Every one who litigates has a strategy. Some are more deliberate and calculated than others, some are more passive. For example, are you the kind of flashy attorney who appears in Court with a name-brand custom-made suit, monogrammed cufflinks, and a briefcase that cost more than most people’s mortgage payments? Are you the demure humble lawyer who does not want to intimidate, and comes to Court with your deferent attitude, and best level of empathy? Maybe you’re the super-friend who arrives shaking hands with every clerk and court officer, and seem relatable and earnest, even to your adversary? Regardless, these are all litigation strategies.
However, for this Tale, I came upon an adversary who employed an entirely different strategy; stink everyone else out, so they give in to you.
We filed suit against a construction company on behalf of a building supplier. They retained an attorney, who while answering the complaint, never supplied any documents in discovery. So, we sought judicial intervention.
On the date of the court appearance, the room was packed with people. Attorneys and pro se litigants filled the Courthouse benches. When suddenly, in walked an attorney. His hair looked like a decades old wire scouring pad that had been used to clean the bottom of your sink. His collar was askew, with his tie over his shirt collar. There were fine white animal hairs littered all over his grey suit. But worst of all, he bore a stench like a two-month old bath towel that had never been washed. I could see the reactions of people as Attorney Pigpen Esq., walked into the room, as everyone shied away from him.
And of course, he was my adversary.
Luckily, he sat far from me, (since my strategy is to sit in the cushy black leather armchair, rather than the pews with the commoners), so I had a stay of execution.
When the case was called, Judge Schroder, called us both us to the bench to conference the case, to see if we could settle. I could see Judge Schroder visibly affected by Pigpen. Schroder recoiled. I made my argument, and Schroder listened patiently. Then Pigpen opened his mouth. The Judge’s desktop pad began to curl. The lights flickered. The wallpaper began to change color. It really didn’t matter what Pigpen said. Neither Schroeder nor I wanted to be there for a second longer. Judge Schroder looked at me. “Mr. Wan. Go outside, call your client, and settle this case. Right now. And then write it up. I don’t want to see you come back with more. Get it done.”
I went outside and did just that. Clearly, the strategy of being stinky, got Pigpen what he wanted.
Timothy Wan is a partner in the firm Smith Carroad Levy & Wan, in Commack, New York, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and hopes that you were not eating when reading the description of the Attorney.