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Don’t let the opponent break your spirit

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One day in summer camp, I witnessed a vile thing, with several older campers saturating baby powder all over another camper’s hair and elsewhere. From what I knew, the victim camper was a bit nerdy and not “with it”, but apparently had not a mean bone in his body. Sadly, those often are the ingredients of being bullies’ targets.

I wonder how that victim is doing now, and if he transcended that unjustifiably traumatic event, now forty-two years later.

Almost infinite in human history are the indignities, violence, racism, underhandedness and retaliation of human against human. Many weather such storms and become stronger and more capable. Others often freeze like deer caught in the headlights. Some go in and out of being psychologically debilitated to getting back on their feet. Some keep quiet as they eventually boil over to the bursting point of harming others.

The courtroom is far from the genteel arena where bridge and tiddlywinks are played. Trials are war, yes of the non-violent type, but often all out war nonetheless. Do not expect the judge always to assure a fair fight; if they did, they never would be overturned on appeal. Do not expect your courtroom opponent not to try to distract the judge as his or her tagteam member tries to kick you in the crotch or throw sand in your face.

Why then bother being a trial lawyer at all? First, an accomplished trial lawyer still will get his or her victories even on an uneven battlefield. Second, what is our alternative, other than simultaneously trying to improve the system? Third, this is where I thrive.

My son likes the Chopped cooking competition show on the Food Network, and the related Cutthroat Kitchen. At first I saw Cutthroat Kitchen as obnoxious entertainment. Then I saw this episode (minute 40:00) where a contestant who refused to engage in cutthroat-mongering won the competition against three other chefs, where the judge had neither information nor caring about the adversities suffered by the recipients of the cutthroat mongering. Certainly, this winning chef had not won in the courtroom battlefield, but he still exhibited the essential practice of getting back on our feet after falling, while looking forward rather than backward. Whether or not all this at first sounds like platitudes, many courtroom opponents want to break their opponents’ (lawyers’, clients’ and witnesses’) spirits. Allowing that to happen is to give into the sideshow of the opponent, when all that really matters in the courtroom battlefield is to persuade the judge and jury. The opponent’s agenda is the opponent’s agenda. Don’t get sucked into that agenda.