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*21 December 2003 - The .plan goes to court*

At the time, I certainly wasn't in the best of moods. After all, I had just
spent the previous evening reading hundreds of pages of depositions after I
had spent most of the previous day sitting on a plane flight from California
to Florida. I really didn't want to have to testify in court. I wanted to
be wearing the suit I was currently wearing even less. But, a subpeona is a
subpeona, so there I was. At 0845 in the morning, none the less.

I was sitting on an uncomfortable wooden bench in the hallway of the third
floor of Daytona Beach's civil court building. I had been sworn in for my
testimony a few moments before, and Faith's lawyer had invoked sequestration,
so I now had to sit outside the court room and wait until it was my turn to
go in and testify. This meant that I had to sit tight, not discuss the case
with any witnesses, and be bored out of my skull.

The hallway had been quiet for a few minutes, but there was another trial
beginning to wind up in the courtroom across the hall. From watching the
hustle and bustle next door, I surmised that the case had something to do
with a drunk woman that punched a bouncer at a club, was thrown out of the
club, and was now trying to sue the club owner for some sort of damage to her
ankle that was caused by the event.

A lawyer involved in the case seemed to be in a state of panic because she
was trying to reach another lawyer that had been retained for the case, and
she wasn't having much luck. She had been so preoccupied with pacing the
hall and calling secretary after secretary on her cel phone that she never
really noticed me sitting there. She finally hung up her phone, sighed,
turned her head, and noticed me. Her face lit up and she asked me, "Say, are
you from Orange County?" I knew that she was referring to the Orange County
in Florida, but since I was from that particular county in California, I
figured I'd have a little fun with her.

"I AM from Orange County, actually", I responded. "What can I do for you?"

"Oh! You ARE here! Hold on!" she said. She spun around and stuck her head
into the court room and said, "Nevermind. He IS here." She then spun around
and began quickly telling me how I was going to have to question the bouncer
from the nightclub in order to demonstrate that he had not shown excessive
force when throwing the drunk woman out.

Uh oh. I began waving my arms to cut her off.

"Whoa there! I'm not involved with your case!" I said to her. She looked at
me for a moment and her face sank. "I'm, err.. I flew in from California for
a child custody case. I'm from the Orange County in California." I then
looked at her blank face for a moment before adding, "... but I charge very
reasonable rates."

She sighed and stated that she could tell that I was a lawyer (which was news
to me), but she had mistakenly thought I was involved in her case. I waved
my hand and magnanimously stated that it was perfectly alright. She smiled
at me and then scrambled back over to her court room to inform everyone that
she hadn't found the lawyer they everyone was waiting for and that everyone
should resume panicking. She then turned my way and started asking a few
questions about the case I was involved with.

"Flying in counsel from California? This must be a high-profile case", the
lawyer noted. I nodded and informed her that I had been reviewing the
materials for some time and was certain we had an excellent case. She winked
and said that she hoped I was charging a hefty per-diem fee for housing while
on the road. I decided to neglect to mention that I was staying at a Days
Inn motel that was located across the street from a Waffle House in a
less-than-cosmopolitan section of town.

"Well, good luck", she added. "I need to get back to tracking this guy
down." With that, she once again began dialing her cel phone and yelling at
various answering services and secretaries.

For the next several hours, I wandered the hallways of the court building.
I'd wander back to the courtroom every 15 minutes or so, but I always saw the
same woman on the stand when I'd peer through the tiny window on the
courtroom door. The woman being questioned was a custody evaluator that had
written a 15 page report that said that Faith should be given custody of her
son and that the father should grow up, The father's lawyer was trying to
attack the expert witness in order to discredit her report, but it was pretty
apparent that she wasn't getting anywhere. I saw the witness propping her
head up with her hand and half-heartedly answering questions that I later
found out were attacking her educational background, her methods of custody
evaluation, and everything else that the lawyer could think up. I could also
see the judge getting more and more irritated by this. After a brief peek,
I'd wander back down the hall and continue my efforts to keep busy.

If you want to give up on humanity, I suggest you take a stroll through the
civil court building of any major city. It's like being backstage at the
Jerry Springer show. I saw a woman with two black eyes being flanked by two
screaming little kids as she was rolling a stroller with a baby. Turning the
corner on the second floor revealed two people (whose ages added up to, in my
estimate, about 30) making out on a wooden bench. I saw a woman screaming at
her teenaged daughter about how the daughter needed to stay away from "that
man". Wherever I walked within the building, I saw people in t-shirts,
shorts and sandals arguing with various clerks, security guards, and each
other about various family-related issues.

I also found out that wearing a suit in one of these court buildings
automatically tags you as being a lawyer. I had numerous people approach me
and ask for my card because of various legal problems they had. One lawyer
walked up to me and told me that lawyers weren't allowed to solicit business
within the court house. He advised me to stop walking around the hallways
because it appeared that I was trying to drum up business. I assured him
that I was from California and out in Florida on a special child custody
case. As such, I had no desire to take on any cases based out of Florida.
He looked a little shocked at this, and he nodded, excused himself, and
wandered back down the hallway. I guess predators are always intimidated by
larger predators. Too bad that the closest I would ever come to being a
lawyer would be if I bought a briefcase and filled it with shredded

By the time noon rolled around, I was truly bored. The circus in the
courtroom across the hall was in full swing. There was a gentleman sitting
on a bench outside that courtroom, and he was roughly the size of an SUV. He
was the bouncer that had chucked the drunk woman out of the club. Next to
him was a sneaky-looking guy that turned out to be a private investigator who
had recorded footage of the drunk woman wearing high-heels and dancing at
another club a week after the bouncer tossed her out on her butt. So much
for the her claims of a hurt ankle. Next to the investigator were two police
officers that were rather irritated that they were subpeona'd to testify in
such a stupid case.

