Most of the time court is rather dull. You sit around waiting for your turn to be called on the docket, either by the judge or in criminal proceedings often the prosecutor calls the docket. Trials tend to be hours of entering exhibits and getting witnesses to testify to parts of exhibits. However, this one day about nine years ago was particularly entertaining.
I was representing a beneficiary in an estate dispute and we were at the point of determining attorney’s fees. This particular beneficiary had gone through several attorneys and had some personal issues that were particularly difficult to deal with. He was extremely paranoid, absolutely positive that his sister the personal representative was robbing him blind, and that she (and, if I remember correctly, the dearly departed as well) were out to get him. He would send mail daily with several stamps and would call two or three times daily, usually repeating the same conversation from the day before, screaming at support staff how important his case was. Even the profanities in the conversation would not change from day to day, What made things even more interesting was that I was Attorney Number Three dealing with this psycho. Yes, that’s right, I violated the rule of “Don’t be the third attorney” that they tell you in continuing legal education courses but the case seemed interesting. All three of us attorneys, all of which having endured weeks at a time of phone calls and letters, consoling our support staff that yes indeed this is worth it, and running up our own separate bills were finally corralled together in front of the Honorable Gregory Sypolt in Spokane County Superior Court, sometime in late June of 2005.
I only remember the date because like most Spokane attorneys not associated with a decent sized firm or having carved out their own niche, I was financially starving to death. I remember thinking I was going to be unable to afford fireworks for the upcoming Fourth of July so this circus in the Superior Court was going to have to fill the bill.
The hearing on estate attorney fees definitely delivered some much needed humor. The three of us wonderful souls, who had dragged our beleaguered support staff through this guy’s wasteland of profanity laced phone calls and long letters, were all there to literally sing for our suppers. The Personal Representative’s attorney was there, ready to defend the now meager estate against the three wolves who now hungrily begged at the courthouse door. Each one of us three former representatives got up, sung as best we could of the hours we had put into the case and the hard work we had poured into it. Hours of phone calls, meetings, letters, and other activities. No court appearances to speak of- after several meetings our paranoid client would dismiss us (in my case claiming I was working for the other side). It was so entertaining watching everyone explain themselves going through the same thing I had spent dragging my poor support staff through myself.
At the end two things happened. One, Judge Sypolt required 25% of the attorney’s fees to be paid by Mr. Paranoid, as he had brought the hours and hours of work on himself. He was none too happy about this. One of the other attorneys afterwards referred to the 25% penalty as a “dingbat tax” which was particularly humorous. Secondly, Attorney #1 got exceedingly mad at the estate’s attorney because he didn’t get his full award. Apparently said attorney had never heard of an appeal or Motion for Reconsideration, two legal mechanisms attorneys have at their disposal when aggrieved by a judge’s decision.
In the end, the entertainment value was better than anything I had seen that year, the estate paid me $2,500.00 in attorney’s fees every penny earned twice over which was more than I expected, and the Fourth of July that year turned out pretty good too.