Part 3 of 3
Before we take another rung up the ladder of the law’s litigiousness I’d like to reflect on the proximity of Memorial Day and D-Day. I know we honor all of our deceased on Memorial Day and acknowledge the beginning of the end of WWII on D-Day. However, it seems appropriate that these solemn celebrations are only a week apart. Our Pantheon of loved ones and heroes includes family, friends, saviors and unknowns. As we remember and honor them we affirm our own worth.
So far we have discussed ways to completely avoid the legal system. If possible, this is always best. Unfortunately life often places such decisions beyond our control. That’s why systems of law were initiated. No rational person would choose even the simplest legal proceeding over a fair resolution of a dispute without resort to court. But just as sure as youth will fade, life has a way of demanding we sometimes pay tribute to Caesar, or at least to our lawyer. When the once avoidable controversy becomes “un”, that is, after we have ignored a problem as long as we can, is all out legal conflict our only option? No.
Let’s assume the highly unlikely possibility you actually read this column last week. If so, you may recall I suggested attempting to resolve legal problems by first informally talking about them with those who are of the opinion you may be wrong. In other words, no attorneys and certainly no judges should be consulted before a good faith attempt is made to swallow one’s pride and save one’s time and money. However, this may not work.
A reasonable next step is to consult a trusted clergy person or mutual friend. Then perhaps one might consult their family attorney who could give objective advice on whether a letter will suffice or if a lawsuit is necessary.
After all good faith effort has been expended to avoid the angry bowels of the courthouse, all is still not lost. Upon filing suit and the receipt of a response from one’s adversary a judge may order informal, face-to-face meetings where settlement is discussed. If no resolution is reached, early mediation before a trained mediator often helps parties settle their difficulties.
Almost every legal controversy in America is settled by the end of mediation. Therefore, the earlier problems are addressed the more money and time are saved and the less angst is endured.
You might wonder about cases that are settled but which have problems afterwards. Child custody cases are the most frequent to fall in this category but many other cases have on-going agreements which may need maintenance. Such matters as business relationships or injunctions come to mind.
Once again, instead of a first response of resort to court, an informal attempt to talk the matters out may work best for everyone. Of course, the courtroom will always be available if good faith and reason fail.
Part 2 of 3
Let’s say you and your neighbor have lived next to each other for twenty years. He helped you coach your son’s Little League team. You and he risked your lives cutting down a large oak tree that had blown halfway down across the property line between your backyards. Your wives conspired frequently to make sure the two of you did not spend your weekends playing golf or watching football or doing anything they hadn’t planned. About every other year either you or he or sometimes both of you dutifully attended a play, graduation, wedding or birthday party involving one of your children or his. Then, you decided to build a fence between your houses because your wife saw a picture in a magazine and told you via “female speak” you needed to build such an “improvement”.
Because you put the entire fence well on your side of the property line you saw no need to consult your neighbor first. After all, he didn’t check with you before allowing his twelve-year-old son to take a shortcut to school across your back yard.
The first thing that happened was, because his twelve year boy could no longer traipse across the back of your yard to get to school, he and his buddies started climbing over your new white picket fence to keep their shortcut. Your wife, who was unamused by a path through her new flowerbeds by the fence, demanded that you, “Do something!”
Because you have watched every episode of every television legal show from Perry Mason to Judge Judy you run to the County Clerk’s office and file a lawsuit seeking a million dollars in damages and an injunction against the boy. Or …
You call your best friends and neighbors of twenty years and invite them over for bar-b-q where you agree that you and he will build a gate in your fence and your wives agree to replant the flowers. Then your wives head to the mall together while you and your buddy finally get in a round of golf where he shoots 110 and writes down 88 and after you see his score you also write down 88 instead of the score you quit keeping after you hit a ball out of bounds on the third hole. Everybody’s happy.
The lawsuit would’ve cost you and him enough money to furnish game-day beer for the rest of your lives. It also would’ve languished in court for months or even years before it was settled on about the same terms you four friends worked out by yourselves. Which seems more rational? That is, which reminds you less of the present presidential campaign?
Of course, to resolve matters before suit is resorted to, someone has to swallow their pride and start the talking process. Based on my experience as a judge for thirty-five years I have decided most lawsuits could have been avoided if someone had just picked up the phone and started a conversation. The remaining legal matters may require some help from the legal system. If you are not busy “Mending Walls” between you and your neighbors, maybe we can move to this next stage next week.
