Oh ugly courthouse...how I love thee.

Photo: from King County courthouse home page (it looks better in these photos than in real life).   

Photo: from King County courthouse home page (it looks better in these photos than in real life).   

Tap.  Tap.  Tap.  It is dark out.  Grope for the clock.  Bring it within two inches of my eyes and squint.  6:00.  Which means it is 5:50 since pushed it forward a teeny bit.  Just in case there was a day like today.  Put it back on nightstand to go back to sleep.

Tap.  Tap. Tap.   Really drives me nuts when my upstairs neighbor wears shoes.  Yes, am still in the condo.  Waiting for the house remodel to one day end.  Condo is a hundred year old apartment conversion.  The old wood floors are beautiful .  Dark and glossy.  There is just one problem.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Cristina came to hang out last night.  She is on the murphy bed in the nook down the hall.  Nala is sleeping with her.  This means, when tap tap tap lady comes down the stairs with Sam, her aged blind scotty dog, Nala suddenly turns into Kujo and is launching herself at the door.

At this point, give up and get out of bed.

Nala and I do our business.  Drop her at doggie daycare.  Drive 3.64 miles to the parking garage at Second and Cherry.  Leave the car running for the valet.  Best place to park in  town.  Nine bucks if you get there before 10:00 am.

Walk two blocks to the courthouse.  Menswear black jacket over black tee over black long ruffled skirt over black sweater tights over black flat boots with fringe.  Toe is better but still can’t wear high heels.  Everything is covered by big black poofy Northface coat that hits at the knees.  Purse slung over one shoulder.  Computer bag slung over other shoulder.   Get through security and dash up the seven flights of stairs like a ninja warrior.

Walk down the black and white marbled floor.  With the black and white marble wainscoted walls.  Into the black and white marbled courtroom of Judge Dean Lum.  On the center of the back wall is a gigantic old oil painting of Abraham Lincoln.

Am filled with a rush of feeling that can only be described as love.  Love this old crumbling crappy courthouse.   Was it just a week ago that another courtroom betrayed my client.  Today is another day.

This case is a first for me.  A superior court bench trial of a motor vehicle collision lawsuit.  The defense did not file a jury demand.  Forgot most likely.

Shake hands with the clerk and bailiff.  The court reporter comes over and says hi.   Know him well from many trials.  A court reporter in training sets up in a remote corner of the courtroom.  Is that a good idea…in the age of computers… hope so for her.    A big screen is already there and opened.  We don’t need ours.  Mike the tech guy set ups the big projector and connects it to my computer.  Am ready for opening.

Matt the defense lawyer comes in.  Say hi.  John my paralegal comes in with the binders of exhibits.  We go and visit with the clients and family members outside.  They’ve brought their kids.  Ages 4 and 6.  The boy is running back and forth down the hall.   The girl is bouncing up and down on the wooden bench.  The plan is for the parents to take turns watching them while the other is in the courtroom.  The little boy rips into the bag of Cheetos that is supposed to be in his lunch sack.  Several orange puffs go flying onto the floor.  What’s fair is fair.  The girl rips into her bag of Doritos.  Now she’s up and running.  Um.  There is no way the parents are going to survive this.  So decide to put on the husband as the first witness and send him home with the kids.

9:10 all rise for Judge Lum.

Haven’t had a trial with Judge L in eight years.  Car crash case where a woman ended up with chronic neck pain.  Her husband was a member of the Grateful Dead.  Judge L overruled a defense objection to our demonstrative evidence.  We brought in a piano and the husband serenaded the jury.  They fell in love with him and well… we got a great verdict.

Here’s the thing about a bench trial.  We don’t argue motions in limine.  We don’t voir dire a panel.  The judge walks in at 9:10 and by 9:15 we are doing opening statements.   The defendant is Metro bus.  They admit liability for the rear-ender.  There are pre-existing conditions.  A C5-6 disc replacement surgery and an arthroscopic acromioplasty (shoulder) surgery.  No wage loss.  $78K in medicals.  It all lays out quite logically.  Almost business like.  No worries about sequencing, reptile, rules, attribution bias, attention span, bonding.  Miss the jury.

We put on the husband, three family members, a family friend, a forensic mechanic by phone, a chiropractor and complete the direct of the plaintiff.

In some ways it is a bit surreal.  Am used to being paranoid, feeling the entire courtroom, being on alert at all times, looking for little signs of anything, building connections.  Judge L has been on the bench for a long time.  He has The Impassive Face down pat.  Can’t help it.  Keep trying to read him.  But his blank visage smiles benignly down upon us.  Just doesn’t seem right.  Miss the jury.

We end twenty minutes early.  Matt buys time to prepare cross overnight.

Put on big black poofy coat.  Criss cross bags over shoulders.  Walk down the stairs.  Oh ugly courthouse.  How I love thee.

Excerpt from my trial diary Nov. 2011