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JUSSIE SMOLLETT: OBJECT LESSON

We now know that the actor finds himself charged with a form of Disorderly Conduct that involves a false police report.  This thing has all kinds of racial, political and even sexual overtones.  This legal blog is no place for those aspects.  

Still, there is value in studying this situation.

From the outside, it would appear Mr. Smollett's story was viewed more or less immediately by the authorities as questionable.  The whole narrative marinated in public discussion for days.  That's where the lesson is.  That is where his missed opportunity lay.

Have you ever done something so ill-conceived, so risky, so foolish that you immediately got that gut feeling "This cannot end well?"  I cannot imagine any fallible human who has not.  We all toss up the occasional "air ball".

When we author big clangers like this, the most valuable thing we can have is a completely trusted person from whom to obtain informed counsel and, honestly, to assure us "the sun will come up tomorrow."  It does not appear Mr. Smollett had that.  

There was a time when the concept of a "family lawyer," just as "family dentist or doctor" was the norm.  Families frequently sought the counsel of a trusted lawyer on such things as where their High School aged children should attend College, What realtor they should use to sell a house or whether it was time to put an aged parent into an assisted living environment.  Folks relied upon their lawyers for legal and wisdom advice, just as they counted on their pastors for spiritual as well as Real World guidance.

Today, people view lawyers more as "EMERGENCY RESPONSE PERSONNEL," as if needing a lawyer is a negative thing, in the same category as a fire or traffic crash.  I think it has always been better and more effective to look at it as building a trusting, guidance, technical advice and just plain, mutually caring relationship between family and counsel.

I am thinking of one particular defense where a Nurse Practitioner (family friend) made a terrible decision.  She knew, in her gut, that she needed emergency help to mitigate what she had done.  She called me immediately. As it turns out, the impact on both her and any patient or employer was minimal.  If she had called me 12 hours later, it would have been a career-ending disaster.  

If Mr. Smollett had established that trusted counselor/mentor relationship with someone and, had he reached out to that trusted someone, he might not be in the unpleasant situation of today.  There was a period of three or four days when this mess was, more or less, "fixable."

So, what we can learn from Mr. Smollett's sad plight is:  Never find yourself without an established relationship with a trusted counsel.  Know your lawyer and let him or her know you.  Then, when any of us makes the inevitable human errors we all make, you can quickly get personalized advice from someone who knows you.

Jussie was somehow isolated.  Don't be Jussie.


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