Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Surprise!!

The receptionist buzzes in and interrupts my work. “Mr. Lawyer, Ms. Loyal Girlfriend is on the phone, crying. It seems like her boyfriend, Mr. Frequent Flyer, is in jail.”

“Sigh …. Ok. I’ll take the call.”

First, let me tell you about Mr. Frequent Flyer. You pick the saying: One card short of a full deck, One fry short of a happy meal. Lights are on but nobody’s home, etc… You get the idea.  The man has great business ideas and is reasonably well off. He has several successful businesses running, and running well. As for his personal life? Well, that’s another story. He gets traffic tickets like some of us get junk mail. We represent him on those. He fails to pay the fine, so his license gets suspended.  We fix all that, as well.  He forgets to pay personal bills, so he pays us to work through the mess it causes. All in all, he’s paid us a lot of money over the years.  He’s definitely not a hard-core criminal, but he’s not a saint either.

So, as I'm on the phone with his girlfriend, in between the sobs, I gather that he’s in jail for failure to make good on a bounced check. He paid a bill out of a business account he forgot he closed.  His girlfriend says he has the money to pay the check, he just forgot (surprise, surprise). He’s requested a bond hearing so he can get out of jail and pay the check. As usual, he’s waited until the evening before the hearing to ask anyone for help.  We agree on a fee and the girlfriend pays.

The next morning, I meet the client in the courtroom lock-up.  Well, sort of.  Lock-up is a zoo, and sounds like it.  I'm outside the lock-up door, he's inside, wearing an orange jumpsuit, plastic sandals, and court-issued bracelets.  There's a double-pane window, about 6 inches square, with a small slot so we can yell at each other.  So I talk and he yells.

For bond hearings, the court wants to ensure that the defendant will still appear in court if released on bond.  So, of primary interest to the court is whether the defendant has ever failed to appear at a court hearing. I ask my client if he has ever failed to appear in court.  He mentions that a long time ago in college, he failed to appear and was arrested for it.  I get the details on that incident so I can prepare to address it at the hearing.  I repeatedly ask if there are any other failures to appear.  Nope, he says.  That's the only one.

My case is called, my client comes out, and I meet him at the podium.  I go into a recitation of facts and ask the judge to release my client on bond.  The judge asks "the" question:  "Has he ever failed to appear in court?"  I answer that he has one prior failure to appear, but that was a long time ago.  The judge nods and waits until I finish.  Then, with his usual frown, he asks, "What about these nine other failures to appear?"

Huh?!?!

My face turning red, I quickly compose myself, look toward my client, and say, "I'll let him explain those."  He trips and stumbles through the explanations, and I interrupt as necessary to ensure the doesn't totally toss this whole hearing down the drain.

In the end, after much argument, the judge releases him on a huge bond.  He calls me in the office later that day, to retain us to negotiate the check issue.

I have to ask: "Why didn't you tell me about the other failures to appear?!"

"I forgot."

Of course.

I hate surprises.

1 comment:

Did it MY way said...

He must pay quite well. Maybe a BMW every year? "I forgot" equates to $$$$$$

I would have a red face to.

See Ya