A few minutes after noon, the courtroom doors swung open. I walked over to
the door in the hope that it was finally my turn to testify. But, it turns
out that everyone was just breaking for lunch. I watched as everyone filed
out, and I saw the custody evaluator stabbing at the keys on her cel phone in
a very irritated manner. She started talking very quickly with an extremely
irritated tone in her voice, and she began instructing whoever was on the
other end to push all her appointments back because "that idiot lawyer is
wasting everyone's time". I made eye contact with Faith's husband when he
walked out, and he quickly turned away from my gaze and looked at his feet.
His lawyer sneered at me as she walked out, and I made a mental note that she
looked a lot like the greeter at Walmart and nothing like a lawyer. Faith
walked out, shook her head, and said that everyone was breaking for lunch and
that the trial would resume at 1300. I shrugged, and then the two of us
wandered out of the court building into the hot Florida sun.

This whole trial seemed odd to me. It was pretty apparent that the
overwhelming amount of evidence and depositions in the case made it
open-and-shut. The husband's lawyer must have thought she had an
ace-in-the-hole of some sort, and she was betting on that to pull her case
through. Faith's lawyer had shrugged and metioned that she had no idea what
such a thing could be, if it existed at all. So why go through the expense
and ordeal of a trial?

Faith and I drove out to a KFC, and we commandeered a table in the back of
the restaurant. Neither of us felt like eating, but Faith needed to sit down
and calm her nerves for a few minutes. I related my various adventures from
earlier in the morning, and she just shook her head. "I can't leave you
alone for five minutes, can I?" she said while smirking. I pleaded innocence
in the matter and blamed the suit for everything. As such, I should never be
allowed to wear a suit every again. She said that she didn't buy into that
line of reasoning as she reached out and straightened the knot in my tie.

After sitting there for 30 minutes and getting stared at the entire time by
almost everyone in the restaurant, Faith and I wandered out to the car and
headed back to the courthouse. The two of us sat on the benches outside the
courtroom for a few minutes before court was back in session. Faith remarked
how uncomfortable the benches were as she shuffled her weight back and forth
in an effort to make the bench a better sitting surface. I crossed my arms
and mentioned that she should try sitting on one for three hours while
waiting to testify. She sighed and told me that she doubted that the custody
evaluator would be on the stand for much longer. The judge had warned the
husband's lawyer that he was tired of her badgering the witness and that she
had better start proving some salient points or bring in the next witness.

Court was once again in session, and I resumed sitting on the bench outside
the courtroom. It was now about 1315, and I was starting to regret not
grabbing lunch. Oh well... it couldn't be that much longer of a wait, right?

When 1400 rolled around, I was beginning to think that God was punishing me
for some long-forgotten thing I did when I was 4. The lawyer from the
courtroom across the hall saw me sitting there and remarked, "Wow, are you
still here? What are they doing in there?". I remarked that the case
involved the mentally handicapped, so it was going to be a drawn-out process.
She cocked her head and asked, "How so?". I shuffled back and forth and
noted that it was because the opposing counsel was rather slow upstairs. Her
quizzical look melted into one of bemusement, and she stated that she knew
just the type of person I was refering to. The bouncer and police officer
sitting across from me snickered.

At 1415, the courtroom door burst open and a very agitated expert witness
poured forth. She was waving her hands around and was attempting to say
about half a dozen things at once. This woman was clearly quite irritated.
She turned to face me, pointed back into the courtroom, and told me, "Good
luck. Maybe you'll get asked some things that are actually RELEVANT." She
walked down the hall at a fast pace while stabbing at the keys of her cel
phone. The loud clunking of her high heels were telegraphing the message
that people should get out of her way.

Sure enough, the baliff stuck his head out the door, waved me into the
courtroom, and said, "You're Andrew Henderson? Y'all are on, son. This way,
please." I stood up off the bench, brushed a few rogue fuzzies off my suit,
and started to walk over to the door. Just as I was passing through the
doorway, I heard the bouncer behind me say, "Good luck, man! Kick her ass!"

If nothing else, I had made a friend. A very large friend.

I took my position on the witness stand, and took a moment to scope out my
surroundings. The judge was to my left, and I could see him out of my
peripheral vision. A small podium was set up about 7 or 8 meters in front of
the judge, and the lawyers performed all questioning from that spot. A
baliff was standing to my right about two meters away from me. I guess
that's so he could pounce on me to stop me if I attempted to strangled the
opposing counsel. All in all, nothing too fancy. It was the atmosphere,
rather than the decor, that made the situation intimidating.

First up was Faith's lawyer. Her questioning of me lasted about 5 minutes,
and they were basic questions such as "Please state your name for the record"
and "What was the nature of your discharge from the Air Force?" No suprises
from her at all, so I chose to think of it as an orientation of sorts. I
used this time to glare over at Faith's husband and watch him avoid eye
contact with me by looking downwards and contemplating his navel. I also
noted that his lawyer looked every more dowdy than my first glace had
indicated. His lawyer's assistant was wearing a blouse with poofy sleeves
that were reminiscent of clothing Snow White would wear. They certainly
didn't give the impression of being a crack legal team.

Faith's lawyer stated that she was through with her questioning, and she
abandoned the podium to rejoin Faith. The judge grunted and made a motion to
the husband's lawyer. "Your witness for cross examination", he stated. The
judge was clearly not liking this woman after he had watched her batter a
witness for hours when she didn't have anything to go on. "Thank you, your
honor" she stated to her briefcase as her assitant started shovelling paper
into the lawyer's arms.

And then, the cross examination began.

Next Court Update: The .plan gets grilled

When this .plan was written: 2003-12-21 08:36:07
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