Under Analysis: Morsten the arbiter

Charles Kramer, The Levison Group

Michael Morsten practiced law for nine years, barely keeping his head above water, studying little, and accomplishing even less. So, on the last day of his ninth year of practice, he decided to switch professions. Morsten signed up for the four day course on “How to be an Arbiter/Mediator,” taught by the local county bar and set out to become an arbiter and mediator. He completed the course without incident, and applied to the local courts to be placed on their approved lists. Seeing his years of practice and his recently obtained certificate, all courts approved him. Although Morsten was not known to most of the practicing attorneys in his city, he did not have to wait long for his first case. It was brought to him by a former circus employee, who wanted to arbitrate his claim against the circus for wrongful termination. The circus agreed, and the arbitration was scheduled.

On the chosen date, the employee and the head of the circus, Samuel Solomon, along with his lawyer, appeared in Morsten’s office. The employee presented his version of the story first.

“I was employed as the lion tamer’s assistant for 16 years. My job was to clean the cages, feed the animals, and to make sure the big cats behaved while being trained. Everybody always said I did a good job. Three weeks ago, however, the circus hired a new high wire act, the Family Pulaczech, from Czechoslovakia. They were pretty good at what they did, but the youngest boy, Fredrik, was obsessed with our animals and wouldn’t stay away. Don Valiant, the tamer, told him several times to keep his distance, as did I, but every afternoon when I returned to the cages, the boy would be there talking to the lions and trying to get into their cages. Anyway, last week, I returned to the cages just in time to see the boy’s legs sliding down the throat of the biggest male lion. Horrified, I immediately ran to Mr. Solomon, the circus owner, and told him the news. He refused to believe me, however, and both he and the Pulaczech family instead contacted Czechoslovakian authorities to advise them that the boy had run away to defect. When I insisted on what I saw, and said I was going to tell the authorities, they fired me.”

Morsten looked at Mr. Solomon and his lawyer. “And what is your side of the story?” he asked.

The lawyer began to speak for the circus but Solomon stopped him.

“It’s quite simple. If he had told me that the female lioness had eaten the boy, I very well may have believed him. But the Head Lion? Nobody would ever believe that, and despite his years of service we cannot have a known liar on the staff. So, he had to go.”

Morsten took a 10 minute break to review the evidence. When he returned, he ruled immediately. In announcing his decision, he noted that he agreed that after all these years of hearing the excuse, it was not reasonable, as a matter of law, to claim that the Czech was in the male. He ruled for the circus.


Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Charles Kramer is a principal of the St. Louis, Missouri law firm Riezman, Berger, P.C. You may direct comments or criticisms about this column to the Levison Group c/o this newspaper, or direct to the Levison Group via e-mail, at comments@levisongroup.com.
© 2013 Under Analysis L.L.C.