Always double-check to make sure you have the correct paperwork. Wrong paperwork could send you and a district attorney running through a court building with only a few minutes counting down before the judge leaves.
Several years ago, a simple error occurred concerning a Certificate of Insurance. In this case, failure to use a state-required form resulted in legal action against our client. We quickly provided the correct document; however, the dismissal of the legal action persisted despite all the available information showing uninterrupted coverage for our client.
As this incorrect form originated from our office, we strongly felt that we needed to remedy the situation without troubling our client. I sent emails and left phone messages with the district attorney’s office resulting in no success reaching the right person who could help us.
I finally got into my car and drove to the district attorney’s office to see if I could meet with him directly. Being persistent, I managed to get a few minutes to discuss the issue with the assistant DA. He was satisfied with all of our documentation and understood that it was simply a matter of using the incorrect paperwork. Then he said, “This will have to go before a judge.”
I remember thinking my client would kill me if they had to appear in court simply because the correct information went onto the incorrect form. Thankfully, the DA told me I could appear in their place.
The day arrived for the hearing. I arrived at the court building, checked the court docket to make sure we were listed, and then took a seat in the courtroom. The judge called case after case, and as he got closer to ours, I looked around to find the DA missing from the courtroom.
Finally, the judge called our case, and I stepped forward. When he learned the DA was not present, he instructed me to take a seat, saying we would wait for the arrival of the DA.
The courtroom slowly emptied, and I was the only one left. The judge called the case again. Hoping I could simply explain the problem with the insurance forms, the judge turned to the bailiff and asked if he knew where the DA might be. The bailiff indicated that the DA was issuing an arraignment in a different courtroom within the building. The judge instructed me to go to that courtroom and ask the DA to accompany me back into his courtroom – he gave me 15 minutes.
I hurried through the building to locate the correct courtroom and stepped inside. The room was packed. Against the wall to my left sat a few dozen men in bright orange jumpsuits, all arraigned for various criminal offenses. Beyond the gate and railing in front of me sat the DA with a tall stack of files as he spoke to the judge, filing charges against these men, one by one.
I stepped up to the railing, and the bailiff came over to find out what I wanted. I asked if I could speak with the district attorney. The bailiff went to the DA and whispered into his ear, causing the DA to turn and see me. To my surprise, he went back to the next file on his desk with the next charges to file. He then turned again to me and put up one finger to let me know he would speak to me shortly.
A few minutes later, he asked for a brief recess and came to talk to me. I told him the situation in the other courtroom and the strong possibility that the judge may be gone. He said, “Let’s go.”
With that, the two of us pushed open the courtroom doors and began to run through the court building. We returned to the courtroom and found the judge still waiting for us. Thirty seconds later, the judge dismissed our case, and I was finally relieved the ordeal was over.
Learn from my experience: Always make sure you have the correct paperwork.