John G. Browning 2017-06-24 10:26:35
Saying It With a Straight Face From law school onward, we’ve had it drilled into us that our job is to advocate on our client’s behalf, regardless of whether we actually agree with the argument we’re making. Put your personal feelings aside and maintain a good poker face. Make the best argument you can, with the facts and the law at your disposal. Some arguments, however, are hard to make with a straight face. For example, how about the young lady who won the lottery but plans to sue its organizers because the sudden, dramatic influx of money “ruined her life?” Believe it or not, 21-year-old Jane Park of the United Kingdom won the Euromillions lottery at age 17 but wants to sue British lottery authorities because winning made her life “10 times worse,” according to news reports. The former administrative assistant says the lavish lifestyle she’s enjoyed since winning her millions has made her feel “empty” inside and that she believes the British lottery firm Camelot should ban those under 18 from playing the lottery due to the inability to cope with sudden wealth. Despite the multiple real estate properties, numerous purchases, and exotic travel she’s treated herself to, Park told the UK news outlet the Mirror, “I wish I had no money most days.” Ms. Park, a good lawyer can help you make that wish come true—and a bad lawyer can make it happen even faster. Or how about being the lawyer for 22-year-old Dillon DeStefano of River Vale, New Jersey? This young man was a student at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts, on February 1, 2014, when he got drunk and began randomly punching other students without any provocation, the Cleburne Times-Review reported. The violent episode left one victim with a shattered eye socket and nose, while another suffered a broken and dislocated jaw. DeStefano pleaded guilty later that year and was paroled in 2016 after being sentenced to four years in prison for assault, battery, and witness intimidation charges. Yet on the third anniversary of his violent attacks, DeStefano filed a civil suit against Endicott College based on Massachusetts’ social host liability law, claiming that the school was at fault because its failure to enforce underage drinking laws caused him to become “so extremely intoxicated that he lost the capacity to conform his actions to the requirements of the law.” It takes a special kind of lawyer to argue with a straight face that the beatings in question were the result of a college administration’s neglect rather than his own client’s drunken rage. Of course, if you have trouble talking out of both sides of your mouth, it helps to have a client who can dislocate your jaw for you. And if that isn’t enough hubris, chutzpah, or sheer gall for you, how about the French businessman who is suing the ride-sharing service Uber for revealing his infidelity? The unnamed Frenchman had used Uber once on his wife’s phone but claims that the app continued to send notifications to her iPhone afterward, revealing his travel history. When what he told her didn’t square with what the Uber app shared about his whereabouts, her suspicions were aroused and she soon learned of her husband’s cheating. Now the two are divorced, and the ex-husband wants $48 million from Uber. “My client was the victim of a bug in the application,” attorney David-Andre Darmon told the French newspaper Le Figaro. I hate to break this to you, Monsieur Darmon, but your client was actually the victim of an inability to live up to his marriage vows. But kudos on your ability to keep a straight face. Finally, we’ve all had judges who have made rulings with which we—or our clients—disagree. You note your objections for the record, you take your lumps, and you move on. But apparently not if you’re Thomas Anthony Carlin. The Belfast, Northern Ireland, police officer appeared as a litigant in the Royal Courts of Justice on January 12, 2016, contesting repossession proceedings on a mortgage he hadn’t paid since October 2013. Carlin claimed the bank hadn’t suffered any losses and that it wasn’t entitled to bring the suit. The judge, Lord Justice Gillen, disagreed and issued a judgment against Carlin. Perhaps anticipating such an outcome, Carlin rose to his feet, holding what he claims was an arrest warrant, and announced he was “arresting the judge for misconduct in public office,” according to Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service court records from the proceedings. He then “disruptively approached Lord Justice Gillen in a manner which caused the Judge to leave the courtroom without having disposed of all matters in issue in the case,” the records said. Needless to say, Carlin was found in contempt and sentenced to three months in jail. Quick practice tip: When the argument isn’t going your way, don’t try to arrest the judge—even if you do it with a straight face. JOHN G. BROWNING is a partner in Passman & Jones in Dallas, where he handles commercial litigation, employment, health care, and personal injury defense matters in state and federal courts. He is an award-winning legal journalist for his syndicated column, “Legally Speaking,” and is the author of the Social Media and Litigation Practice Guide and a forthcoming casebook on social media and the law. He is an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. THINK YOU’RE FUNNY TOO? PROVE IT! Send your humorous articles of 600 words to email@example.com. Send deposition and trial excerpts to firstname.lastname@example.org
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