Procrastination (But I Digress)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tall Tales

There is going to be a speech contest, but it is a tall tales speech contest. Paul Bunyan is the only tall tale that I know. I've been trying to come up with a topic or gimmick that I can make into a tall tale, but nothing yet.

I received a best performance for my rendition of the the "Cremation of Sam McGee"--I memorized it in grade school, but I've been telling it to girl scouts for years, so it came back to me like riding a bike. I have to admit, I've been a little lazy in toastmasters for the summer. I've given three speeches, but they've all be off the cuff with no preparation. I'd like to rise to the challenge of a contest, but I really have no ideas for any tall tales. Oh well.

I gave a seminar last week about debt collection. At the lunch break before it was time for me to speak, one of the gals taking the class asked me if I was nervous. For the life of me I couldn't figure out what she was talking about. Of course, she wondered if I was nervous about public speaking. Boy, I just wasn't. Give me a crowd when I've got something to say and I'm set. The problem is having something of value to say.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I Won

I was the trial attorney last year in a slam dunk case. Although it was a slam dunk, I still diligently put on all of the appropriate evidence and meticulously proved every point--well, ok, I would have liked to have my client testify to put the nail on the coffin so to speak, but she lived out of town and quite frankly it just wasn't necessary. At one point, I was asked if there was any posiblity that we could lose the case. The idea was preposterous--of course we would not lose the case.

The defendant in the case had been the mayor of a local town. Since it was a very small town, I assumed that sometimes small time politics is choosing the person who says yes they'll take the job. I must admit that I never got the connotation that the defendant was somehow a corrupt politician--I afforded her the more pleasant connotation of being a willing fish is a very small pond.

The trial court ruled against me. I had to be pealed off the floor because I was so surprised. Even worse (or ultimately better as the case may be), the statement of decision had a finding of fact that was blatently disproved. I couldn't believe that the judge was so blind to the clear proof that I had presented.

For days, nee months, I doubted my abilities as a litigator, doubted my instincts. My partner insisted that we file an appeal. I resisted mightily because no court of appeals is going to overturn a trial court's findings of fact--its' just not done. Of course here, there was such clear error that I was finally convinced to file an appeal. It was very difficult to write a brief asking the court to overturn, but I thought I did a good job. The responsive brief was a joke. The opposing counsel latched on to the clearly erroneous finding by the court and misstated the procedural history of the case. I had to seriously question whether he had any brain cells. It was difficult to write the reply brief, because how do you nicely say the other guy is completely off their rocker.

So yesterday, we went in for oral arguments. My partner instructed me to repeat the main points, but I resisted. I didn't think that we should be at oral arguments at all, because I had said everything in my brief, but my partner insisted. The justices came onto the bench and admonisted the crowd of attorneys not to repeat what they had in their briefs (ha, I thought, I'm right). So I stood up and opened with a brief overview of the case, intending to only ask if they had any questions. I was halfway into my first sentence, when the lead Justice (there were three), said "You don't have to speak, we'd like to hear from your opponent". When a judge tells you, that you don't have to speak, shut up. I promptly sat down. The opposing attorney got up and basically said that the truth is, someone else was at fault, but had to admit that the record didn't reflect it. One of the Justices ripped into him and said the evidence is pretty overwhelming and if it's not in the record how can it be considered. Then they asked if I had anything to add. Stupid, stupid me couldn't believe that the other attorney had got up and basically lied, so I pointed out that the record correctly reflected that in fact defendant had acted. Again the lead Justice pointed out that I didn't have to make any statement. I can't believe I still opened my mouth--never get emotionally involved--who cares if the other guy wants to lie. Anyway, I don't think that hurt my case--it was pretty obvious: I won. The court of appeals is overturning the findings by the trial court.

The moral of the story, never underestimate overwhelming facts in your favor.

The p.s. to the story is that I mentioned the name of the town that the defendant was the mayor of to a collegue and he said, that city is notorious for corrupt politicians. He said that while someone actually bribing a judge would be unthinkable to him, that would be his first inclination with a politician from that city. Me, I think the Judge was not interested in the case, got bored and fell asleep. I just can't fathom corruption.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Last Book

I finished the last book of the Harry Potter series last night. It was very satisfying to finish, although for a long time things looked pretty grim. That is going to be a dark and dreary movie.

I heard a program on NPR a few weeks ago that discussed common themes for children's books and the commentators were making predictions of several points that were sure to come up in the last book of Harry Potter to go along with central themes. I did recognize a few of those in the last book. It was interesting to think of Harry Potter from a scholarly perspective instead of just a fun, delicious novelty. I have to admit that I was surprised at some of the twists in the ending and very satisfied as well. That JK Rowlings has a great and vivid imagination. I must also admit that I got lost in the battle scenes and did not enjoy them as I am sure many children did. I do like to see the movie interpret the world of Harry Potter because I am afraid my imagination didn't do it justice.

One of the things discussed on NPR was the parallel between the Ministry of Magic's draconian rules and invasions of privacy and the post 9/11 world that we are in now. I do hope that people reading it will see the parallels and recognize the dangers of letting down our guard on our constitutional rights. There was a great deal about conformity and apathy of the general citizenry and terrific stuff about bias in the media. There was prejudice, torture, repression, just an amazing amount of subjects dealt with in an imaginitive world. All the twists of magic and mystery took the edge off it.

The NPR commentator asked the panel if the Harry Potter series would stand up over time and would it become a classic? Most said yes, because the themes were so well treated, but I have to wonder. I personally can't wait to introduce it to the next generation, but I can recall that the kids had no interest in Little House on the Paire which I just thought was the cat's meow as a child. Once they could see the tv program, there was no interest in reading the book. While I have greatly enjoyed the HP movies, I sure would miss not reading the books.