Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why people hate lawyers: Part 5,237

It's a busier than usual week here at the Undisclosed Location as I try and craft an appellate brief from a huge volume record in far less time than I should. It will be done. Or I will be done. One or the other. Posting will probably be sparse in the meantime, unless I have a piece to speak, as I do this morning.

See, busy as I am, I'm going to court three times this week, on three different cases, and not one of these trips is necessary. In my opinion, anyway.

Case #1, this morning: I lost the SJ motion. The other side won. The case should be over. But the other side brought their motion on only one of the three counts of their complaint. Because they are closely related, judgment in the other side's favor should be entered on Count I as well as on Count II, the count on which the motion was brought. But the other side never did anything with Count III of their pleading -- which alleged an alternate theory on why my side should lose -- and my thought was that it should just be withdrawn. A couple of weeks ago, the court ordered us to agree on a proposed final order.

I prepared my proposed judgment order accordingly, granting judgment against me on the various counterclaims my predecessors brought as well. Since the District Court has already said it will not make the current order appealable under FRCP 54(b) (which allows appeals from judgments on fewer than all claims or involving all parties in certain circumstances), the goal has to be to get a final, appealable order. But the other side doesn't like my proposal. They worry that they may be giving up a viable claim that would be unavailable to them in the event I win on appeal -- a contingency that they insist, in the same breath, can never come to pass. So I had to bring a motion to ask the judge to enter the order cutting my own throat.

The judge listened to us wander around in the wilderness for a couple of minutes, then finally asked, "Well, what do you want me to do about this?" I'd made my record that we don't yet have a final order, and the judge did not disagree, and she'd reiterated that there would be no 54(b). So I said, with that understood, give opposing counsel a little more time to go back to his client and, hopefully, reach agreement among themselves that they've beaten me enough. Want to bet that we'll need that next hearing date? I've got the I'll-bet-we-do side of the wager.

Case #2, tomorrow: I settled a case in late August for chump change. I need a release in order for my client to pay even this little amount of money. But the other side is balking. My real opponent in this case is a lawyer who is also the party defendant -- a lethal combination. First he refused to sign any release. Yesterday, after a long conference with me and the lawyer for the other defendant (who organized the settlement and did a pretty good job of it), he retreated to the position that my release was too broad. I changed some language and sent it out again last night. Want to bet it won't be signed by the previously scheduled status hearing tomorrow? I've got the I'll-bet-it's-not side of the wager.

Case #3, Friday: This is a case I settled in early August -- after years of litigation and after a court ordered mediation failed -- and after the mediator persisted in trying to get the matter resolved even after. (Yes, even in my own blog, I can't pretend to be the hero of every anecdote. In this case I was just a happy and relieved beneficiary of the mediator's diligence.) Anyway, the party that did everything possible to delay the settlement insisted on taking the laboring oar on the settlement documents. Five weeks ago. I filed a motion last Friday asking the court's help in enforcing the settlement. Last night I got a draft settlement agreement. A screwy, over-the-top in many ways draft -- but something. But I won't even put this one out for wager, because only a rube would think this will be done before the motion is presented Friday. That party wants to play for more time.

Three cases. Three unnecessary court appearances. But before all you prospective clients and current victims of the legal system jump up and down and shout how this confirms your worst impressions of my brothers and sisters, know this: Not every lawyer is a co-conspirator in a plot to inflate your legal bills. Frankly, stuff like this cranks most of us totally out of shape as well.

1 comment:

Ellee Seymour said...

It's the same here in the UK. The preferred route should be mediation in advance to reach an agreement for the courts. But then life wouldn't be so interesting.