Part 1 of 3
Hamlet is just the most famous of characters to complain about the pace of matters in court. He is far from the only one upset with the legal system.
Except for those held without probable cause or charges in Guantanamo, most persons awaiting access to justice in America’s criminal cases find the wheels of the legal system move apace. In fact, criminal defendants often seek to retard the system.
On the other hand, in civil cases from small claims to multi-billion dollar suits parties often bemoan the extended time between when a lawsuit is filed and when it is tried, mediated, settled between the parties with the help of the judge or the parties just give up and leave the case hanging in some musty file cabinet for their grandchildren to deal with.
About 95% of all lawsuits commenced in America never get tried. Yet from the time a case is initiated to when it dies from exhaustion can take years. If courts are charged with resolving conflicts, why not get them resolved as close to when they are started as fairness permits?
And since the parties involved in a case know more about their concerns than anyone else, why should they turn their lives over to a judge or jury or appellate court that knows only what the parties bring to the attention of these strangers?
The old adage there was never a good war or a bad peace applies in spades to lawsuits. To avoid “the law’s delay” people should avoid the law, if possible. Of course, some wars would be fought until there are no soldiers left alive if outside peacemakers were not brought in. The same is true in about 5% of lawsuits.
However, for 95% of life, there is light at the beginning of the tunnel. The legal system should be used to help people resolve their own conflicts as quickly, fairly and painlessly as possible.
For a little while I would like to suggest a few ways to do this. Maybe, if you have a case in mind, you might be interested in resolving it without permanent damage to your lives or bank accounts. Next week we can start with a pre-natal, i.e., pre-lawsuit approach, then move on towards the more political convention type resolution.
Thomas Jefferson was excoriated by the newspapers of his day. Still, he thought the First Amendment was so important to our democracy he said he would choose a country without government over a country without newspapers as long as everyone had access to and could read the newspapers.
Jefferson might reevaluate this premise were he alive today and be bombarded by the national television and print media, to say nothing of the flood of misinformation pervading the Internet.
Be that as it may, Jefferson’s Hobson’s Choice came to mind when I read, on the Internet, that three high schools in Texas are providing new football stadiums for a mere $180,000,000.
The first of these arenas was built five years ago in Allen, Texas at a cost of sixty million dollars. It seats 18,000 people. There are about 5,000 students. McKinney, Texas, five miles from Allen, is now building a 12,000-seat stadium for sixty-two point eight million dollars. McKinney High School has about 2,700 students. Katy High School in Houston, Texas is spending sixty-two million dollars on a 12,000-seat football stadium. Katy High School has nearly 3,000 students.
When I was an undergraduate at Indiana University, I.U. wanted to build a new basketball arena. There was such dissention between those in favor and those against that the administration named the new building “Assembly Hall” to indicate it would be available for academic events. Madison Avenue would have been proud. Can you imagine Bobby Knight’s reaction if a geology professor had wanted to pre-empt basketball practice with a lecture on global warming? Assembly Hall cost 27 million dollars. It seats about the same as the Allen High School stadium.
I grew up in Oklahoma. I know there are two religions in the Southwest: religion and football. My brothers and I played high school football. I get it. Call me reactionary but over 180 million dollars of taxpayers’ money for about 18 home football games has the feel of Through the Looking Glass to me.
I know Texans want to claim all things from stands to hands are larger in Texas. But, come on, $180,000,000 for about 18 high school football games a year means each game cost the taxpayers $10,000,000. I guess if the stadiums last a thousand years the economies of scale might justify the expense.
I pulled up the websites for all three high schools. They each have extensive facilities beyond football. To me that is not the point. The question is not do these public institutions provide scholastics along with football? The question to be considered is, how much educational return is there in the expenditure of $180,000,000 of public funds on three stadiums?
I like football. And even though I root against Texas every year in the Oklahoma vs. Texas college game, I am glad we stole Texas from Mexico. Maybe Mexico should have built a wall in 1846. Then that $180,000,000 could have been spent on soccer stadiums.
Take your iPhone or laptop and go to http://www.visitposeycounty.com. This new website was launched May 05, 2016. Mike Webster designed and developed the site with the input from a knowledgeable committee of seven community volunteers. Mike also took many of the marvelous photographs which appear throughout the site.
Mike along with Posey County businessman and owner of New Harmony Soap Company, Jim Spann, and Connie Weinzapfel who is the Director of Historic New Harmony, introduced the site at a reception held in the New Harmony Atheneum. The Red Geranium Restaurant hosted the event.
