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Tales from the CourtSide: Over Aggression in the Workplace

I already used the title "Tales from the CourtSide," my ironic take on Tales from the Darkside, a kick-ass tv show from my youth that featured horror stories somewhere in between Tales from the Crypt horror and Twilight Zone spooky.

Well, this ain't no horror story, but I had the pleasure this morning of experiencing another absurdity while at Court.

The morning was going to be hectic. On the fourth floor of the Courthouse, I had a preliminary conference, where the parties set up a schedule for everything to happen up to the date of trial. On the second floor, I had a compliance conference, where the parties meet up several months after the preliminary conference to argue about what was not done in compliance with the preliminary conference order. In other words, I'd be pulling double-duty, and the compliance conference case, case BM, was going to be contentious. To make it worse, BM wasn't even my case. But it was on my shoulders, and I could do no less than argue on behalf of my Team Leader.

A clerk from our office joined me for the Court appearance. She was supposed to have the day off, but the Big Boss Man insisted that she come in a half day to babysit one of my cases while I handled the other. I insisted that it was unneccessary, until I was informed that at our firm, we don't send one person to be in two places at the same time. Well, okay, but I settled the preliminary conference in a half-hour and sent my cohort home to turkey preparation as I readied myself for the compliance conference.

There are few things more difficult than working out discovery issues in a case without actually knowing the case. But, I had some papers with me and expected that I could call Team Leader in the event of any complications.

I called out the case name, "BM!" a procedure standard in the court room. I heard back a meek cry from the back of the room. "bm." I started to get up, but opposing counsel motioned for me to stay put, he grabbed his papers and joined me at my bench in the courtroom. He had already filled out the paperwork.

As I read through it, I saw that it was all in his favor. He requested a myriad of authorizations for a case where all of these things should have already been done. I bit my tongue on most of it, since I figured why argue. If he wants to include it, so be it. After all, if the authorizations were previously exchanged then that would be our response after the fact. If they were not, well, they were sort of entitled to the authorizations. In other words, I was giving the opposing counsel the benefit of the doubt. That was, until I saw the request for our client's primary care physician records.

Remember, I don't know the case well. However, I'm always looking out for the client's best interests. I pointed out the request and told my opposition, "This is fine, as long as we limit it to records regarding injuries related to the accident."

"Well, um, well, eh, I think we are entitled to it. Um, I think you have a claim for loss of enjoyment of life. Uh..." That's when I got my first look at my opposition. He was a guy, probably my age or perhaps a year older, with a look of sheer terror on his face. His hands shook like he held pocket Aces, but his eyes told me that he didn't even know how to play the game. A newbie, I thought. Much like myself a year before, a newbie can be sniffed out with nary a thought. They are nervous about everything. They usually are under the thumb of a partner (real or imagined). And worst of all, they have no capacity for reason. Fair enough, I thought. We'll go back to this issue later.

We moved on to the next issue, the deposition of some nurses from the defendant Hospital. The problem was, we didn't know the names of the nurses. All my opposition would give me is a general statement that we can depose someone from the Hospital. That wasn't enough for me. I had explicit instructions to have the defendant provide us with a list of nurses in the ER. I tried to work out other avenues with the opposition, but counsel just wouldn't veer from his script. It was clear that he was concerned about what the partner would think. I used the soft approach, trying to find middle ground, but I wasn't going to budge if he wasn't. Finally, I laid it out: "Look, you and I are not getting anywhere. Let's take it to a Court Clerk and get a decision." I took the sheet and dropped it into the basket requesting a conference. That's when my opposition got up to make a phone call.

Back up a second. This wasn't the first phone call made by my opposition. It was actually about the 3rd. After our two other issues, he went running to make a call, presumably so that his partner can crack the whip and reinforce that he was to get XYZ and only XYZ. On the prior occasions, I took the opportunity to call my office. Of course, Team Leader was in a meeting with Big Boss Man, and I was SOL. I had to pretty much work on the fly.

We were called up to the Clerk, and had our conference. Most of it went my way, as I was squarely in the right. Once done, my opposition and I shook hands. I didn't mind the kid. He was a little inexperienced and certainly spineless, but its not easy starting out in a career like ours where you pretty much sink or swim.

Hence, my surprise as I waited for the Court to officially stamp our order. My cell phone was vibrating, and since using a cell phone in a Court room is a serious no no, I quickly moved to the doors. As soon as I was outside, I picked up and heard the voice of my Team Leader.

"Jordan, I just got a call from the lead attorney from the defendants in BM."
"Really?" I asked. "Everything is under control here."
"She told me that her guy called her to tell her that you were being too tough."
"Wait...what?"
"Yeah, she called me and told me to call you and tell you to stand down."
"Are you serious?"
"Yep."
"But..." I was dumbfounded and searched for the right words. "But...I've been taking it easy on the guy. He's shaking like a leaf in there, so instead of arguing with him, I said we should take it to the clerk. I don't get it. I'm making an effort not to be aggressive."
"Well, whatever you are doing, I'm not telling you to act differently. I don't care what they say, even if you are being a complete jerk, I'm giving you that leeway."
"Um, thanks." In my head, I was still figuring out where this was all coming from. "I'll be done here and back in a few."

So, I wrapped it up, shook the hand of the scared kitten that was my adversary and headed to the office. When I entered, Big Boss Man saw me. "Woe! Calm down there over aggressive guy!" he joked. All I could do is smile and laugh. Sheet, I'm over aggressive even when I'm trying to be passive. I shot back, "That's what all my dates say." And that was that.

posted by Jordan @ 4:37 PM,

6 Comments:

At 2:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Borrrrrrrring...

 
At 10:57 PM, Blogger Sleech said...

Really, I thought it was an interesting read.

 
At 12:13 PM, Blogger Wolverine Fan said...

I thought this was interesting but you may want to be careful about blogging about anything from where you work. I'm hearing a lot more horror stories about bloggers and their jobs. IMHO.

 
At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That guy sounds like a real bitch.

 
At 4:18 PM, Blogger HighOnPoker said...

Thanks for the comments, especially Anonymous. Haha. Boring is right, brother. This is the crap I deal with every day.

Wolverine, you have a point about being cautious with work-related postings. If my boss ever found out about the blog, I'll deal with it then. I'm very cautious when it comes to identifying myself or anything around me like my firm, and I'm conscious enough to know that it does no one any favors for me to bad mouth my job or the people I work with. Truth be told, I really have nothing to complain about, as I love my job and the people I work with, but I don't mind punching out a quick post about the stupid shit I deal with as a new attorney. And if Anonymous thinks its boring, no big deal. I've had others that have encouraged me to include more legal stuff, so I try to please. I'm sure I'll be posting some new obscure Razz strategies soon enough and Anonymous will be pleased as well.

CR, yeah, he was a real puss.

 
At 9:25 AM, Anonymous kipper said...

What a Pansy!

I find your work posts and AC trip reports a heck of a lot more interesting then hand histories. Although I still read those also. Cause I am always looking for tips pointers or bad advice to help my game.

 

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