Friday, April 11, 2008

In Which I Use My Trusty Legal Pad For Good

Did this whole week just happen? Because I missed it. I blinked and its 9 PM on Friday night. I'm completely exhausted, so I must have done something this week, but for the life of me, I can't figure out where the time went.

Fridays are the most exhausting days of the week for me. Partly because of the build-up of stress from the early part of the week, but also because Friday equals Court. Every Friday. And today was no exception.

I like to show up early to court. Get my bearings, see who's there, check the air for any negative vibes, you know how it goes. If the docket starts getting called at around 9:30 AM, I'm there by 8:30. I try to tell my witnesses to arrive around 9 AM, just to make sure that they have time to park their cars, get through the security line, and find the courtroom we're in. Usually, they make it with seconds to spare. I have considered re-setting my witness-arrival deadline to 8ish, but that would probably be mean of me. (Although they have remodeled the state-subsizided cafeteria to more of an al fresco dining feel, so maybe it wouldn't be that bad...)

Today, one witness called my cell phone at 9:15 and said "I'm so sorry! I'm running late! I'm on the beltway!" I cringed, but then he mentioned that his kids have been ill, and then I felt bad for cringing. (He arrived in plenty of time -- before his case was even called, he'd found me in the courtroom and given me all the documents he was supposed to bring. He's clearly done this before.)

The other witness was for my trial. When it got to be 9:30ish, and she didnt show, I went ahead into the courtroom. Once they'd called for time estimates, I ran back out into the hall to call her. She picked up the phone and was totally shocked to hear that she was supposed to be in court. I blamed myself -- I should have emailed her more often, I should have reminded her, I DEFINITELY should have gotten her cell phone number and called her at home on Thursday night to confirm that yes, you do have to come to court. (Ok maybe not. In fact, she is a delightful person and we'd had a trial LAST Friday in which she was also a witness, and I fear that I might not have been perfectly clear that I'd need her in court for BOTH Fridays...)

But I digress. After hearing from my witness that it would take her about an hour to get to the courthouse, there was only one thing left to do. I had to go tell the judge. (Hoo boy...) I walked gingerly back into the courtroom and the judge was slumped down in his chair, glaring at me (and also possibly trying to exaggerate the fact that he'd already been waiting on me for half an hour...)

I gulped, then talked. Really fast. "YourHonor, my-witness-will-be-here-in-an-hour-so-we'll-just-be-out-here-in-the-hallway, me-and-Mr.Defendant, discussing-settlement-and-generally-just-trying-to-stay-out-of-your-hair....if that's alright with you, Your Honor..."

The judge snorted. "Fine. Just tell the bailiff to come find me when you're ready."

Clearly it was time to settle this case. And fast. If I have to go before this dear judge, whom I have just irritated to no end, in a full trial, I am most definitely going to lose. Johnny Cochran would lose at this point. I was toast.

Back in the hallway, I'm all smiles. "So! Mr. Defendant! Tell me what we can do to work this out!"

We worked it out. And when I asked the judge for a blank consent order to write out our settlement agreement, he snorted again.

"You got a piece of paper, Miss? This is General District Court. We don't really do formalities."

I meekly held up my yellow legal pad. (I told you that thing would come in handy...) He nodded.

"Yup, that'll do it."

Who knew. All that legal schooling, all that typing, all my word-processing-skillz clearly gone to waste. Here I am with my messy handwriting constituting a binding legal document in a court of law.

For the record, I would like to note that it is very difficult to write out a settlement when you have sweaty palms from nervously hoping your witness will arrive soon so you don't have to keep making awkward conversation with the defendant who sort of hates you for representing the people who sued him.

Right. So.

The five-second wrap-up went like this -- witness showed up, consented to the settlement we'd proposed (witness is also client, so don't worry), and everybody signed it and shook hands. And then I gave my sad, damp little sheet of legal-sized yellow paper to the judge. He snorted. And then he smiled and said, "So, we've come to an agreement then?" He seemed pleased.

The defendant nodded, confirming that he understood what he'd signed. My client nodded too, happy that she wouldn't have to sit through another full trial like last Friday. And I nodded. Vigorously. The judge nodded (and strangely, didn't snort this time), and entered the order.

And that was that. My first little consent order, out into the big world of law. She'll be okay. I put lots of love (and sweat) into crafting her ink-smeared pages. (Well, page-and-a-half, if you count the signatures.)

It was fun. And although it wasn't a full slam dunk trial, I'm counting it as a win. I am also counting last Friday as a win. The way I figure, that makes me 2-0. :)

Also, no pictures today. Sorry. See above re: exhaustion.


Sean said...

GDC!!! Wow - I've heard of it - but I didn't know people actually practiced in it.

Glad you are doing well, Steele.

Erica said...

Congrats my dear!!! I knew you'd be batting .500 soon :)

Seriously, excellent accomplishment. The first of many, I'm sure.

The Mulvihills said...

Whew! This sounds crazy!!! Good thing you're the lawyer and not me!

Call me this weekend....let's catch up!