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Thursday, September 18, 2003

Witness for the plaintiff

My oldest daughter asked me today if I was ever a witness in court. I decided to put the story here. I’m sure I’ve told this story a thousand times. So, if anyone reading this has heard the story before, please just skip it.

This goes back several years when I was working for Tim the lawyer. He had sued a former client for nonpayment of attorney’s fees. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence. He represented this particular client in an unnecessarily messy divorce case. The balance due on the bill was $1,500.00. Tim brought the suit in small claims court and the client filed an appearance contesting the amount claimed. The case was set for trial.

On the date of the trial, Tim took me to court as his sole witness. He could have presented the evidence himself, but he didn’t want to put himself in a position of having to testify as to his own charges. Present in the court were the judge, Tim, the former client, me, and three or four unidentified spectators.

Tim put me on the witness stand. He asked me some general questions like my name, how long I had been a legal secretary, how long I had worked for him, and, as one of my duties, if I prepared his billing statements. He then handed me the stack of bills and asked me to identify them. “Did you prepare these bills?” Yes. He asked, “are the bills correct?” Yes. He asked me to recite the balance due. $1,500.00. He thanked me, and said, “that’s all.” He went back to his seat and started shuffling through some papers or something.

The judge indicated to the former client that it was his turn.

The former client rose from his seat and sauntered towards me. As he stopped sauntering, he placed his hands on his hips, leaned slightly forward, and exclaimed, “Miss Carnes!” Yes? “Where were you on the afternoon of July the 12th, 1991?” Oh, gee. I don’t know.

My boss objected. Whereupon the judge directed the former client that he could cross-examine me on the bills only.

The former client said, “no further questions.” And he took his seat.

The judge then said, “judgment for the plaintiff in the sum of $1,500.00 plus costs of suit. Court is adjourned.”

One of the spectators started clapping.

We never collected a penny on that judgment.

Posted by Marie at September 18, 2003 12:04 AM


that sucks.. kinda like winning a long game of monopoly huh? All that money.. but no money really.

Posted by: Tudy at September 18, 2003 7:12 AM

Sounds like you were the model witness. Too bad you never collected. I was almost a witness once. An old guy who thought he was Santa Claus slammed into my car. The incident resulted in numerous traffic violations for him and I was called as a witness for the state of Maryland. When he showed up with his lawyer, he took one look around, saw the witnesses arrayed against him, and settled. I never got to tell the story (which is pretty hilarious).

Posted by: Kem White at September 18, 2003 9:59 AM

I would have been the one clapping. I always seem to be the one clapping when he shouldn't be, sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb I am. ;)

Posted by: Jeff at September 18, 2003 11:35 AM