Wednesday, July 05, 2006

View in the halls this afternoon

Today I was at settlement conferences for the unlawful detainer calendar in San Francisco. I have done this a number of times, and ususally I see more people settle their cases than go forward to trial.

Usually at the settlement conferences, the tenant gets a wake up call to the realities of their situation. Those who are unrepresented realize that, "hey, the other side has an attorney who talks like he knows what he is doing." I have seen landlord attorneys use this fear to force an unfavorable deal on the tenants.

In the last year and half, the San Francisco Bar Association's Volunteer Legal Services Project, has been running a program which provides tenants, and occasionally landlords, with attorneys for the settelement conferences only. Usually, this results in more deals that are fair (which I define as the landlord getting what they should get, not what they want, and the tenant having a chance of not agreeing to something which will result in their being evicted for failure to comply with the agreement.)

Today was not usual. For the first time I am aware of, there was an excess of lawyers there to represent the tenants. And this was with the coordinator of the attorney of the day project confident that most of the cases would be resolved.

I think that was the equivalent of telling G-d your plans.

The final score today? All but one of the cases are going to trial on Monday. I saw normally mild mannered attorneys going toe to toe, a la baseball managers arguing with umpires. Both sides saying that the other was "completely unreasonable" and not wanting to settle.

Among those failing to settle, my own case. Although unlike most of the tenant attorneys there, I will be seeing this one through trial. Could I finally get the full jury trial experience? Past experience says no, but this one is just wacky enough that it could beat the odds.

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