Last week Associate slaps some briefing on my desk. "This is our co-defendant's motion for attorney fees," he says. "We need to file an opposition. I talked with the partner and, seriously, we don't think we can get out of this. But make any argument you can think of to try to fight it."
We go through the options... but they all seem like long shots. The judge will know we're just stalling. I decide to do some quick research before I actually start drafting our opposition.
What? What is this? The FIRST case listed in my Westlaw search results touches precisely on our issue. And case law is not only in our favor but it is CLEARLY in our favor. Did the co-defendant's counsel even RESEARCH this issue? Turns out the "attorney fees" our co-defendant demands are actually an element of "damages" to be determined at trial. The judge cannot award these fees, only the jury can determine how much we owe. Thank you Washington Constitution for providing us with the Right to a Jury Trial. OMG. We're going to CREAM them (unless of course, the judge is an idiot- which I hear happens).
After we file our opposition, the associate asks me if I want to accompany him to the hearing. OF COURSE! We show up to court in our unintentionally matching suits and shirts- the uniform of hard core, kick butt attorneys. We find our way through the maze that is the county courthouse (not before I have to relinquish my yogurt to the security guard- you know because my Raspberry Cheesecake yogurt is actually anthrax in disquise) and find our courtroom.
It always amazes me how plain and old looking county courtrooms are. Definately NOT what a court room on primetime television looks like. It also amazes me how formally informal hearings are when you are not at the appellate level. Hey, that judge isn't so scary after all- why did I tremble so much throughout my legal writing oral arguments from 2L year?
The co-defendant's counsel showed up looking like a huge skeeze-ball. Fancy gelled hair, expensive suit and a nasally voice. His hands shook the entire proceeding and he looked nervous but he also looked like he would talk your grandma out of her last pair of clean underpants if given the opportunity.
The judge listened to arguments from both sides then flat out said to co-defendant's counsel, "Your argument is stupid and weak. You fail this hearing and you fail at life." Ok maybe she didn't use those exact words... So in the end, we won a hearing that we had originally thought we would lose by a mile. This is the second briefing I've worked on to go to hearing and the second briefing I've worked on that was successful- I'd say my record is pretty good so far.
We walked out of the court room with the co-defendant's counsel and shared an elevator with him. He tried to save some face by telling us, "Well I had to make SOME argument. I can't believe my boss made me take this one."
The associate I work with looked at him and said, "Yeah, our law clerk's research really put your argument out on a limb. She found the case law. It's all her fault." Suggesting both (1) that it only took a lowly law clerk to bring down their top dogs and (2) that I did a good job.
I just humbly smiled at the co-defendant's counsel and offered a sincere but ironic, "Sorry."