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They Just Don't Listen.... - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
They Just Don't Listen....
Clients. As Rolff the Dog once sang, Ya can't live with 'em, ya can't live without 'em.

Almost every week, in a courtroom or hearing room or conference room, I come with clients who are going to testify. Most of these are essentially done under the rules of cross-examination, which means (a) I am not the one asking the questions, (b) the questioner is allowed to ask leading questions and others that may imply answers that are untrue or misleading, and (c) there is little to gain and potentially things to lose if the client strays from what is being asked.  So I always tell them ahead of time to listen carefully to the question, make a brief pause before answering to be sure they understand the question, and most importantly, not to do two things:

* Guess, or
* Blurt.

Guesses only hurt. They can lock you into positions you didn't intend.  It's fine to say "I don't know" or "I'm not sure," because the questioner can (and often will) try to narrow you into a range of answers which at least hurts you less.

Blurting is usually worse.  That's where the witness starts monologuing about something that's beyond the scope of the question, or even is not in response to anything being asked. It's the testimony equivalent of Columbo doing this-

-only they're doing it themselves (and to themselves). So I tell them to stick to the question that's being asked- and to direct to me any blurting they feel the need to do.

Neither of these things works.  Almost always, even if the hearing's only a few minutes, I can circle the word "GUESS" on my Client Bingo card, and they just as often go off the rails with saying things beyond the questions posed that they can only be hurt by saying.


The other day, my ruulz got their comeuppance.


Client had her ten-minute hearing. A week earlier, I was notified of an "inquiry"- nothing implying any bad conduct, just math.  There are picky forms, which I filled out in a certain way, and the office in charge of reviewing them disagreed with and/or questioned how I'd done it.  Without getting into the picayune, it's a matter of A minus B , and if anything is left, A minus C.

A is your income, simple as that.

B is an arbitrary figure based on your state of residence and your family size- bigger family, bigger B.

If B is bigger than A, you're fine. But if A is bigger than B, you then get to add up a whole bunch of other numbers- a lot of them also determined by household size- and subtract them from A to get C.  If C is zero or negative- in other words, all those numbers you added up are bigger than A- you're fine. If not, you figure some other stuff, and you may or not be okay. In ten-plus years of doing this, I've never lost one on grounds connected just to this cookbookery.

Client came out fine the way I did it. The opposing office went through the hearing asking her questions about some items making up the C calculation, and asked us for some documentation of them. All fine, I thought. 

Then she blurted.  After all questions had been asked and answered.  But this, for once, was a good blurt.  Her family size had increased since the case was filed.  She'd never told me this before.  I redid the numbers based on the higher allowances for a plus-one household. With the extra allowance, she's fine- without even having to include any of the expense items they were asking us to document.

Will I still tell them not to blurt? Absolutely. But I will now always ask before going in, is there any one more thing, ma'am? Because my wife....
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