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Life With Mikey

Kids can be so cute with their questions. My nine-year old came up to me the other day and asked why Michael Jackson had paid a little boy millions of dollars. Having just read a piece in the Legal Forum about how guilt or innocence is secondary to legal fees in the American justice system, I felt well qualified to answer him.

"Well, you see, the little boy said that Michael had done something very bad so he paid the money so he wouldn't be taken to court.

"But did he do the bad thing, Daddy?"

"He says that he didn't."

"Then why didn't he go to court so he could prove he didn't do it?"

"Well, son, it's not that simple." I explained. "In America you have to pay your own costs even when you're falsely accused. The richer you are, the more your attorneys cost. Sometimes it's just easier to pay somebody to leave you alone."

"I don't understand, Daddy. It almost sounds like he's rewarding the kid for lying. You always taught me that a person should be punished for telling a lie."

"Michael has a lot of very wise attorneys, son. They advised him what to do."

"I think I understand. The attorneys paid the boy to leave their friend alone."

I laughed. "No, son, Michael Jackson paid the boy. The attorneys just suggested that he do it because he has so much money. Michael Jackson is their client, not their friend."

"What's a client?"

"It's someone who pays somebody else."

"Then Michael Jackson is the little boy's client, too. After all, he paid the boy so he wouldn't have to pay his attorneys by going to court."

"Well, no, Michael paid his attorneys, anyway. But he didn't hire the little boy. He just paid him."

"But why did he pay him?"

"He paid him so that people wouldn't think he did the bad thing."

"But Daddy, paying the kid a bunch of money is like admitting he did do it."

"He swears he didn't."

Junior went away shaking his head. I don't think he could fathom why a person would pay someone a lot of money in reward for accusing him of something he didn't do. Maybe when he's older he'll understand.

Frank Leany

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