It’s disturbing enough when the ‘leader’ of our nation and Congress display the kind of ignorance of the limits placed on their power by the Constitution, but when I see members of the judiciary who also fail to comprehend that there are limits on their powers, I grow truly alarmed. When I see other members of the bar who are completely oblivious to the usurpation of this power, I am disgusted.
I had court this morning, and I had been order to draft an order continuing my motion until a later date. As I drafted my motion, the judge took the next matter. A divorce where the parties involved were, predictably, arguing over attorney’s fees, with the usual allegations of chicanery and game playing by one spouse who allegedly controlled the finances, real estate, and had some businesses. As the story unfolded, it came out that “evil spouse” had partners in their business, and that the accountants had found a business account with several tens of thousands of dollars in it.
After listening to the parties make their case about how one was bleeding the other dry, and the other was greedy and evil for not paying the bleeder’s legal fees, despite paying a hefty amount in child support, spousal maintenance, and the house payment (think more than my monthly salary), the judge stopped the argument.
Then he ruled. He confirmed that the accountants had found the business account with the tens of thousands of dollars in it, and ordered that fifteen thousand dollars be paid to the bleeder’s attorney as attorney’s fees, within ten days, and if there was no cooperation in doing this from the evil spouse, he would appoint someone and vest them with the authority to get into the account and draw out the money.
By this point, his honor had my rapt attention as I waited for an explanation of how he justified this seizure of funds from the account of a separate entity that did not owe the fees he was assessing, but no explanation was offered. Evil Spouse’s counsel was preoccupied with the details of the future events of the case, as they were withdrawing to move out-of-state; it never even occurred to him that the court did not have jurisdiction over the business or its accounts. The bleeder’s attorney didn’t bring it up; they were going to get paid. None of the other attorneys in the courtroom appeared to be paying attention.
After the judge signed my order, and I made copies for myself and the opposing party, I passed the attorneys in the hall talking to the accountants. I successfully fought the urge to flip my card to evil spouse’s attorney and say “When your client’s partner wants to challenge the court’s decision to steal from him, have him call me.”
When trial court judges don’t know or refuse to abide by the limits on their power, then we are truly in bad shape as a society.