Posey County’s Board of Commissioners and County Council enacted an Innkeepers Tax in July 2014. The 5% tax has already raised over $170,000 to promote tourism in Posey County. Some of those monies were used to develop the new website.
According to Jim Spann the Committee’s goal was to promote tourism in Posey County by having readily available Internet information that shows the whole county in depth. If you pull up the site and click on any of the topics, you will find the Committee has succeeded. Take lodging for example. If tourists are looking for hotel lodging, they can click on places to stay, then hotels. The Cox family Four Seasons Motel in Mt. Vernon is one of the businesses that comes up with a full description and photographs.
Should tourists be looking for a bed and breakfast, a family could find Cook’s on Brewery Bed & Breakfast in New Harmony. Many places to stay throughout the county are easy to find. With full descriptions and many links to the businesses’ own websites there is no need for guesswork.
Even those of us who are privileged to live in Posey County will be overwhelmed with the number of places to eat and the variety of fare. Brain sandwiches at New Harmony’s Yellow Tavern or, soon, locally brewed beer at Sara’s Bistro and Wine Bar less than a block from The Yellow. Perhaps one might want a homemade ice cream creation at Bliss in Mt. Vernon or homemade pie at the Depot Diner in Griffin. Of course, Posey County’s German heritage is found from Weinzapfel’s Tavern in St. Philip to the Silver Bell in St. Wendell. One can even find Cajun cuisine at the Red Wagon in Poseyville.
There is a comprehensive, countywide events calendar and maps are provided to locate each event. It is surprising and exciting to see the numerous and diverse activities available each month of the year in Posey County.
Posey County’s unique and fascinating history is showcased throughout the website. One could easily write a report or even a newspaper column from the information only a click away.
Once upon a time females were comprehensible to males. Everyone understood the language spoken between females and that segment of the race comprised of boys under the age of twelve. It was clear to both speaker and hearer when a mother or other adult woman would say, “James Marion Redwine, stop that!” There was no need for translation or even exposition.
However, as puberty arises in boys the gods set a curse upon said boys and the entire female population over the age of menses. Use of a boy’s middle name, a completely clear indication that something some female said or was about to say ought to be heeded, was replaced by a bewildering habit of talking in sentences void of direct objects.
When boys talked with boys there was no confusion when one boy asked another boy to play baseball or fistfight or fish. If the other boy wished to do so, they would just go forward with understood purpose. Should the other boy not wish to be so engaged a simple “Nope” was sufficient.
This facile system of clear declaration carries on among males from rocking horses to rockers. No man needs to wonder what another man means whether the other man answers aloud or simply grunts. Feelings are not offended nor is there any need to ruin a perfectly good hour of silence discussing them.
On the other hand, with a boy’s first attempt to communicate with a non-family female, the lessons of misdirection, misperception and just plain misery begin. Such a conversation might go as follows:
“Hi, Peg, would you like to go to the Seventh Grade dance?”
“Why Jimmy Redwine, that would be ever so much fun. Just let me see if I have anything to wear or if I want to hold out for anybody else. But I may get back to you. Can you wait until I know what kind of car you will have in four years?”
If any females actually read this column, they may know what that meant. As for me, after fifty years I still don’t.
Then there is the excruciating non-communication between husbands and wives. No area leads to more angst for men than the attempt to decipher what spouses mean concerning daily activities. Would it be too much to ask for simple declaratory sentences constructed with a subject, verb and object? Is oblique sarcasm required by Athena or whoever the goddess of female communication may be? For example, if a man wants a beer he might say, without even having to move from the couch, “Beer”. One simple word; isn’t that clear to everybody? But the man’s wife will feel the uncontrollable urge to respond with obfuscation such as, “I suppose I could shut off the vacuum, walk ALL the way to the fridge, and get you a beer if you wouldn’t mind drinking it through a straw in case you miss it after I throw it to you.”
Now, what does that mean and is it called for? How about a simple, “Sure, Honey, I can always finish the cleaning later”.
And what does it mean when women just refer to things without giving any context or direction. Take jobs around the house for example. Men know without having to be told that there may be branches blown down or a garden to be tilled. Why do women approach such topics as if touching upon them directly will have cataclysmic consequences? Let me suggest an example.
“Jim, it’s only May and onions should have been planted weeks ago.”
When I respond, “Yeah, I know it’s May”, Peg puffs up like a blowfish and has a headache for days. See what I mean, Gentle Reader? You would think my agreement with her would have made her happy.