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Court: Itís Bad Judgment (part 1)

Court: Itís Bad Judgment (part 1)

I hate court. Everything about it. I hate the calloused wooden benches, the rampant feelings of paranoia, and the dingy white lighting that accents my pallid skin and puffy eyes. It's unbecoming. Not to mention that court is the biggest crapshoot you'll ever stake your reputation on.

How do I know this? I know because I was there. I was there that fateful day when I presented my case with dignity and clarity. I was there when my evidence conjured up a chorus-line of affirming nods reaching all around the room. I was there when every word that poured out of my mouth prompted a cascade of glares at my adversary. And, sure enough, I was there when I called the judge "sir" the entire testimony, until I realized he was a woman.

I shall perhaps never know why she ruled against me; my impromptu style, my confusion concerning her gender, or maybe she simply found it more reasonable that a middle-class white male was screwing over a middle-class minority female, and not the other way around. Either way, by the end of that day I had sworn to myself that if ever I found myself in an irreconcilable conflict with another party, I would succumb to anything before making another appearance in court.

Now, besides bad lighting and the threat of grumpy justices, there are some other advantages to staying out of court. Court can take months out of your schedule, and years off of your life. Court is also public record. And it is juried and judged by individuals who are less about hearing the context and nature of your conflict than they are about the verifiable facts and who is presenting them.

In fact, I did not realize exactly how wonderful it is to stay out of court, until the court actually told me to do just that. Go away, they said.

It was two years after my first tribunal fiasco and my next fiasco was scheduled to take place. Some quick background: I was trying to dissolve a creative partnership between myself and a fellow we shall call Earl. Without burdening you with detail, suffice it to say we both claimed we were the rightful owner of a particular set of literary works, with lots of controversy surrounding the amount of time invested, actual number of words contributed, and money spent, etc.

I thank God, to this day, that within an hour of our preliminary hearing, the Judge asked us to settle this thing between ourselves. Specifically, he ordered us to go to what is called an Arbitrator, to receive what is called Binding Arbitration. There, we would discuss our history and our claims with an objective third party who would take a personal interest in seeing that a fair and reasonable compromise is reached.

After private interviews over the phone and two joint sessions with our chosen mediator, we received a bill for $175. No public record. No sore hineys. And not a single post-menopausal feminist ready to help me shoot my foot off.

Arbitration, in my opinion, is the judicial system of the future. It's the humanitarian court. The soft-sell of justice. It's more personal than my Macintosh and more customized than my Scion. And for less than the cost of a single hour with an attorney, Earl and I were able to determine our official percentages of ownership, create a small reimbursement plan for monies disproportionately spent, and most importantly, we're still friends.

For more information on finding Arbitrators in your area, call your local court or check in with the Better Business Bureau. Stay tuned for some tips on how to get the most out of arbitrationÖ

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