Death as a Strategy

Death as a Strategy

Posted By Michael Manely, International Family Lawyer || 10-Apr-2016

I'd put our strategic acumen up against any in the business and I'd bet we would prevail.

As we often write, family law can be rote.  It's still a high caliber question of identifying the issues, spotting the most salient facts, discerning the most likely result and then framing the story in the most cogent narrative. But still, the end game is set before the match has begun. 

But sometimes there is much to be done in planning, preparing, directing, massaging, messaging.  Sometimes there is much to be done in strategizing to arrive at the right outcome. Sometimes it is as intricate as threading a bundle of needles with a course thread.  We excel here, too.

But recently, I've learned a new layer to this three dimensional chess game.  This new dimension takes well beyond three, well beyond four, which is the critical factor of time, and deep into five.  It is the existential layer, the layer of existence itself.  Strategy becomes a frightening game when death becomes a move, because that move is a checkmate.

Tonight is the first of several posts on this subject.

In 26 years, I've never lost a client to death during a case.  I can't claim that anymore.  We represented a young mother, vibrant in health, abundantly engaged in her child but quite disengaged in her marriage. Within a week of our temporary hearing, within hours of the Judge's temporary ruling, she was found dead.

She was not feeling particularly well during our hearing earlier in the week.  Still, she was strong enough to not only attend the hearing but testify directly and forcefully about her circumstance. She kept in contact with us in the ensuing days.  Her father reported that she continued to feel a little worse during the week but never felt bad enough to go to the doctor.  She rode around town with her dad in the afternoon before her death.

Plans to quickly cremate her were delayed so that an autopsy could be performed. 

Something went terribly wrong.  There can be no doubt about that.  We owe it to our client to get to the bottom of it.  I certainly hope that the autopsy results will resolve that what went wrong was nothing nefarious, but a bizarre quirk in a medical circumstance, an unfortunate turn of events in a short matter of a few days that snatched this vital woman's life from her young child and left her once to be divorced husband to raise their child on his own.

But for purposes of this story, all the brilliant strategizing, flawlessly executed, was nothing more than the sound of one hand clapping.  For rather than accomplishing our client's rightful goals, we are now burying her, goals undone. 

And we bury a piece of ourselves with her.

Michael Manely

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