January 23, 2008

How To Try A Case With No Witnesses, or, Never Underestimate The Didactic Power of Television

So I'm in court the other day, doing not one, not two, but five evictions. I'm busy doing settlements and it takes me four hours to get four of them done. When I look up, and the last one is still there, I noticed that my client still hadn't checked in. So I called her up. She picked up her cell phone right away (she is a real estate agent, after all).

"Hey, there, Client. This is TL, the lawyer you hired to handle that eviction."

"Yes, yes. What's going on?"

"Well, it's 10:30. Trial was called two hours ago. Where are you?"

"I'm... I'm in Los Angeles. There was a bad accident on the freeway and it's raining, so traffic was really bad. I just went back to my office." (I guess she just had better things to do than actually show up at trial for a lawsuit she wanted filed.)

"Well, I kind of need you here, Client. The defendant is here and so far I've been able to defer the Court from calling the case. The defendant has made a totally unreasonable settlement offer."

"What does this have to do with me?"

"I won't take her settlement offer so I need a witness to try it. With no witness, I'll have to dismiss the case."

"What? Why?"

"Because I don't have a client here to provide testimony."

"What do you need testimony for? You're the lawyer, why don't you take care of this?"

"Do you ever watch Law and Order on TV?"


"Have you ever, once, seen the prosecutors get up in court, without any witnesses, and say, 'Hey, Your Honor, take my word for it, he did it.'? That doesn't get them a conviction."

She paused. "I understand. What should I do?"

"Get here, or give me unlimited authority to settle the case." She chose the latter, I got the case settled -- everybody's happy. Well, I was a little frustrated, but I guess that's sometimes part of a good story.

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