Stupid mistake I made nearly caused me to lose a case

Stupid mistake I made nearly caused me to lose a caseA picture of a hazard sign with the words, "The stupid mistake that nearly caused me to lose a case"

I want to tell you about a stupid mistake I made that was almost very costly.

I tried to take a shortcut and it almost blew up in my face. 

One day, I had a very important hearing in a big case about four hours away from my home. The trial was early in the morning and I did not want to wake up at 4:00 AM to drive four hours before presenting my case. 

So, I decided to go down the night before and stay in a hotel close to the courthouse. I had looked the address up on Google and Apple maps, so I knew where the courthouse was. Unfortunately, I was unable to leave work until around 8:00 PM. Because I left so late, I arrived at my hotel near midnight. 

Instead of going by the courthouse to make sure I knew where it was, I decided to go on to my hotel and sleep. I knew I was close to the courthouse because I had found it on maps, so it was no big deal. I get some sleep so I can refocus on my argument for court. 

Morning arrives. I pull up the courthouse on my maps app and arrive in plenty of time. Then I used my extra time to sit in my car and review my thoughts.

I enter the courthouse and notice something odd. There was no security. Normally every courthouse in Alabama has security and sheriffs deputies. It is similar to going through airport security. 

I approach someone else to ask for directions to my courtroom. 

“Oh, this is the old courthouse. You want the new courthouse.”

They told me where the new courthouse was, but I still could not find it on my Google or Apple maps. 

Fortunately, this person gave me directions and I was able to find the new courthouse. 

I rushed through. Thankfully, security was quick. 

I arrived minutes before the judge came out.

This is not the state of mind you want to be in before presenting your case. 

I had been running upstairs, out of breath, wearing a mask.

If the judge calls your case and you are not there, you could lose your entire case. 

Fortunately, in my case, it worked out. I arrived before the judge, we won, and everything was great in the end. 

BUT… it could have been much worse. 

I once saw someone show up to court an hour late. They thought they were on time. The judge ruled against the late person and would not change his mind because they were late. 

I have told people many times, go to the court before your date.

Find the judge’s courtroom if you can.

Because I had been years ago and I knew what google or Apple maps said, I thought everything was perfect.

However, I was wrong.

Do not do what I did. Do not take shortcuts. 

I was tired when I got to the hotel. But I should have taken the extra ten minutes to confirm. I should have called ahead. 

You may have only one case in the county courthouse and you know where it is. 

But I can say, after traveling all over the state for multiple courthouses, sometimes they are doing renovations and you don’t know until you arrive and see a sign pointing you to another location. 

Often, court notices do not have an address on them. It may simply be a PO box. 

Even though you are really confident, call ahead and ask. Write down the address. Go there before your hearing. 

It is easy to get overconfident and skip a small step.

Don’t skip the small steps. Do the work. Be methodical. Make sure you are right. 

Whether you are the lawyer or you are a client representing yourself, you want to be able to walk in that courtroom without any additional stress. 

“There are no small cases, only small lawyers.”

Every case is important. Stress is natural. Don’t pile on more unnecessary stress. 

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Thanks and have a great day!


John Watts

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