Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In Cook County, controlling precedent does not always… um… control

I was working on a robust two hours of sleep last Friday and, as I referenced, I already was channeling my inner awesome. Two hours after I went to the wrong courtroom I was back in action, with the Enabler as an observer in the gallery, with a contentious motion to dismiss one of the Defendants to my client's suit. By ‘back in action’ I mean that all I had to say was my name and let the gaggle of Defendants fight this motion out.

I had told the Enabler the judge was worth the trip from his cushy taxpayer financed cube-farm office just for the fact that the judge has warmly embraced senility. For example, an attorney I know went before this judge with a dismissal order in hand. The judge granted the dismissal. And then proceeded to demand oral argument on a motion to compel that had been pending. ‘Your Honor, we have settled the case and you just dismissed this matter,’ the attorney politely said. The response, “Right, this case is dismissed. [Looks down at his notes, reads, looks up again] Now, on this motion to compel…”

This Courtroom is like watching a Marx brothers sketch only staged in the halls of the judiciary with your case is hanging in the balance. It’s hysterical for those that have no skin in the game and yet, positively terrifying for those who do not know what may happen. My moment of terror occurred when the Judge went down an irrelevant path on a tort defense that had i) nothing to do with the motion being argued and ii) has nothing to do with the facts of this case. I’m minding my own business when the judge starts talking about this specific area of law, “You know, I helped draft this statute,” and then, “maybe I should dismiss all of you Defendants out of the case?” The Defendants all liked this idea, but before I could open my mouth to say anything, the judge was redirected back to the motion as it stood before the Court.

The argument against the motion to dismiss was simple as it just consisted of the law as it stands and the controlling caselaw. Without going into specific detail, I can say that this caselaw is so on point it was if my client had read the prior cases and reenacted those specific fact patterns. In other words, there is no reason to grant this Defendant's motion to dismiss. The judge was in agreement after listening to a litany of prior precedent and a statement of the applicable caselaw: “I want to get this right.”

And then promptly granted the motion to dismiss.