Ducks or Lemmings: Whichever Animal Allegory You Prefer

The underlying facts of this particular case are not unusual, nor are they particularly interesting. What makes this a Tale from the Front is what happened after…. We were referred a student loan case against Mr. Mechanic. He went to Gotham City College, obtained loans to fund it, passed but did not do particularly well, and after graduating, got a half-way decent job working as a mechanic for GCTA, Gotham City’s Transportation Authority.  He made a few payments on the loans, but stopped. So, we sued on behalf of Gotham City College. Mr. Mechanic responded by telephone, claiming that he had no assets, except for his hourly wage working for the GCTA.  In due course, we obtained a judgment against him, and commenced a wage garnishment, to which Mr. Mechanic called us up, and said “So you won’t do anything else, other than take 10% of my pay? Cool.” After a few years of the wage garnishment, the entirety of the student loan principal was paid, and we were collecting on post-judgment interest. Thereafter, Mr. Mechanic brought an application in the Court to have the Court declare that we had “Gotten enough.” I called Gotham City College, and they agreed to waive the rest of the post-judgment interest. On the day of the court appearance, I neither did opposition, nor prepared anything other than a stipulation of discontinuance and satisfaction of the judgment.

Enter Mama Duck, clinical professor at GCLS, Gotham City Law School.

Mama Duck, dressed in her pinstripe pantsuit, walked into the Court, followed by no less than eight eager beaver law students, lined up in perfect order like baby ducklings following their mother. The eager beaver-like lemmings lined up in the well, behind their Mama Duck.

The Judge, confused, asked her who she was. Mama Duck, asserted herself to the Judge, stating that she was there to represent Mr. Mechanic for “justice”.  (I declined to tell her that I was a member of the Justice League, after having already defeated Judge Penguin.)  Apparently, she was not retained by Mr. Mechanic, but as a part of her clinical research class at GCLS, she marched in her lemmings/ducks, to voluntarily commence a pro bono representation of a Defendant of her choosing. To my good fortune, she selected my case of Gotham City College versus Mr. Mechanic.

Despite the fact that I was willing to discontinue and satisfy and pretty much end the case right there, it surely wouldn’t have been a good lesson for the lemmings to see a five minute case end. So, Mama Duck sought an adjournment.  I opposed it, insisting that the case was over. The Judge asked Mr. Mechanic if he wanted time to see if Mama Duck could help him, and of course, Mr. Mechanic agreed. The case was adjourned against my protest.

The very next day, I received an overnight envelope from Mama Duck, signed by each and every lemming, bringing a Motion to seek permission to amend the prior motion, to add a proposed Answer with a Counterclaim, with a request to file a subpoena. (If that sounds procedurally confusing and pretty much improper to you, you’d be right.) Apparently, Mama Duck believed that the GCTA issued Mr. Mechanic a “voucher” for his tuition, and so therefore, Gotham City College should refund all the money we collected.

I called up Mama Duck to advise her of this, and she wouldn’t talk to me. She wanted to schedule a conference call with me, during the next scheduled clinic class, so the entire class of ducklings could hear the conversation. I told her that she should pick a different case to use as a teaching tool, and that this was an exercise in futility. My mistake. She got angry at me, and hung up on me.

Two days later, she called me back, apparently during a clinical class. She stated that she and her ducks had drafted, and were filing another Motion, this time for Sanctions against me for accusing her wrongfully of a frivolous action in our previous phone call.

“Mama Duck, am I on speaker phone?” I asked, knowingly.
“Yes, you are.”
“So all your students can hear me?”
“Yes, they can. They are as angry at you as I am.”
“Then great! Hey, students, what Mama Duck is doing is totally off the wall. I’ve been practicing for over thirteen years, and no one does this. If you do what she is doing in real life, any Judge is going to laugh in your face.”

Suffice to say, Mama Duck terminated the phone call.

The next day, via overnight mail, I received courtesy copies of “proposed subpoenas” from Mama Duck, demanding records from Gotham City College, and depositions of Mr. Mechanic’s teachers and professors. There were also “proposed subpoenas” for all sorts of employees from GCTA.

I wrote back a simple letter, “We reject your correspondence as procedurally improper. I will see you on the return date.” I then filed formal opposition to her various motions.

On the return date in Court, Mama Duck came marching right into Court once again, this time with Mr. Mechanic in the row of ducklings.

Before the Judge could speak, Mama Duck railed off with her verbal tirade against me, the City, the College, and GCTA.  The Judge cut her off, and asked what was happening here.

“Judge, we’re willing to walk away with what has been paid through the wage garnishment thus far, and close our file.” I said.
“Then why are there three motions before me?” the Judge asked me.
“Because Mama Duck is using this as a ‘teaching exercise’.”, I responded, air quoting.
“Mama Duck, I suggest you select a different case. All your motions will be denied. I suggest you speak to Mr. Wan and work out the closing paperwork.”

Mama Duck, fully defeated, agreed to sign the paperwork I had. I just had to re-date it, since it was the same physical pieces of paper I had the last time.

That afternoon, Mama Duck called me, and said that “I gave a good fight, and she’ll see me again someday.”  Ah, just like any vanquished villain would say.

Timothy Wan is a partner in the firm Smith Carroad Levy & Wan, in Commack, New York, and can be reached at Tim knows full well that lemmings don’t actually leap off cliffs to their deaths, except in video games and Disney movies.