Saturday, January 24, 2009
Stumping The Legal System
While everyone else was enjoying the Inauguration, I was in Court as a witness in a contempt trial between a divorced husband and wife. This is the third time I am testifying, but not the last. I generally end up wasting two days waiting to testify around 45 minutes.
Strangely enough, the actual testifying is much easier than the waiting. You see, I can't go into the courtroom until I'm called, and outside the courtroom is boring. The area has no magazines, no TV, but being up-to-date, there are two (2) pay phones at each end of the hallway. So you sit there waiting, doing nothing, until you're called to testify. Turns out, I was the last witness.
I was called to the stand, and the Judge greeted me as I made my way to the witness chair. I said, "Hi Judge" and smiled. This was our second time together and I really liked him. The attorney who called me to the stand asked me about 15 minutes of questions, some to the objection of the other lawyer. Then, the other lawyer took over and started her cross-examination.
First, she waived reading my background information. Then she asked me information about how the office ran. When I started talking about the economy, she objected as I hadn't been qualified as an expert. The judge over ruled her as she had waived reading my background. Then it got fun for me. There was an issue of a $22,000 note. Given assets of approximately $2,750,000 the first question was how much income could that generate. My immediate answer was $27,500 and then I pointed out that the broker wouldn't get that because the broker/dealer would have charges first and the broker would be lucky to get half. It's really a small margin business. Then I was asked how many more assets would be needed to pay off the note itself given the overhead, and I immediately responded another $2.2 million under the same assumptions if no salaries are paid.
The cross-examining lawyer and the judge couldn't believe I could do math that fast. I told the Judge that moving the decimal to the left was the same as multiply by .01 and moving it to the right by two decimals was the same as dividing by .01. While the lawyer was calculating, I leaned over, covered the microphone, and whispered to the Judge that I was no good at the Law, and that everyone had to be good at something, and he laughed. All things being equal, I tried to open an account with both the Judge and the cross-examining lawyer while testifying. The lawyer pointed out it would be a conflict of interest if they accepted. I pointed out how difficult the environment actually is for wealth managers today.
We need law in our society, it's important. It is not streamlined. I am not educated enough in the law to know if it works well or not. Legal reasoning is not logic. The law is rooted in English Common Law, which started as the Magna Charta, a contract between the King and his nobles as to what was allowed and not allowed by the King. This happened in 1215. As England grew, the King couldn't preside over the King's Court all over England, and Judges took his place, hence Judges are viewed as G-d as the King was.
I'd bet that a serf in 1215 understood the law a lot better than we do today. The original Magna Charta (there were something like 15 originals made and signed in Latin) along with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution reside in the National Archives just a block off the Mall. Have a great weekend, I have a crazed kitten waiting to play!