How do you say “Sue!” in Spanish?
October 1, 2009

The day of the funeral, we just watched Anais Cruz from a distance, cried for her, hurt for her, as she walked into the service.  I wanted to take the cameras away, to allow her the privacy she deserves as she deals with the profound and bottomless grief of losing a child.  But the school yard stabbing at Coral Gables High that killed her son is legitimate and important news.

So now when notice came into the newsroom that Anais Cruz would be speaking in public for the first (and only) time, of course we’re covering that.  But when the cameras arrive, Cruz is seated in a law firm’s conference room, flanked by personal injury attorneys who announce “Lawsuit”.

Lawsuit?       

Yes, lawsuit.  The accusation is negligence:  “The School board has not provided safe premises for kids to learn and be on their property,” said the lawyer.  

No one mentioned suing the boy who decided to bring a switchblade to school.  No one mentioned suing a society that allows kids to marinate in a culture of violence until the thought of stabbing a school rival is an actual viable option. 

I have some questions.  How did Anais Cruz decide to sue?   This is a citizen of Cuba, who sent (or at least allowed) her son to live in South Florida, to be looked after by his abuela, be educated in the public school system.  Miami-Dade’s school superintendent and a U.S. congresswoman paved the way for her trip to South Florida, helped obtain her emergency humanitarian visa. She can stay as long as she needs, as long as it takes for the trial of the teen accused of killing her son.

How did she know which lawyer to hire?  As it happens, the firm representing her has, for years, called newsrooms with some regularity.  They announce lawsuits they’ve filed and multi-million dollar judgments they’ve won for their victim clients.  (They do not call news conferences when those judgments are overturned by higher courts, but that’s a subject for another time).

And we show up, we cover those announcements, because generally the stories are compelling and important to the public interest.  There have been faulty pool drains, broken locks, crimes at businesses without security.  The hurt, the wounded, the scarred, the wronged – the lawyers have them there to speak, coach them about what to say, how to say it.  We as human beings naturally react with support, with a desire to see justice done. 

“Justice” is the always the press conference focus.  And you know big justice has been done when it’s calculated by a multi-million dollar jury award (and a multi-million dollar lawyers’ fee).

The day Anais Cruz arrived from Cuba, news crews were at Miami International Airport, where she fell into the arms of her family, a gut-wrenching scene of a mother who will never get to see her son grow up, never hug him again.  Some of the more jaded reporters were already asking “Will she defect?”  Not even the most jaded thought to ask, “Will she sue?”

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