It wasn't the best of times, but it still wasn't bad

Many of us remember the old curse: "May you live in interesting times." This is not to be confused with the curse mothers put on their children: "May your kids be just like you." Almost as mean, but not quite. In any event, the last couple weeks have been interesting here in the Levison Towers.

I recently argued in the Court of Appeals. It was a tough case for me. It was a novel matter for the court, and I violated the first rule of appellate advocacy - be the respondent. Having lost in the trial court, I was on appeal with my hat in my hand.

The court often visits guest locations and my argument took place at a local law school's new building. The setting was perfect - beautiful courtroom packed with law students behind me and the judges in front. To make things better, the school provided snacks.

The judges' chairs were sunk below the bench. Two of the three women sitting there left theirs down, which meant I was peeking at their eyes and the tops of their heads only. They were ninja justices. The third, who grilled me even when she was a trial judge, raised her chair. I don't know whether it was the snacks or the audience, but I escaped her lasers, mostly unscathed.

Appellate opinions come down on Tuesdays and usually take weeks after argument. This opinion arrived on the Tuesday right after argument, and was in my client's favor. This either means my oral advocacy was incredibly persuasive, or that they had made up their minds well before my appearance. While I like to think it was the former, I doubt it.

I got the appellate opinion while I was in the middle of a jury trial. It was a tough one and I appreciated the good energy. My 80-year-old client had fallen in a casino and was suing for his injuries. Fall down cases are hard under the best of circumstances and the county where I tried the case was not the best of circumstances.

The defendant knew this and offered us nothing. Actually they asked us to dismiss and apologize, but we refused. This is a liberating situation for a trial lawyer that lets us swing for the fences since we have nothing to lose. The jury came back after three days in my client's favor.

Any victory surprises me. I'm an optimist, but I know that the insurance companies have way more data to analyze cases than I do. Most times when they offer us nothing, the jury agrees.

Two victories in one week is well above my average. I didn't know what to do next. Some folks suggested that I buy a lottery ticket. (I did. The fact that you're reading this column, Gentle Reader, lets you know how that turned out.) Others suggested that karma evens things out. You can say you don't believe in karma but it is a lot like gravity. Reality does not require belief.

For the rest of the week everything seemed to go right. Good hair days. Close parking spaces. No tie versus coffee mishaps.

I started to get worried. The universe strives for balance and if things go too well for too long, there has to be an equalizer. Finally, on Monday, it came.

I was trying to load a suit into the back of my car to take to the office. My hands were full so I put my coffee and cell phone on top of the car. I remembered to grab my coffee before I drove off.

About three blocks from my house I heard a thump. I thought I'd hit something but saw nothing in the rearview mirror. Then my car told me that it had disconnected from my phone. I felt sick.

I mock the technologically impaired because I worship at the altar of electronics. I kept my credit cards in a little electronic device on the back of my cell phone. Along with my driver's license. If my cell phone is more than 3 feet away I have an involuntary tick in my left eye. The tick was now so bad that I could barely see to pull the car over and look for my phone.

I spent the next hour and a half tromping around in the woods looking for my precious. The rainy season made it more slogging than tromping. No luck.

My smart watch has a "find lost phone" function. It didn't. Since my phone has a GPS, I called the carrier to find it. Fun fact Gentle Reader - the GPS requires the phone to be turned on, and flying from the back of a car tends to break it. And turn it off.

I gave up and went to the DMV to apply for a replacement license and then to the office to cancel credit cards and order a new phone. I did it all with an idiot smile on my face though. It was still a pretty good week. And I got a new phone.

Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column of the Levison Group. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St. Louis, Missouri. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent to this newspaper or directly to the Levison Group via e-mail at

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Published: Fri, Apr 17, 2015