Sunday, October 18, 2009

the law

They say you never really understand how a complicated civil case works its way through the court system unless you, yourself have been implicated in one. Not as a lawyer, but as a defendant or plaintiff.

I think I agree. I remember when I represented parents in cases where they allegedly abused or neglected their children. I had a healthy amount of detachment from my clients’ issues. It’s not, I don’t think, that I lacked empathy. But, at the end of the day, I walked away and picked up my other life, my real life.

For the last four years, I have tracked a series of complicated legal proceedings involving my occasional traveling companion. Truly, they have profoundly affected the way I now regard the positioning of a client in a legal claim.

This week, a trail begins in New York, and it has elements of every kind of law – family, property, negligence even. In other words, every subject that I teach at the law school. The case is Ed’s case and therefore not something I would explain here, but I’ll say this much: Ed is as quiet in life as anyone I’ve ever met. And yet, he’s stuck in a legal quagmire that is absolutely consuming – of time and resources. He once told me that he retired early so he could devote himself to straightening out this legal mess (not of his making).

Sometimes I have wondered why he doesn’t just not try. He wouldn’t admit it, but I think he is committed to doing what is surely right out of a profound love and respect for his (now deceased) dad and mom.

I mention all this because he is in New York now and I am struggling to get work completed this week-end so that I can fly out just for a day (and a half!) for the beginning of the several week-long trial. Teaching and my little shop obligations prevent me from spending more time out of Madison, but on Tuesday, on his 59th birthday (everyday is a birthday!), the 4th anniversary of our meeting (doesn’t celebrate that either), I’ll be at the Supreme Court of New York, listening very carefully.

(Sometimes life has too much drama.)

In the meantime, today, I checked up on the cats. They’re doing well, Ed. Here’s something that’ll make you smile:



For the rest of Ocean readers, I understand that photos of two feral cats may be a little too little. So I’ll post photos from my bike ride over to the farmette and back again. The last photo is of beef bourguignon, from an Alice Waters recipe. Prepared by friends who are really really good at looking after me in times of stress and worry.