06 June 2010

Ally McBeal eat your heart out!

A few months ago, I allowed Neil a view into a world he never suspected even existed. Of course he knew of science and universities and labs and the lot, but it had always been something you only see on television. And then he suddenly was right in the middle of a micropaleontological lab, a few hundred meters from where he lives, and he didn't know what was happening to him.

Now pay back time had come. He had promised to take me to court in return, and now there was a hearing coming up that would be fun to see. What was it about? Some bloke, represented by Neil and his cronies, claimed some other bloke owed him money, and the other bloke denied that. A summary that would hold for quite many cases, probably. Anyway. I had gotten an A4 summary of what the dispute was, and the order to dress up "slightly smart". So just back from Scotland I rummaged around in my clothes cupboard for something that would fit the bill. I settled for the outfit below. At least the colours were very law-ish!

Excited I went to the court building. I had naively expected to just walk in, but that's of course not how it works. I had to first get through security... but this time no turf cutters, so it all worked out. By the time I got an OK Neil was already coming down the stairs in a spiffing pinstripe suit. I already hoped he would look like that in his own territory! He updated me a bit more, and then the waiting started. Law seems to involve a lot of waiting around. Luckily I had a book on statistics with me.

Then the moment came. We were ushered into a small room, where there hardly was space for more than the two quarrelling parties, the judge, and one innocent passer-by. And the game was on.

First the judge had to get his head around what the issue actually was, which meant I also got a detailed overview of the case at hand. Then the first witness was called on. It was the claimant. He talked the judge through his statement, with the help of one of the lawyers. Then the defendant, who represented himself, could interrogate him.

It was an excellent drama! Nitpicking with big consequences. Twisting all sorts of details around to see them in all kinds of light. The offensive party did the obligatory buzzing around, whispering and searching in archives, when the defensive party came up with something new. Sometimes they just sat back and exchanged notes like you would expect to see in a classroom. And the defensive party bungled up. Did not present a consistent story, but just staggered from irrelevant detail to irrelevant detail. I think I was in there for about two hours, but I was not bored for a second. Not strange people watch law dramas on TV, except that here it was real, and the outcome would have big consequences for those involved.

When I left at the lunch break only one witness had been heard, but I already felt certain this guy indeed did owe money to the other guy, and that the judge would come to that verdict as well. Around 6 I got a text message from Neil that said that had indeed been the case...

Law is all around, and I never had seen it in action. Now I've only seen a minute bit of it, but it was very illustrative. And I understand why people make their living that way! It's an intellectual fight, not unlike something like a thesis defence. I had a great morning in there. And when I got out I changed into my old soldier's boots and stripy socks as soon as I could...


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De cynische TV-psycholoog said...

Ik begin juist steeds meer mijn vertrouwen in juridische gags te verliezen, of nou ja, dat ook weer niet, maar het heeft wel te lijden onder wat ik zo af en toe hoor. Incestslachtoffer dat voor de kosten van de rechtszaak mag opdraaien omdat de dader, die thuis gewoon alles bekent, in court ontkende, om maar een vb te noemen. Justice will be done, yeah right. De wet is voor iedereen hetzelfde, yeah right. De waarheid komt wel bovendrijven, yeah right.

Margot said...

Justice will be done, daar geloof ik ook maar tot op zekere hoogte in. Maar juist omdat het zo ingrijpend is, en het af en toe zo pijnlijk mis gaat, is het interessant om een rechtzaak eindelijk es niet uit de krant te hebben, maar uit eerste hand...