Thursday, January 13, 2011


If you think for one minute that you will prevail in court because the facts are on your side, because you brought your proof, because you lined up your witnesses and they are eager and waiting to tell what they know, then you are living in a land of white rabbits and red queens.

If you think that your opponent will raise his right hand and swear to tell the truth, and actually will tell the truth, you need to lay off the mushrooms. Better to hold your nose and swallow a strong dose of Reality. Assume from the start that he is a liar from whose stuttering tongue will roll the most astounding falsehoods you have ever heard.

If you believe the judge (especially if he is elected, and may not have even practiced law) will examine your evidence and allow your witnesses to speak, you are as mad as a hatter. If you believe that because you waded through muck to find one of that rare species—a good lawyer—that you will win your case, then you need to put the hookah away.

Here’s the pure, unadulterated truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: unless you committed a horrendous crime that has titillated the public’s attention and you have become the media’s darling or devil, you will be lucky to get ten minutes in court, much less Your Day. The whole truth is that if your appearance falls on a day when the caseload is heavy—and in these days and times, that is every day—your plan—and your attorney’s plan—should be on shoving the winning facts directly under the judge’s nose and wrapping up your case in ten minutes or less. If you don’t do that, you are going to leave the courtroom wondering, as I did, how did I just get screwed?

Let me tell you how: Judges, like everyone else, are overworked. I personally have waited in court from 8 a.m. when it began, to 7 p.m. the same evening, to go before a judge, and I can tell you that none of them, not the judge, not the state’s attorney, not the defending attorney, took a lunch break. I’m not sure they even took a bathroom break. They were all there, beginning to end.

Judges are just like literary agents staring down the slush pile: they hope there’s something interesting there, something that’s worth further attention, but they know the odds are against it. That’s like finding a diamond in a coalmine. They are looking for reasons to reject. They want to whittle that workload down to nothing as fast as possible so they can get home to their families and their dinner, just like the rest of us. Remember the last time you went to traffic court, saw a hundred other people there, and thought Gah! This is going to take all day. Now imagine sitting on the bench, behind the eight ball. When you’re done, you get to leave. The judge is still going to be there, no matter what, so he is looking for any reason to collect money for his district and dispatch you expeditiously. If you think for one second that in a contest between opposing parties that he won’t split it down the middle just to move on with his day, then you are truly a fool.

1 comment:

  1. It didn't go well, then?

    I've stayed well clear of all legal issues so far. Once I was called for jury service but never actually sat on a jury. I didn't get selected.

    So I've never been inside a courtroom. From what I hear, ours are much the same. More interested in revenue collection than justice, by a long way.

    I hope it didn't end up costing too much!


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