Let’s say your husband has been sued over a contract dispute with his ex-boss. And let’s say the ex-boss is one of those shiny-suited, purple-shirted, open-necked, smoking-slippered, C-grade YouTube Tony Robbins kind of businessmen.
The arguments in the ex-boss’s lawsuit may be stewing in a morass of grammatical errors and typos, and he may not have a sockless leg to stand on, but you can bet that case is going to trial. Here’s what you can expect.
- You don’t even know they have jury trials for civil cases, but here we are, and the jurors in this Atlanta courtroom will decide whether or not the nest egg you’ve twigged together with twenty years of 401Ks from jobs you hated will be lost to your husband’s poor attention to detail.
- Hard to believe, but it turns out your husband’s filing system—shoving contracts, receipts, and jotted-on scraps into the oversized ceramic bowl on the kitchen island where you keep expired Bed Bath & Beyond coupons and an optimistic but barely used toothbrush for the dog—is inadequate.
- With his white hair, tan suit, and old money drawl, one of your husband’s lawyers will remind you of a southern attorney from a movie you’d complain about for the way it stereotypes southerners. “Did you shake Chuck’s hand?” he will say, referring to the ex-boss’s attorney. “Better make sure you got all five fingers back.”
- Who would be in a situation like this. Is this real life? The verdict on that’s unclear, but one thing’s for sure: This lawsuit has consumed your mind, your nerves, your days, your marriage for the better part of four years.
- Also, what kind of person couldn’t figure out how to avoid getting selected for a jury that’s tasked with deciding a tedious contract case involving the minutia of Georgia non-compete laws? Surely they’re regretting their choices when the ex-boss begins his testimony with, “If I may quote Warren Buffet…”
- These are the thoughts you will chew on as you try to decode the jurors’ faces from your vantage point in the courtroom gallery. The sole member of this show’s audience, you will discover that it is, in fact, possible to be both terrified and bored at the same time.
- But then you’ll be dropped into a scene out of some primetime TV drama. After the judge dismisses the jury for lunch, he will threaten Chuck with the idea that he might just deliver a verdict from the bench right then and there. “I see what you’re doing,” the judge will snarl at the ex-boss, making sideways references to a “lawsuit of intimidation,” and you will think yes, yes, all of that, plus the typos. As Chuck rifles through a catastrophe of papers, your husband will sit up a bit straighter, sensing the tide is about to turn.
- Don't get your hopes up. The judge has a soft spot for those jurors. Wouldn’t want to deprive them of fulfilling their duty. With that, you’ll be shooed off to lunch.
- It has to happen eventually. The jury will be sent to deliberate. You’ll be discharged to a holding room stocked with Kleenex, a day-old newspaper, and a legal dictionary. While you pore over yesterday’s weather forecast, your husband will wander glass-eyed into the hallway where his ex-boss is lurking about, all oily smiles and back slaps and “let’s put this behind us.”
- With teeth clenched and a death-grip on the newspaper, you will march to the door and inform the ex-boss that he is a poor excuse for a man and a worse excuse for a businessman, and much later, you will think of better, more sophisticated insults, but still. It gets the job done.
- You’ll be told to expect a verdict within 45 minutes. Two hours later, a clerk will appear, telling you that the jury has brought a question to the judge, and your southern stereotype attorney will say, “I don’t like that question. Not at all. They’re chasing rabbits.”
- His words will be hanging there, the other attorneys still nodding, when the clerk returns with another message: “The jury’s reached its verdict.”
- Even the judge will seem relieved you won. After all, he was subjected to the Warren Buffet quotes, too. But when you get in the car, you and your husband will be silent for a moment. Blank. There is nothing left in your heads. And then you’ll look at each other. And you’ll laugh. A deep, body-shaking, nose-running, gasping-for-breath spasm of a laugh. A laugh like you haven’t laughed in four years.