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Your Day in Court?

Suppose you could accomplish your objectives without having to have a hearing, without having to go to Court to get it resolved. Wouldn’t you want to do that?

Most people feel that way. Most people don’t want the stress, the cost and the uncertainty of putting on the show for the judge, just to see what she might do.

But some people do want a hearing more than a resolution. Stress, cost and uncertainly included, they want their day in court more than they want closure. They don’t want the predictable outcome that an agreement brings. They want the show. Maybe they want their ex to get their comeuppance, convinced that the judge will see things their way and will make their ex rue the day. Maybe they want an opportunity to tell their story, convinced that the judge will exclaim like the fantasy teacher in Christmas Story, “A+, A+, A+.” Maybe they just enjoy courtroom dramas and have always wanted to participate in one.

Maybe they want their day in court because of a principle, even if that is to the detriment of their cause.

I once tried to counsel a man who was in the process of losing his daughter’s custody case. He had decided that the judge was violating his constitutional parenting rights by interfering with his visitation. The problem, as I saw it, was he was engaged in a grudge match with the judge and this fellow was convinced that he had more testosterone and would therefore win the day. I knew different. I told him how he could get back in relationship with his daughter just by yielding the field to the judge. I told him to get out of his own way.

This fellow framed his issue as a defense of the US Constitution. He had taken an oath as a service member and couldn’t back down when the judge thought he could curtail this man’s visitation.

I asked him which was more important to him, his daughter or his perception of the Constitution?

“Well, I took an oath and I just couldn’t turn my back on the Constitution.”

Bye, bye baby girl.

Truly, I can’t fault him. I don’t share his priorities but they are his priorities. I can feel bad for his little girl because her daddy wasn’t going to be a part of her life, he’s going to work himself right out of it, but he’s got to decide what is important to him and what is not. He wanted his day in court. He wanted to vanquish the judge. It was more important to him to go down in flames trying.

Sometimes you don’t get a choice. Sometimes there is no viable option of settling. Sometimes you are up against someone who wants vindication, a stage or a hill to die on. That’s when you try your case. That’s when you have a hearing.

That’s when you get your day in court.

-Michael Manely 

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