Good Cop, Bad Cop, Good Settlement

I can’t tell you the number of cases we have where Defendant’s attorneys, who are fighting for clients who have no cognizable defense, and who terrorize us by burdening us with procedure, or burying us with paper, and try every stall tactic possible, in the metaphorical battle that is litigation. Some defense attorneys believe that no creditor wants to spend $750.00 on depositions, and make and combat several motions, where the potential fee is less than $500.00.  While the creditor may not want to, my firm, like many of my colleagues and competitors, takes the position that we don’t care if the case is $2,000.00 or $2,000,000.00. A good client, is a good client. So we will indeed, do what Sonny from “The Godfather” is wont to do, which is “Go to the mattresses.”

We had a $1,200.00 case where a manufacturer provided goods to the retailer, which were delivered, and which no payment was received.  Luckily, the debtor’s storefront was within Alex-Rodriguez-Home-Run distance from our office, so, upon an “independent investigation”, it was easy for us to ascertain that the goods were in the possession of the debtor, hanging in their showroom, like an Andre Agassi lob. With such a case that even Muggsy Bogues could slam dunk, I assigned this suit to one of the newer associates in my office. Despite the fact that the debtor had absolutely no colorable defense, the debtor’s attorney, who I will call (to continue mixing my pop culture metaphors) Hans Gruber, decided to terrorize us with a barrage of motions.  He hit us with a motion forcing my out-of-state client to post a bond. He made motions to dismiss for improper venue, and then when he lost that, to change venue for “inconvenience” (which astounded me, because his office was about five miles from mine, and as I said, I can see his client’s storefront if I turn my head left, and look out the window.) He then fired blows to attack the Plaintiff’s standing, then improper naming of the Defendant corporation, and then the adequacy of our pleadings. All which he lost.

However, each attack and assault caused the correspondence to be more and more acrimonious and more contemptuous. My associate just did not have the intestinal fortitude of John McClane, and fell into the trappings of Hans Gruber, getting deeper and nastier with each legal back.

After months of attrition, the associate I assigned was on vacation, when a court date was scheduled, so I had to appear. Having only this one case on the calendar, and not wanting to weed through a file that was about sixteen times the length of Atlas Shrugged, I decided to call the attorney up, to see if he would settle, without having to appear in Court. Would Hans Gruber turn into Severus Snape, if I were to get involved?

Remarkably, Hans Gruber was taken aback by my calmness, and perhaps, my frankness. Maybe it was the fact that I was “a different voice”.  Maybe he saw just how charming I am, from my twenty second greeting. Maybe it was because Hans had had a good morning terrorizing babies, and was tired. Or maybe it was the tried and true tactic, tested throughout pop culture, by Mutt and Jeff, Brass and Grissom, or Riggs and Murtaugh. As the “Good Cop”, I made Hans see through the light, work with me, and find redemption, turning into Severus Snape. We negotiated a settlement of a lump sum payment of $1,000.00, payable in thirty days. My client was overjoyed. As the “Good Cop”, I was wholeheartedly successful in representing the client. So while “The Different Voice” tactic sometimes work, there is truth to the “Good Cop, Bad Cop” routine. Sometimes I can play the good cop, and other times, I excel at the bad cop routine. But nonetheless, I find success.

So, in researching this article, (and by researching, I mean googling for five minutes), I discovered that “Good Cop, Bad Cop” is actually a strategy employed by the CIA, and is actually explained in their declassified Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual.  And that makes me realize that I’ve fallen for it, too! There was that case against a pro se Defendant, who got me so discombobulated that I lost all sense of, well, everything. I think he was in the CIA… (But that is a story for another day.)

Timothy Wan is happy to have made pop culture references to three sports, three movies, one television show, two books, and a cartoon.

(Originally published in Debt3 Magazine, July 2009)