Thursday, May 07, 2009

A halfwit client, a benevolent judge and the attorney in the middle

I have this client that is wound a little too tight for her own good. She lives and breathes her case. She monitors the electronic docket that Cook County. She calls when there is the slightest change or entry that does not make sense to her [which, given that her legal education came from Boston Legal, means everything does not make sense]. To compound this further, she lives out of state in a jurisdiction that doesn’t really conform to normal legal processes.

About a month ago, due to a simple mix-up, I missed the court call for this client’s case and it was dismissed for want of prosecution. The client checked the electronic docket and went ballistic. To pour a little gas on the fire, I wasn’t in the office when the client called to go ballistic. The client then called the Clerk of the Court. The Clerk kindly told the client that after a DWP order has been entered, the case is completely dead and that the client is totally screwed. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, but the client wasn’t buying it as her world was now officially over. The client finally got in touch with me on her seventh attempt when I walked back into the office. And went nuts. (It probably did not help that I did not know it had been dismissed…)

45 minutes of talking her off the ledge, I assured her that this was a simple matter to clear up and that we have a form motion to take care of it. [Three sentences, copy & past the caption, print and file…simple]. For the next several weeks I get daily phone calls and e-mails about this motion. This client openly tells me that she cannot sleep because of this and that she is chain-smoking several packs a day. I tell her to “calm [cough] the fuck [cough] down” because everything will be fine. I would have been better served talking to a wall of drying paint.

Today was the motion hearing to get the case reinstated and this is my first time in front of this particular judge. After having asked around, I found out that this particular jurist has a poor reputation and can be incredibly mean to attorneys. The motion I bring, while it is a commonplace motion without any frills, certain Judges take issue and have been known to chew out the attorneys bringing the motion. This could be fun.

I step up, the judge asks why we missed the last date, I brace for impact and I tell her the truth: “my partner and I had a mix-up in communication and the junior associate [I point to myself and hang my head in shame] just missed the hearing.” She promptly granted my motion. And then does something I have never had happen: the Judge orders the Clerk to refund the motion cost because I had a legitimate excuse for missing the hearing. The Judge gave me my money back and cover with my client…who knew these things were possible?

As the Judge was reviewing the order I had drafted, I planted myself against the wall because I didn’t want my movement to offend the Judge in any way [yes, Judge’s are like T-Rex…sensitive to movement] and have her change her mind. I got the order back and found that the Judge had added more language that padded my already thick cover with the client. I walked out of the Courtroom with a dumb grin on my face and a giddy-up hitch in my step.

I have already offered my partner a friendly wager on when this client will call demanding to know what happened.

My money is on 3:30p.m.