I’m sure you’ve all had those cases for big clients where you feel like you’re valiantly supporting your client, and no matter what, since the client is such a good one, you have to fight to the bitter end, like a Knight in shining armor. And of course, the Judge, who erroneously sees himself as an opposing King, does everything in his power to keep you from doing your duty.
Now, our firm runs the gamut from commercial, retail, and medical collections, and we frequent the same Courts in New York from the City Boroughs to Long Island. This particular action was but a mere eight miles down the road, at a Court we are in all the time. The underlying cause of action was a two thousand dollar medical bill for one of our largest clients, who happens to be a ginormous non-for-profit hospital. The debtor was a girl in her mid-twenties, (let’s call her “The Princess”) who was injured, while working out with weights in her home, and had to be rushed to the emergency room, and emergency surgery was done on her hand. Unfortunately, she wasn’t working. Unfortunately, she also had no insurance coverage. Unfortunately, the Princess lived in a giant multi-garaged castle, with servants, and probably a moat, so there was certainly no “financial hardship.”
After months of offering her extremely reasonable payment arrangements, which were met only with broken promises, we commenced suit. Shortly after service of the pleadings, the Princess and her father called our office, and told me that I should take the Summons and Complaint and do lots of things with it, that can’t be written in this newsletter. He also told me that I should do a lot of things to other attorneys in my office that can’t be written in this newsletter. And then he told me to do things to myself that I can’t quite figure out how it would be biologically or physically possible. In any event, when I asked the Princess why she and her stinkingly rich father couldn’t spare some of their vast wealth, their response was that they felt as if all healthcare should be free, because other countries offer free healthcare. (So, apparently, the Princess was really just a political activist.)
In any event, the Princess never filed an Answer, and as such, we obtained a default judgment, and located a bank account with more gold pieces than Captain Jack Sparrow, Bluebeard, and the Lucky Charms Leprechaun, combined. As easily predictable, the Princess filed an Order to Show Cause to vacate the judgment. I opposed the application with about thirty-trees worth of case law.
In the King’s Court, the Princess plead poverty. She plead that she never got any notices. She then cried tears that would put Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters’ tears to shame.
The Mad King decided to champion the Princess. Despite the fact that she clearly had no reasonable excuse nor meritorious defense, the King decided to vacate the judgment. I asked the King to put his ruling on the record (for me to appeal from). He declined, and refused to issue any order or proclamation. So, I asked him how he could effectuate his decision, if he didn’t put it in writing. (It seems my fatal mistake always seems to be asking one-too-many questions.)
“Counselor, you cut an order for my signature.”
“Excuse me, your honor?” I replied, with utter shock.
“I think you should write the order vacating the judgment. After all, you obtained it.”
(I bet you’re thinking the same thing I was.) “Judge, how do I propose an order that goes against myself?”
“Do it. I am ruling to vacate the judgment. In fact, I want to dismiss the case with prejudice.”
“Judge, I’m not going to write an order that does that. The Lord of my Kingdom would have my head!” (Ok, so I didn’t actually say the latter part of that.)
“Then you’ll be held in contempt of court.”
“Or, you can go outside and settle the case.”
Obviously, I chose the latter. The Princess and I went outside of the Court, into the hallway, and after I told her that we were going to appeal the Mad King’s decree, to a higher King, she called her rich father on her Princess phone. She offered a small token of money, which I accepted. We executed a written stipulation, but when we returned to the Courtroom, we found that the Mad King had decided to retire for the day, perhaps to come up with some other diabolical plan, or way to torture another Knight. So, I filed the stipulation with the Court Clerk.
A week later, the Princess made good on her promise, and paid me.
Another week later, I get a blank order of the Court. Strangely, it contained the caption, and no other text, except for the signature of the Mad King.
The next week, I received an order demanding that I appear in Court. So I did. The Mad King asked me why I had not written the order pursuant to his previous directive, and why I did not respond to his written order. I explained that we had settled the case, and showed him the blank page he issued. Disapproving of my revelation of truth, the Mad King then decided to hold me in contempt, for failing to comply with his directive to propose an order against my client. And then (get this) he said, “I want you to cut an order for your own failure to comply with my order.” It was like a child being told to issue his own punishment! I flatly refused. The Mad King then stated that he would have to talk to his Duke, the Secretary of Law. This kind bespectacled fellow emerged from the dark corridors, and whispered with the Mad King, who looked up, and said, “I will reserve my decision. You can go.”
I never heard back from the Mad King. However, two weeks later, I received a call from the Duke, informing me that the Mad King had been de-throned. A new King was to take his place. Lo and behold, a few short days later, the new King issued a proclamation that the action was settled, and discontinued, and that any outstanding matters would be deemed moot. King Arthur would be proud.
(Originally published in Debt3 Magazine, July 2008)