Monday, March 06, 2006

What a let down

So I worked until 2:30 a.m. this morning getting ready for trial. I had motions in limine ready, including a nasty little Motion for Order to Show Proof. I had my jury instructions, my trial breif, and my photo exhibits all lined up.

I got up at 6:30, showered, shaved, and hustled off to Kinko's where I made my copies and then on to the court. Show up to court, get called by the Presiding Judge (we use a master calender system here in San Francisco).

I have to say, I did love the look on the landlord's face when he realized that this was no longer an un-represented tenant. The PJ sent us off to a judge pro tem for further settlement discussions.

And that's when it began. The back and forth. Over and over as the pro tem and I worked on options only to have the landlord insisting that he was here "for the kids" who lived in the neighborhood. He was convinced that the my client was the cause for all the problems in the Bayview-Hunters Point area of San Francisco.

Essentially he keeps telling me over and over again how he is going to win because he "knows" she must be dealin and using drugs because she has been talkin to african-american men.

That would work, at least be evidence, if this were a nuisance case. However, since this was a non-pay of rent case that was not going to happen (if I had any say about it; UD's are a summary proceeding which focus primarily on the complaint and not on extraneous matters).

So eventually he made an offer. My client countered. His next offer was worse (leaving me thining, am I in a bad comedy?). Offers go back and forth for about an hour and a half. Eventually, the landlord and his mom made an offer that was, to my mind, insulting to my client (and contradictory if he really was there "for the kids" and not just himself.).

My client, of course, rejected this and sent back a final offer. I took it to them, figuring that the way things were going that we would be heading back to the presiding judge in time to beat the rush of the asbestos attorneys. When I got to him, he started with this rant aout all the violations (unplead in the complaint and notice) that my client had committed.

I smiled and said "That may be, but lets take a look at my favorite provision of the lease. The one that awards attorneys fees to the prevailing party. Now lets see, I've already put 15 hours in on this case. And that's not counting the three hours we've been here today. Or the ten hours I will end up billing tomorrow if we continue this. You want to pay my fees. Be my guest, I could use the money. And if you think that you won't pay for my time, let me remind you that none of your so-called 'evidence' is going to make ti to the jury."

That knocked them back a bit and made them actually consider the offer my client made. They then asked if the initial deal was still on the table. I checked with client, and she said yes it was.

So we agreed in principal to a pay and stay arrangement. Unfortunately, I had not brought a stipulation with me and neither had they. (Hell, I figured this was going to a jury, or at least the motions in limine.) So I got to write it out by hand in the hallway on a legal pad.

Of all the provisions that the landlord argued with me over, were the ones that protected him, Not the ones which required him, and implicitly acknowledged that there were breaches of the warranty of habitability on the premises. I like that part.

Finally we read it into the record at around 2:30. My head hurts and I did not even get to make a single argument.

Dammit, I want my trial. I have done the work and now have a pile of useless jury instructions.

On the up side, my client stays housed. She has no eviction on her record. And she gets to go back to trying to pull her life back together after some fairly serious tragedies that have befallen her recently.

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