About twenty-five years ago, Gotham City (Yep, I’m going back to the well. Theatrical Rule of Threes. Be patient), passed a law requiring some businesses to file a certain annual report. The failure to do so, would be met with the imposition of a $500 fine. After years of never enforcing the fine beyond letters and telephone calls, Gotham City, decided to retain our office to proceed in civil suits against those who failed to file the report. Maybe it was because Gotham Savings and Loan was robbed by Mr. Freeze, or maybe Ra’s Al Ghul stopped bribing the Mayor, who knows. The fact remains, here I was, poised to collect lots of money for the County for these scofflawing businesses.
This all sounded fine and dandy, and it was. Business either paid the fine, and that was that. Alternatively, they requested to file a late report, and pay a reduced fine. Gotham was fine with pretty much any set of circumstances. Sometimes we received legitimate disputes, such as errors in addresses, or transfers of ownership that Gotham didn’t have on record.
In one case, against Bard Investigations, Jason Bard, the owner, decided not to offer any credible argument. Simply that he didn’t know that the law existed, and that his undercover duties didn’t allow him time to deal with paperwork. When he spoke to our office, he actually threatened to hold my paralegal for ransom.
So, we had to proceed. I brought a Motion for Summary Judgment. Of all judges to go before, the case was assigned by the Courts to, you guessed it, Judge Penguin.
Far be it for me to assume that I would get a fair trial. Regular readers of this column are already aware of Judge Penguin’s distaste for me. Here, Judge Penguin took it to a whole new level. First, he denied my Motion for Summary Judgment because we did not annex a copy of the law (which is in Gotham City’s public records, obviously). Then, he examined the Complaint, and stated that it lacked any specificity (despite the fact that the law doesn’t require any specificity in this kind of action). Then, he found that the law itself, since it was never previously enforced, essentially caused us to be estopped from enforcing. He went as far to declare the law unconstitutional. He dismissed the case with prejudice, sua sponte, threatened me if I ever filed any other lawsuits on behalf of Gotham, and then he sanctioned me.
Those who know me know full well that I would not take this, and fought back, filing an appeal, and awaited the oral argument date. However, as the weeks passed in wait, we started receiving notices from other law firms, now representing these business, and threatening us due to the Bard decision, stating that we should be sanctioned. I did extensive research into Judge Penguin’s history, and apparently, prior to being a Judge, he fought against Gotham City legislators and particularly, in fighting against the constitutionality of laws. The first firm that sent us the threat letters was none other than the firm that Penguin once worked for! We negotiated a stay on each and every case.
Once the case got the Appellate Court, they found that Judge Penguin, as the trial judge, has discretion to find that there was insufficient evidence to grant summary judgment. They upheld the decision to that end, and struck the rest.
The day after we received the decision, I had to appear before Judge Penguin on a different case.
“Mr. Wan, please approach the bench, off the record.” I approached.
“I received the decision on the Bard case…” he said, with a smirk on his face.
“Well played, Mr. Wan. I respect the fervor in which you fight. Your zealotry and enthusiasm, and the way in which you stick to your guns should be commended. You may have foiled my plans this time, but I you haven’t seen the last of me!”
Tim admits that the Judge didn’t really say that last sentence.
(Originally published in Debt3 Magazine, May 2011)