The Big Q

What’s the most intimidating technique an opposing counsel used on you or your client?

Posted Jan 1, 2004 1:06 AM CDT
By Chris Zombory

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Timothy Gutknecht

Crowder & Scoggins

Columbia, III.

In a corporate divorce, the corporation president, an accountant, spent the whole meeting leaning on the table, pounding a baseball bat into his hand like a scene from The Untouch­ables.

In another case, we were negotiating with counsel for the state in a condemnation case. In the middle of negotiations and midsentence, counsel jumped up and rushed out of the room. Min­­utes later he returned, slapped down a document and said, “I’ve just filed a mo­tion to compel you to sett­le for X dollars.” The funny thing was that “X” was more than twice what the state had offered before.

Miriam H. Sayegh

Solo practitioner

Wilton, Conn.

I was suing a town in the Northeast. Before trial one day, the two town lawyers trying the matter against me moved the plaintiffs tables away from the jury box and as much out of the jury’s view as possible.

When I became aware of this, I discovered that the judge’s clerk gave them the OK, but the judge did not know. I informed the judge, and the judge ordered the defendants to return the tables to their original locations.

I guess some defendants will go to great lengths for an advantage, though the plaintiff’s case turned out superior.

Daniel J. Quisenberry

Chulak & Shiffman

Agoura Hills, Calif.

My client had received a Stradivarius violin a family heirloom as part of a difficult divorce settlement. A year later, she was sued by a prominent university that claimed the Stradivarius had been lost or stolen from its collection 30 years earlier.

Knowing that my client was sensitive, the opposing counsel had set up a video camera to be focused on my client’s face at her deposition.

I made some arguments about how the camera should also show at least the person who was asking the questions during the proceedings, but the opposing counsel still refused to spread the focus on the camera.

However, I was prepared.

I went to my car and got my own video camera and tripod. I then set up my camera about three feet from the chair occupied by opposing counsel. And I focused it right on his (somewhat red) face.

Opposing counsel quickly decided that spreading the focus of his camera might be a better solution.

My client was happy that the skirmish had ended favorably. And she was focused and confident during the rest of the deposition.

This month’s answers came from responses to the Question of the Week feature in the ABA Journal eReport. Sign up for the eReport at www.abajournal.com. It’s a free member benefit.

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