By Datta Khalsa, Broker
My daughter’s fifth grade class recently held a mock trial at the County Courthouse and the kids were able to witness due process in action with the ubiquitous cookie theft case that is used as a model where student volunteers get to play the roles of the judge, jury, attorneys, and the principals to determine whether the defendant was innocent or guilty based on the evidence and arguments presented by both sides.
These proceedings were carried out under the guidance of three prominent local attorneys who are active in the community, and the class also had the opportunity to hear one of our local judges give her perspective on the legal system and how it works. The experience clearly left an impression on the kids, and I was struck by the level of involvement with which they participated in the trial and the takeaways they shared afterwards.
The event carried some added relevance for me, in that it happened to be held in the same courtroom where I have appeared several times through the years in support of various clients who have used our legal system as a resource for finding resolution when other means have failed. And I have to say that by and large I have been impressed with how each judge has run the proceedings to guide their participants’ cases to fair decisions.
For my own part, while I’ve never been involved first-hand in a full-blown trial, there have been multiple times where the legal system has helped effect positive results for my clients which would not likely have been otherwise possible. These included matters ranging from a dispute between investors and the contractor they had hired, to a seller who changed their mind about selling in the middle of the escrow. The majority of these settled even before they went to mediation, by virtue of a well-prepared case that effectively laid out the facts making it clear to the defendant that things would not have gone well for them if taken to the next level.
And over the course of the past decade of running a local real estate investment fund, on multiple occasions our management team has succeeded in getting parties who had acted in bad faith to perform. This involved a settlement for hundreds of thousands of dollars in one case, and the principal personally guaranteeing return of full capital plus an agreed minimum profit to our investors in another, to avoid us pressing charges against them for offenses that would have included fraud, misrepresentation and breach of fiduciary duty. These types of settlements require meticulous preparation and a solid legal team, but ultimately rely on the strength of our justice system to compel these individuals to honor agreements they would likely have otherwise ignored.
It's never fun when you have to hold someone to task on a commitment that they made and broke, but it can be deeply reassuring when you get to be a part of making the right thing ultimately happen.