He Should Have Been Like George Washington, Not Jim Carrey

Sometimes my articles are laden with attempts at humor and ridden with pop culture references. But today, I relate a cautionary tale, to remember that an attorney’s reputation and integrity are the most valuable commodities he or she has. One such adversary of mine will be forever sullied by something he may have regarded as trivial or minute, but certainly turned out not to be.

We commenced an action seven years ago, against an individual for her failure to pay for hospital services rendered, which were rendered nearly a decade ago. The process server served her personally, in-hand, but she never answered, and accordingly, we obtained a default judgment. In the enforcement of the judgment, we located a two million dollar home, and a bank account with over triple the amount of the judgment. So, we were hit with the inevitable Order to Show Cause to vacate the default judgment.

The Affidavit of the process server stated that the Defendant was a thirty year old, white skinned female, who was 5’8″, 140 pounds, with brown hair. The Defendant’s attorney, whom I shall refer to as “Mr. Fletcher Reede”, refuted the validity of the service, stating that the Defendant is actually a forty year old, Hispanic woman, who was 5’4″, 160 pounds, with blonde hair. Apparently, the Mr. Reede ignored the fact that we commenced the action seven years ago, that she could have been wearing heels, or standing on a step, may have gained weight, or may have purchased a bottle of Clairol Nice n’ Easy.  Buried-ostrich-head-like, Reede refused to entertain this notion when I suggested it to him, and demanded a hearing on whether or not service was proper. He demanded we produce the process server from seven years ago.

To our good fortune, and to Reede’s chagrin, the process server works for the company that my firm has used for the bulk of our cases for over twenty-five years, had worked there for longer than that, and still works there, today. So, I called his bluff, and told him I was ready to produce the process server.

The Court set the hearing for the first date. The day before, Reede called my office, and requested our consent for an adjournment, because he was actually engaged on trial. I consented, and a second date was set. Before the second date, he once again called me, and requested an adjournment due to actual engagement. I consented again. On the third time, he didn’t call, but sent a facsimile of an affidavit of actual engagement. The Court granted another adjournment.  The fourth time, he did the same. But this time, the Judge, whom I will call Judge Marshall Stevens (I purport that the makers of “Liar Liar” chose that name, for the little shout-out to us legal nerds, making a Supreme Court reference), said, “Next time, he will be actually engaged again. Here. Before me.” And Judge Stevens marked it “Final”.

So, it was scheduled for the fifth time. On the day before, we received a telephone call requesting another adjournment due to, you guessed it, actual engagement. I advised Reede that I could not consent.

I appeared in Court, and Reede did not. He did forward yet another affidavit of actual engagement, in which he affirmed that he was appearing on trial in another Court, before Judge… Dredd. Judge Stevens, stated, with a level of smugness, that he knew Judge Dredd. So, he telephoned Judge Dredd’s chambers. Lo and behold, Judge Dredd’s law clerk confirmed that there were no trials that day.

Judge Stevens immediately denied the application to vacate the judgment, upheld service, and also issued an order for a sanction hearing, and recommendation that Mr. Reede be punished severely.

Reede then appealed the sanction and the decision. At the Appellate Court, the three judges essentially laughed at Mr. Reede, and shook their heads ever so slightly, as he tried to dig himself out of the hole he created.

Ultimately, Reede’s appeal was denied, and Judge Stevens reported Reede to the bar for potential disbarment. What has happened since is unknown to me.

Timothy Wan has never cut down any cherry trees, and very much enjoyed the Jim Carrey movie, “Liar Liar”.


(Originally published in Debt3 Magazine, September 2009)