Chen Guangcheng Screws Up First Civil Case in U.S.
NEW YORK — Just days after being named GQ‘s Rebel of the Year, Chen Guangcheng suffered a major setback in his pursuit of a legal career in the United States after making a mess of his first civil case in the country.
The blind activist, whose daring escape from house arrest and subsequent flight to America made headlines around the world, represented Dwayne Jarvis in a civil rights suit against the State of Oklahoma.
Jarvis, 39, claimed that he was discriminated against on the basis of his African-American heritage when applying for jobs, and approached Chen to represent him in Dwayne Jarvis III v. The Employers Association of Tushka, Oklahoma.
“I thought Chen’s celebrity status would be a boon,” Jarvis told reporters outside the courthouse after his case was thrown out by Judge Carl Snyder. “But I had misgivings as soon as he began his opening statement.”
The self-taught civil rights lawyer began by addressing the court in Mandarin, without an interpreter, shouting down the defense counsel who attempted to interject that they couldn’t understand. Apparently, even after an interpreter was secured after a court liaison was dispatched to the local Chinese restaurant, the situation deteriorated further.
“Chen seemed to think that he was in a criminal trial, and that it was his job to prove me innocent,” Jarvis continued. “When we tried to explain that this was a civil case, and the issue was whether or not the defendant would pay compensation, he changed tack and tried to haggle over how much I’d be getting.”
“He kept addressing the ‘ladies and gentlemen of the jury,’ even though juries are only used in criminal cases. He also kept saying that he knew Batman, for some reason.”
According to court stenographer Marisa Hyde, Chen also made a series of “elementary” gaffes—addressing the judge as “your Hummer,” raising objections to remarks made by the judge, asking for “a go with that hammer thing,” and finishing his closing statement with the English phrase, “This is a good man, dammit.”
Chen also accidentally locked himself in a broom closet on the way out of the courthouse.
“In retrospect, I should have checked his credentials,” Jarvis said, after losing the case. “I knew the case was lost when he referred to me as ‘an Afro-man.'”
“Chen Guangcheng may be a hero to China’s imprisoned legion of activists and freedom fighters, but, honestly, he’s one lousy-ass lawyer.”
A subsequent investigation revealed that the “learning materials” Chen had used to teach himself U.S. civil law were an incomplete box set of Ally McBeal DVDs.