September 28, 2007

Small, Small Claims Indeed

I confess: I sort of lost my cool judicial demeanor yesterday serving as a pro tem in small claims court, this time right here in the Antelope Valley. After hearing all sorts of discussion between two people who just plain didn't like each other, I told them that I was astonished that adults could not have resolved this dispute on their own, and that "your case today is, if you'll forgive me an indulgence in a Shakespeare paraphrase, full of sound and fury, yet it signifies very, very little." My net award was under a hundred dollars.

I also had to consider the significance of an agreement of the parties in one of my cases to submit their dispute to the Judge Judy show. No, I'm not making this stuff up. (It's an arbitration agreement, by the way, and if I'd seen a copy of it with the opposing party's signature on it, I'd have kicked the suit out of court.)

Finally, I got a case with a trilingual argument -- a real estate sale between a Turkish-speaker and a Spanish-speaker. It was slow going and it was not assisted by the fact that the seller's real estate agent skipped the hearing and the buyer's agent had apparently never read the escrow instructions and was unfamiliar with the basic language of a standard residential real estate purchase contract. I wonder sometimes what value it is that some of these agents bring to their clients. In my own purchase, I was very pleased with the work and help my agent brought to The Wife and I; he was knowledgeable, pro-active in getting paperwork and behind-the-scenes arrangements lined up, and gave us good negotiating advice.

The courtroom staff seems to like me, though; both the baliff and the clerk told me they thought I made good rulings and were impressed with my patience with the parties, and the court reporter is pleased that I keep only one person talking at a time.

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