Humpty Dumpty, The Supreme Court of New Jersey and “The Minds of Lawyers” alive and well on the other side of the Looking Glass.



Those profound words of wisdom spoken by Humpty Dumpty in “Through the Looking Glass has special relevance in the world of Law.  Clients often want to know, in no uncertain terms, what is going to happen.    While I win?; How Long will it take?; What is the Answer?; Can you Guarantee? How much will it cost? are all questions I get after clients give me a one sided, 5 minute summary of their problem.   While I do my best to estimate my fees and give an educated guess as to the outcome of a case, no one, no lawyer, can guarantee a result.  In fact the entire Court system with motions and appeals, and different courts is based on the fact that in real life nothing is crystal clear.  Most of the time the issues are clear enough so the answer to a legal problem is clear, except of course when they’re not.  Take for example a simple case of tenant being evicted for non-payment of rent.

Simple enough, you don’t pay your rent you can be evicted.  Except of course, if you were being overcharged, then rent control laws might determine that, not only will the tenant not be evicted, that the Landlord owes the Tenant money.  Or if the rent was held back because the condition of apartment was substandard, then the Tenant can not only stay but the Landlord would have to fix up the apartment.  Or how about the case when the Landlord tries to collect rent, even though he lost control of the property though a foreclosure, and is not entitled to collect the rent.  Or how about the case when the tenant, having not paid rent, files for bankruptcy, then the Landlord is prevented from evicting the tenant because the Bankruptcy laws stay all proceedings.

In a recent Supreme Court Decision (Dean v. Barrett Homes Inc., Sup. Ct. (Hoens, J.) (44 pp., including a partial dissent by Rivera-Soto, J.), a case about liability and damages resulting from stucco siding on a house, the dissenting  Judge had this to say about the other Judges who wrote the majority decision. 

The notion that an exterior finish that can only be removed by extensive demolition work is not “integrated” into the structure to which it is attached is so fanciful, so nonsensical, that it beggars the imagination. It is a conclusion that can germinate only in the minds of lawyers and can find root only in the rarified environment of this Court’s decisions; it cannot, however, long survive in the atmosphere of the real world. .…   …. There is no kind way to put it: the majority’s reasoning simply makes no sense.

Here we have a Judge sitting on the Supreme Court of New Jersey stating without hesitation that “The Majority’s reasoning makes no sense” Realize that this case has already been reviewed and decided upon by the Trial Court Judge and the Appellate Court Judges, all of whom had their own different opinions.  So, in effect, if a person had a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court as their attorney, that person would have been given the wrong legal advice.  All the logic and reasoning of that hypothetical “judge as lawyer” would not mend the illogical decision of the Court, which like Humpty Dumpty would remain broken and not fixable.   The point of this blog entry is that the Courts cannot be relied upon to do justice is every case.  If you have a problem do your best to solve it without the Court’s direct intervention.  And if you have an attorney be sure that he or she is focused on solving your problem in the real world and not just spending your money on a quixotic search for Justice in the Courts.

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