Under Analysis- My wife can spot a good lawyer

  By: Mark Levinson

  My wife thinks I’m a terrific lawyer.  Yeah, yeah I know you’re thinking she just says that to humor me, but I can assure you that Cheryl would not tell me I was good at anything unless she believed it.  I know this as a fact because she has no hesitation informing me of the litany of things I do poorly, like, for instance, cleaning the house, being tactful, or being quiet in the morning.
  You also might think she couldn’t have a valid opinion of my legal prowess, and besides she is my wife.  Or, you might think she believes I’m terrific because I told her so.  Well that might be true.  Nevertheless, my wife can legitimately opine about my legal skills based upon experience.  In fact, my wife has so many legal entanglements she needs a law firm on retainer.
  You see, Cheryl is an inventor, an importer, and owns companies.  She has partners out of state, lawsuits, contracts, intellectual property issues, you name it.
Further, long before Cheryl and I got married, she bought a house in the inner city.  The property included a carriage house – a structure formerly housing a carriage on the lower level and servants on the upper level.  It housed rats when she bought it.
  She purchased the property because she needed a place for her mother who was paralyzed by a flu shot.  Her mother’s medical insurance had run out and Cheryl could not fathom putting her in a nursing home.
  She purchased the house “as-is”.  It had been on the market a long time and Cheryl bought it at a “bargain” price.  That may have ticked off the sellers, or maybe they were just jerks.  They stripped the house of everything they could:  light bulbs, chandeliers, doorknobs, etc.  The swimming pool (which had a winter cover on it when Cheryl made the offer) was filled with dirt.
  So, Cheryl began to make what she called “repairs”, and what the City called “renovations”.  The property had so many code violations Cheryl decided the City had fallen down in its prior code enforcement and “erred” in issuing her an occupancy permit.  According to Cheryl’s application of the law of latches, that gave her the right to do anything she wanted.  For instance, she wanted to expand a deck off the main house to include a ramp for her mother’s wheelchair.  Determining the permitting process too cumbersome,   Cheryl decided to build the ramp without a permit.  There was also a new second floor deck, an outside retaining wall, and any number of other improvements Cheryl didn’t feel the City should be overseeing.  Somebody – certainly not me – might draw the conclusion my wife has issues with anybody exerting even the slightest form of control over her.  She, however, justified her actions based upon Cheryl’s Doctrine of Necessity, whose elements are:  (1) a need to do something; (2) a lack of time or desire to wait for a permit; and (3) judicial notice that all bureaucrats are idiots.
  The City had a different view, and so my future wife visited me in my law office with a couple dozen citations and stop work orders in hand.  We may be married now due to the fact she liked me because I kept her out of jail.
  Then there were the home renovators, individuals that garner even less consumer confidence than lawyers and used car dealers.  Cheryl used three different companies.  In her defense, she only brought two of them to court – and one appearance was an order of protection, after Cheryl irritated a renovator so badly he pulled a gun on her and chased her into the basement.
  Additionally, as if her own issues were not enough, my wife champions many causes for many people, and believes her “Irish temper” gives her a right to crusade against any injustice.  Many of those injustices include someone trying to enforce a rule or a law.  Cheryl often enlists my legal assistance – according to her – to make the world a safer place since my intervention keeps her from maiming people.
  As may now be clear, nuances of the law are not Cheryl’s specialty, and she is constantly telling friends she is sure her lawyer husband can cure their legal problems, no matter how deep a hole they have gotten themselves into.  Of course, Cheryl makes friends every time she leaves the house, so the history or bona fides of some of these friends is not particularly certain.
  I suspect Cheryl’s talks with her “friends” go something like this:  “Oh, you got mad at your boyfriend and burned his house down because he mistreated your dog?  Well, honey, you did the right thing, don’t worry, Mark can handle that”.  Or, “You certainly don’t have to live up to the contract you signed with that thief!  Mark will find a way out for you.”  Or,   “It doesn’t matter that you didn’t file your income tax for the last 20 years.  I’m sure you had a good reason, and Mark has a friend he can call.”
  When I mentioned to Cheryl I was writing this column, as if accepting an Oscar, she thanked me, and then told me she would like to personally thank all of the judges, clerks, prosecutors and bail bondsmen who have assisted her in the past – you all know who you are.

  ©2010 Under Analysis LLC Mark Levison is a member of the law firm Lathrop & Gage LLP.  You can reach Under Analysis LLC in care of this paper or by e-mail at comments@levisongroup.com.


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