The Setting: Dispute Is More Than Ten Years Old, This Is Second Appeal, And There's Still Plenty Of Fight Left In the Old Boys . . .
Early on the Court's opinion oozes frustration: "As much as we are loathe to drag on this protracted litigation any longer, we conclude we must reverse and remand for a more detailed statement of decision on certain issues." La Melza v. Lindsay, No. G051506, G051514 (4/3 1/13/17) (unpublished). Evidently, this case is one of those cases for associates yet unborn. I won't even bother to recite the gnarly facts. What caught my attention was the impassioned plea by Justice Moore that the parties try and mediate their differences:
"This case has been dragging on for more than a decade. As the Gilroy defendants' counsel noted in a motion for calendar preference, all of the principals are now in their 70's or 80's. We urge both the parties and the court to take all practical steps to reach a judgment in the trial court as quickly as possible. In the same vein, we also urge the parties to set aside what are obviously long-held and deep-seated emotions about this matter and work with an experienced mediator to settle this case. The alternative, even in the best case scenario, is another two or three years spent in the trial court and in our gracious company, resulting in thousands upon thousands of dollars in fees and costs. The parties would be far better served, and would probably find the ultimate outcome far more satisfactory, if they reached a resolution among themselves."
Adding to the overwhelming sense that the parties are lost in a Dickensian quagmire located near the ruins of Bleak House is that the majority opinion, penned by Justice Moore with Justice Thompson concurring, draws a dissenting opinion! Justice Aronson, dissenting, "would invite the parties to brief whether we can correct our earlier opinion and retrace our steps to a proper path so the trial court may perform its factfinding function and enter a new judgment consistent with its findings." Justice Aronson in turn quotes from the dissent by a frustrated Justice Frankfurter: "Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes too late."
To which I add a few additional words of legal wisdom gleaned from dead practitioners:
"About half the practice of a decent lawyer consists of telling would-be clients that they are damned fools and should stop." -- Elihu Root.
"An incompetent attorney can delay a trial for years or months. A competent attorney can delay one even longer." -- Evelle J. Younger.
But Charles Dickens gets the last word, with the characters in Bleak House explaining the end to the seemingly interminable, intractable, and ridiculous case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce:
"Mr Kenge," said Allan, appearing enlightened all in a moment. "Excuse me, our time presses. Do I understand that the whole estate is found to have been absorbed in costs?"
"Hem! I believe so," returned Mr Kenge. "Mr Vholes, what do you say?"
"I believe so," said Mr Vholes.
"And that thus the suit lapses and melts away?"
"Probably," returned Mr Kenge. "Mr Vholes?"
"Probably," said Mr Vholes.