Isaiah 3:13 13 The LORD takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people.
1 John 2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
Every court reporter secretly wants to be a lawyer. There are times when in trial or deposition, I know the court reporter is thinking, “Would you just sit down and let me do it?” I’ve seen lawyers that are so far afield in their thinking about what’s important in a case, lawyers that were so unprepared it was painful to watch, lawyers who could care less about their client’s case (and it showed!). Then again, there are the phenomenal lawyers, and I am blessed to have many of them as clients.
Occasionally, I’ll have to get aggressive when trying to collect payment, and I just hate, hate, hate collections! Every month, I’m on the phone trying to make sure people got their invoices, see if they have a problem with something, etc., etc. Lately, I have sued a couple people that were just literally blowing the invoices off, acting like they didn’t owe them or just didn’t care if they owed them or not. My reporters work on a percentage basis, and if I don’t collect, they don’t get anything, and frankly, that’s just not okay with me. They work very hard, get their transcripts turned around in seven days, and to have to beg to get paid a year later is ridiculous.
This week, I had a hearing coming up in magistrate court against a plaintiff’s firm that had just blown off a couple bills. They had gotten the case continued once a couple months ago, last minute, and this week was our day of reckoning. I got my case prepared, all my documents ready, put on my best “lawyer” attire, and off to court I went. I had my cross examination of this lawyer all prepared as to why he didn’t think he owed the bill, what his defenses were, etc. He shows up about the time the hearing should start, slides into the bench beside me, and says, “Now, what is it going to take to get this thing to go away?”
I say, “Get your checkbook out, and it will be gone in an instant.” He laughs and says he doesn’t owe the bill. Now mind you, we are sitting very close to each other on a bench, legs touching, faces about five inches from each other, the public all around. I said, “What do you mean, you don’t owe it?” He says, “I didn’t authorize this expense. I don’t hire court reporters. I never, ever hire a court reporter, and I didn’t hire one on this occasion, so I don’t owe it.”
I pull the invoice out, and his firm did in fact hire us, even expedited the transcript because their trial was coming up. I had been told by his associate who used to work for him that the client didn’t win and wouldn’t pay the expenses, so that was why we weren’t getting paid. I said, “Your firm did hire us – even expedited it – and do you understand what happens when you expedite something? That means my reporter goes home, stops doing whatever her family needs her to do, and she does whatever YOU asked her to do.” And then you just can’t find it in your heart to pay her for her work?
He keeps insisting he doesn’t owe me, that this young associate who worked for him didn’t really work for him but had this deal if he brought in money, the firm got money – if he didn’t bring in any money, then the firm didn’t make anything. Therefore, he made nothing, so he doesn’t owe anything. I look at him, my mouth agape. “So because you lost your case, my court reporter gets stiffed?” Let me make sure I understand this.
“Well, she’s not getting stiffed – she just isn’t going to get paid, because I don’t owe her anything. My client might owe her something, but not me.” I pull out the case law all across the country that is right on point that when a lawyer orders a transcript, the obligation to pay is between the attorney and the reporter, not the client and reporter. The reporter doesn’t even know who the client is half the time, much less have any communication or agreement about paying the bill. The law is clear that the attorney owes.
He can get out of that one also. It’s not him – it’s this young attorney. I should go after him. I say, “He worked for you at the time, so it is YOU, your firm, that owes.” “Oh, no, no, it’s not me, it’s him personally.” I say, “Did he or did he not have a business card with your firm name on it?” “Well, yes.” “Then he worked for you, he is your agent, and you are stuck. You owe this bill – why don’t you just pay it?”
Well, the stories began to roll – he’s a corporation and I should have served him through the Secretary of State, not personally. If that didn’t work, he got a divorce and didn’t have any money – his house was for sale and his beach house is for sale and all he got was his kids and his Harley. You name it, he had an excuse. We are sitting here arguing for 20 minutes so far. He says, “Well, just give me a continuance and I’ll try to get some money out of the young associate and see if that works.” I said, “NO, you have continued this once and I’m ready – I’ve got case law and I’ve got a statute that says the court reporter can’t work on a contingency fee, and I’m ready to go. NO continuance.”
The bill we were arguing over was around $650.00. He says, “I’ve got two $100.00 bills in my pocket – I’ll give you those and we’ll be done.” I just about came unglued. I said, “You know what? Your sob story does not touch what happened to my court reporter this year, and I am not going to give her work away for free just because you want to come up with every excuse in the world not to pay her. She deserves better than this!” He says, “I can see you’re really into this – don’t you have enough money anyway?” I said, “Yes, I do – but SHE DOESN’T, and I won’t make a penny off this mess – having taken two days off work already, gotten the paperwork ready, pulled hair out just getting the suit filed, paying out $90.00 just to file it. The more he said he didn’t owe, the madder I was getting.
Long, long 45-minute story later (in which he said even though I was getting heated, I had good legs), we settled for $500.00 in 45 days. He offers to shake on it, and I say, “No, you’re going to write me out something saying you’re going to pay it.” He says, “You don’t trust my word?” I say, “Well, you just told me you didn’t have a good reputation and you didn’t care to take this sob story in to the judge and let him and the public see that you don’t pay your bills. You just put it in writing.” He writes me out a little note saying he will pay me in 45 days, signs his name. Then he waits a minute, grabs the pen again and puts below his signature “(UNDER PROTEST).” I literally laughed out loud – “Just had to get the last word in, didn’t you?” “Well, it IS under protest.” Whatever.
And what spiritual lesson is there in this? I have thought about this so much this week. As I think about this situation, I realize it is EXACTLY what our Lord does for us – he is OUR ADVOCATE. When we can’t make our way, Jesus intervenes for us, he does the arguing for us – he goes to God and begs for us for the things we deserve, regardless of the circumstances. He is our advocate against satan, arguing for us when we’re so messed up, we can’t think to hold our strength up against the wiles of the devil. The devil can get us so confused, he can put reasons and excuses into our lives, story after story of why we’re so defeated, so depressed, make such bad choices, why we’re not living up to our potential and doing right.
But you know what Jesus is doing? He’s going to our Father, reminding him of what we deserve, all the goodness that God has for us, and the fact that the work has been done to pay for it – it is paid in full, and all we have to do is claim it! Always remember, you have that advocate, the one who will fight for you when you can’t fight for yourself! Seek Him …..
My name is Teresa Evans. I am a wife to Tom, a retired Circuit Judge, and I am a court reporter by trade, a mother by God's grace and a lover of Jesus Christ. I've grown up in a family blessed with many miracles, and have received multiple miracles myself.