Tuesday, January 09, 2007

How not to win friends in the Circuit Clerk's office

I'd worked steadily on the brief all weekend. I didn't work constantly but, when I was on the computer, I was working more often than I was goofing off. And I was on the computer so much that Younger Daughter was beginning to despair that she'd ever get the opportunity to catch up on the latest developments in Teenage World via Facebook.

Younger Daughter recently broke up with a boy by changing her status on Facebook to single. He did the same. There is some question about the time-stamp on these two events, critical as always to the issue of whether one is the Dumper or the Dumpee. But I digress.

The brief was due yesterday. And, after working diligently all weekend, when Monday morning rolled around the brief was... not done.

Yes, I was agonizing over it. Looking for the 'right' word, for the 'best' citation.

It's a coverage case. A personal injury attorney has hired me to try and persuade the Chancery Court that the target defendant in his underlying case is covered under two excess insurance policies. While a lot of money is at stake, I will receive only an hourly fee for my services.

Still, being involved in big cases like this is the only way to become involved in other big cases in future... and in those cases maybe I'll be able to divert more of the income stream into my irrigation ditches.

So the brief wasn't done Monday morning. And it wasn't done at lunch time. But by 3:30 or so in the afternoon I had a draft ready to email to my referring attorney.

A few modest corrections here and there, a parenthesis closed, a comma removed, an extraneous article excised... all the corrected pages reprinted. It's coming up on 4:00.

I prepared the Notice of Filing and printed it, abbreviating the looooooong case caption to get the notice on a single page (two with the lengthy service list) and now I'm ready to photocopy. Now it's just past 4:00.

The photocopier is like the rest of us: It doesn't like to be neglected all day, only to be rushed into doing something at the last minute. It fought back the only way it could: With a paper jam. And then another.

Finally, though, the copier stopped balking and while the brief was running through the copier I put on my coat. I stapled the originals and headed out the back door. It was now 4:15.

The Clerk's office is in the Daley Center, just a couple of blocks away. But it closes at 4:30. And I had to wait for the elevator.

The elevators in our building were designed by a Zen Master to teach patience to an impatient world. The elevators are slow, yes, but not just slow: When the light on the button goes off there is a lengthy pause so that the elevator can stop and consider the wonder of becoming open.

Finally the light went off.

And the sound of moving machinery told me that the elevator was near.

But still I had to wait.

And wait.

And when the elevator believed that I had waited in silent contemplation for a sufficient period of time, the doors opened, and I went in.

This process was repeated on the ground floor.

It's after 4:20.

Yes, there are only two blocks to go, but there are streets to cross and the drivers have not learned patience, as I have. And I still must clear security.

By now it is 4:26... maybe 4:27... maybe even 4:28. Somewhere a timeclock must be reading 4:30 because all the public employees are beginning to swarm out of the courthouse.

I am as the salmon, swimming upstream. Only not to spawn and die -- just to file my papers. If I can get there before the doors close....

One of the double glass doors to Room 802 is already closed as I come out of the elevator. A man is just locking that side and turning his attention to the other and I hear someone shout, "Wait! There's another one!"

I don't know if he means me. I don't stop to find out. I execute a little bit of a spin move and make it around the man who's trying to close the door. I have made it in time.

Fortunately, yesterday, the pleading I had to file was something that did not require a fee. I could, and did, use the self-serve time-stamp box. If my papers had required a fee, I would have had to get in line... and face the Death Glare from the clerk.

If you ever want to see someone look at you just like this, just try and file a new Complaint in the Circuit Clerk's office -- any division will do -- at a minute before closing time on a Friday afternoon. Just don't expect me to go with you.


Shelby said...

That clerk's twin works in Birmingham. I've seen that look - for that reason. Scary thought.

Anonymous said...

haaaaaaahahahahah!! Thank you, this post completely brightened my day!! I was STRESSING that you weren't going to make it in time!!!!!

I agree, it is a prerequesite for the clerks to be bitter, at least in my venue..

(word to the wise--- you need to get a cut rather than the hourly.. just my $.02)