discriminated against by management in large companies, small companies and the government. I have represented whistle-blowers, victims of racism, sexism and ageism, who had the courage to speak truth to power.

Through the years, I have witnessed others who demonstrate incredible courage, with no real reward. I hold these people in great esteem. This group is rare, the rarest of all, but also among the bravest. These are the witnesses who tell what they see and hear, even when they would be better served by lying or fudging or laying low.  These are co-workers, many still employed by the defendant, who do not put their own interest before the truth. It takes a great deal of courage to testify for another against one's employer. There is a tendency for witnesses to have memory lapses when questioned about situations in which their jobs are at stake. It is human nature to protect oneself and one's livelihood. I know this from personal experience. Yet, every now and again, a person puts the truth before self-interest and fights the very real urge to alter one's memory to help oneself. After enough time, many people, including me, can misremember facts and convince themselves that what is false is true. To those souls who maintain their integrity and refuse to waiver, you are amazing. I hope that if I find myself in a position where a lie helps me more than the truth, I can muster the courage to act as I have observed those brave witnesses act, with honesty and integrity.

I believe that this uncommon courage is borne from these witnesses ability to empathize. When a person can put himself in the shoes of another, compassion and courage are oftentimes the by-products. In fact, people's ability to empathisize with other humans is a foundation of our society and of our justice system. Empathy begats bravery.  I have seen it work.

1 comment:

  1. It's hard to put one's career on the line in testifying against your employer. I have always and will always choose the right course of action over the safe course of action, but the lasting impact to my own career will likely be felt for years to come. It's been the most difficult thing I've dealt with in my life.