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    joe s

    This was in the Daily Journal the next day. How do you get your scoops?

    Garry Jones

    Positive Moral Choice. Initiative. Creativity. Concepts that, frankly, one is unlikely to associate with a civil servant. Yet a remarkable thing happened on the way to a labor law appeal hearing at the Santa Ana courthouse yesterday. You see, in what may possibly have been the darkest hour of American juriprudence, my wife and I were rescued from the forces of bad by a latter day Joan of Arc. And now, my wife and I shall never ever again be able to muster even a modicum of the disdain and scorn we had previously held for public servants. Here’s the backstory.
    My wife had won an award for wages owed to her. It had taken sixteen months to get the award, and now that decision had been appealed by the other party. The appeal was to be heard by a judge or commissioner in the Superior Court system, and the case was to be heard de novo (in other words, our case would be treated as if the matter was being heard for the first time).
    Uh oh. Rules of evidence and civil procedure would now apply. Might be pretty tricky. A lawyer would definitely be required. But the amount of the award was relatively modest (under $5,000). And, because there were several convoluted twists and turns to my wife’s cause of action, there was a serious chance my wife might not prevail in her case. And, to be honest, our domestic funds were stretched quite thin. So my wife applied for legal representation by a Labor Commission attorney. And then we waited. Time passed. One month. Two. The hearing date of my wife’s case loomed large. Now our frantic messages of concern were conveyed to the Labor folks by fax and voicemail. But no reply. What to do? Our best guess: we should go to court and ask the judge for more time to allow my wife to get her answer from the Labor Commission. So that’s what we did. We showed up without legal representation but with the intent of requesting a continuance. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
    If you happen to be versed in matters legal you are probably not shocked to learn that the judge, aka commissioner, was less than impressed with our courtroom strategem. The other party, not surprisingly, was also less than sympathetic to our cause, And their attorney argued that the matter ought to be heard forthwith. The judge was inclined to agree.
    Less than helpfully, the judge enquired as to what section of what statute my wife was entitled to apply for legal representation by a Labor Commission attorney. We had that information – somewhere in the massive pile of documents we had with us. (This was the same pile we hoped to give to the attorney we might finally obtain.) In a mock display of courtroom bravado, I started to shuffle papers. But I knew there was scant chance that my wife would be able to present her intricate case in a persuasive not to mention coherent way without the aid of competent, professional legal counsel. And I knew this judge had no intention of allowing us to run away to fight another day. Yep, we weren’t getting out of her courtroom alive.
    So things had turned rather ugly quite quickly for the good guys - which was, of course, us. And then, enter Joan of Arc, aka Ms Johanna Hsu, a staff attorney for the Labor Commission. By divine intervention or an incredible stroke of luck (keeping in mind the large number of courtrooms in the huge multi-story Santa Ana courthouse) Ms Hsu happened to wander into our courtroom just as we were about to be monstered by the judicial process.
    Now, Ms. Hsu is a mere slip of a girl, but looks can be misleading. The kid is a star. She introduced herself to the court, took my wife and I outside, got a quick rundown on the complicated facts of my wife’s case, and then got us a settlement with the other side. In doing so she demonstrated the poker skills of a real pro – it was pretty much the legal equivalent of bluffing an opposing poker player into throwing away a full house whilst you only hold an incomplete straight. And all of this was accomplished in between her running off to another courtroom on another floor to handle another case that had been officially assigned to her.
    Yep, Ms Hsu definitely saved us. And she didn’t have to. She could have just looked away, and left us to our fate. But Ms Hsu chose to make a positive moral choice: she intervened on our behalf and then used her initiative and considerable creativity to ensure that my wife recovered the wages owed to her by a former employer. If you ever read this Ms Hsu: thanks kiddo! And if you are Ms Hsu’s boss, take note of this prodigy currently within your domain. Nurture and mentor her. A more worth protege would be hard to find.


    Gaz and Minerva Jones

    Costa Mesa, CA

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