A few minutes later, Powell came to the door and called me over. “You’re going to have to go down and tell them that you’re not doing it yourself. Stand over there and face the window.”
I walked to the wall and turned to Powell, “Let me be clear,” I said. “I’m not refusing, it’s just inappropriate for me to risk someone else’s money talking about a case I haven’t been allowed to review.”
Powell turned to speak to a black woman, who I had never seen before, to get some input. “We hear you,” she said, “but for our purposes it goes down as a denial. You just have to do it in person and we are out of it.”
“Does he need ankle chains?” Powell asked.
“Yes,” she said, “anything going to administration.”
“Great,” I thought. I also have to go downstairs chained up like an animal.
Powell put on the chains, first around my waist and then locked them in the small of my back. He then put my wrists in the cuffs dangling at my sides. Because I had just gotten out of the shower, I had yet to put on a sock – which was a mistake. The cold steel rubbed against the skin of my ankles – and the first three or four steps dug the metal into my skin. The chain was shorter than I anticipated. I needed to take shorter strides. That explained why all the guys they brought in seemed to be shuffling (even after the chains were gone).
At the exit to the module, I was passed on to another officer, an older Latin fellow who smiled and directed me to the elevator. We went down one floor, turned right coming out of the elevator, and much to my surprise, was adjacent to the large desk where I was admitted. (I knew that coming in they had taken me on the senic tour in order to confuse me.)
I could see the lawyers in a glassed enclosed conference room talking. It was obvious that they didn’t belong here. I turned to walk to the conference room and a guard stepped in front of me. “They’re not all here yet; so we’re going to put you in a holding cell until everyone arrives.”
I didn’t respond. I just looked at him and turned into the small room adjacent to the conference room. Every one of the people working on the administration platform with its cubicles and computers had stopped to take a look. I intentionally held my head higher and I made sure that anyone whose eye I caught, I looked straight in the eye. I sat alone in the holding cell for a few minutes, at times catching myself slumping and consciously shifting myself to sit up straight.
The first person to show was the lawyer for the Surgery Center. She was a tall, dirty-haired blond with angular features wearing a beige sweater and khaki pants and flats. I guess she wore those for comfort, but I believe she mainly wore them because she was tall and did not want to tower too noticeably above the men in her life. “Hello, Dr. Adams,” she said. “I’m Joanne Leighton. I’m the attorney for the Surgery Center. You and I are on the same side.” (For clarity’s sake, let me say I liked her, but her statement that we were on the same side was horseshit. Her side didn’t include me, and if she could defend the surgery center by throwing me under the bus, she would have. But, for right now, they needed me.)
I smiled and nodded hello, and she took a seat on the bench next to me.
“How are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m fine,” I said, “but I’ve got to tell you I’m not comfortable trying to discuss a case I haven’t reviewed. I told the lieutenant that a week ago. Do you have a picture of this woman so I can see who we’re talking about?”
“I don’t have one,” she said. “But maybe opposing counsel does. It’s his deposition”.
“I showed the chart to Terry Dubrow, our expert. Do you know him?” I shook my head yes and she kept talking. “He also says that this case is totally bullshit and completely defensible.”
I had known Terry as a resident at UCLA when I was a clinical instructor there. I actually liked him a lot, but I kept my knowledge of him professional. “Imagine that,” I thought. “Someone who I taught the expert witness in a case I’m involved in; that’s irony. Once again, though, here was a case acknowledged as totally bullshit but nonetheless the lawyers were going to collect an enormous fee for arriving at what we already knew.”
I mentioned that to Ms. Leighton; she acknowledged it and sort of shrugged. “You’re right,” she admitted, “but that’s how the system works.”
Curiosity then overtook her. “How is it in here?” she asked in a whisper.
“You don’t want to know,” I said, but in my mind I was thinking, “Read my book in a few months.”
The opposing attorney made his entrance and he was exactly what I expected: clean-cut, cocky, white boy who had overestimated his importance in the scheme of things. He spoke forcibly and was intent on demonstrating that he was, in fact, in control and smarter than everyone present. The problem was, he wasn’t. He wasn’t even a close third.
“Dr. Adams,” he said, “I’mMichael Johnson” (at least I believe that was his name) and began right into his presentation. “I’m going to be conducting the deposition today. I’ll have a videographer and a court reporter, and I’ll walk you through the whole process.”
I smiled warmly and said, “I don’t want to be contrary, but right off the top I can tell you I’m not letting a videographer film me in these stripes so that I can appear on TMZ tomorrow. So if that’s part of the process, we can walk away right now.”
“Well, sir,” he said. “I have the right to film it, but I’ll give you my personal assurance that won’t happen.”
“I’m not worried about your personal assurance,” I said, “I’m worried about the personal assurance of someone I don’t know who’s not with us right now.”
“Well, sir, I give you my assurance and there are remedies for that type of thing.”
“That may be true, but once it’s out there, there is no remedy and I’m not taking the chance.”
Mr. Johnson glared at me speechless. I suspect his mind was turning but his eyes were already registering contempt. “Well, we’ll get started here in a few minutes,” he added.
“That brings me to my second point. I’ve not seen this person’s chart. Nor have I seen a picture of her so I don’t know who we are talking about. When did she have surgery?”
“In 2005,” Ms. Leighton said.
“2005,” I repeated. “Until and unless I have time to review her chart and see who she is, I’m definitely not engaging in a deposition and risking the Surgery Center’s case. Do you have a picture of her?” I asked.
Mr. Johnson continued to glare only now uncomfortably. He was ready to attack, but had not factored in that the deposition wasn’t going to happen. He was now thinking expenses and the trip up here. I’m certain his firm was receiving no money from the plaintiff. She herself was involved in a scam and was hoping to collect a portion of some unearned money. His bosses were not going to like this. That is why he began to push ever harder. “Dr. Adams,” he said, leaning forward aggressively. “I have a right to conduct this interview and the State of California gives me the right to conduct it here, today.”
That’s when I knew I had him, and it was that statement which confirmed that he was, at best, the third smartest person in the room. “A right,” I said. “A right… You obviously don’t even know what a right is…a right is a moral principle; a right defines a man’s freedom of action in a social context. It is a bridge between ethics and politics. A right does not impose an obligation on another man. A right only defines what one can do, not what other people must do. The source of a man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity; the law of man’s nature. The State of California can’t give you the right to violate another human being’s rights. What’s wrong with you? There is no right to impose an unwanted obligation on another man.”
Mr. Johnson stared at me dumbfounded. He didn’t have a response for that one. I personally had been waiting thirty years – ever since I first read Ayn Rand – to lay that one on some bureaucrat.
After attempting to stare me down, he merely got up and left the room. Through the window of the cell I could see the videographer leaving with her tripod. It was also an opportunity for Ms. Leighton, the Surgery Center’s representative, to speak. “I don’t blame you,” she said. “I wouldn’t try to talk about the specifics of a case that happened five years ago that I didn’t review.” She touched me gently on the shoulder. It seemed like forever since that had happened – a woman touching me on the shoulder, and merely said, “You wait here, I’ll find out what’s going on.”
I had no choice but to “wait here.” Right outside my door were three guards dressed in black fatigues, and I, I was in chains including a pair around my ankles.