Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reasonableness and Your First Court Appearance

This week I had a court appearance with an attorney who was doing his first court appearance and seemed a bit over-confident all around.  Luckily for me, my client had most of the leverage going into the court appearance, and it was a matter of memorializing a quick settlement and everyone goes home.

Despite our first conversations, which seemed positive, the other attorney went and spoke to his client and immediately the mood changed with him.  On a first appearance, it is usually helpful (at least in this case) to be a little reasonable so that the parties can reach an actual settlement.  But once the other party began to get involved, he decided to push back and test my client's leverage.  In doing so, he was neglecting to share very pertinent information with his own attorney.  So when the attorney came back with a counter-offer that was offensively insulting (to put it mildly), I was forced to pull out my files and show him a few documents that blew up his client's claims.

It was surprising to watch an attorney be lied to repeatedly by his own client, and even when confronted with documents proving it to be false, the attorney just shrugged it off and kept saying that he believed his client and that maybe we should let the judge decide.  This position was ponderous to me as the other attorney had no documents and I wasn't sure how a judge could even decide in his client's favor.  But I digress.

When it finally appeared we had a settlement, it was already lunchtime and the court told us to come back in the afternoon.  Not shockingly, when we came back from lunch, the other client decided he was pulling back from some of the points of our agreement.  Normally I would have been more upset, but in doing so, the opposing client left the door wide open for himself to be sanctioned and have significant problems in the future.  It was an odd course to take, but it left me wondering whether this attorney, making his first court appearance, was a genius who put on a show to create a mountain of legal fees for his firm or if he really didn't know any better and was content to spend a day being blatantly lied to by his own client.

Either way, it made for an entertaining day in the courthouse.

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