“A Suit Familiar and Remarkable”

Did you read the above-entitled piece, by Benjamin Weiser, on the front page of Sunday’s New York Times Metropolitan Section?

I hope so — especially if you are a plaintiff, or expectant plaintiff. The protagonist, a New York songwriter named Peggy Harley, brought her own case to court. Weiser (a Times journalist who is a lawyer) introduces his piece, thusly: “The lawsuit traversed familiar ground: lesser-known songwriter sues established artist, claiming that her work was poached and turned into a hit song.”

Read the whole thing, because, although Harley actually won her case, it is a high-decibel lesson in what not to do, how not to behave while you pursue a lawsuit. Indeed, Harley won only because a judge eventually listened to two CD’s, one of Harley’s song and one of the song she claimed was ripped from hers, and decided that Harley was right.

Harley did not hire a lawyer. She pursued this case herself. And she behaved foolishly, in what reads like a state of counterproductive hostility to the entire legal system that she requested make her whole.

Although the piece does summarize, in its odd way, general court proceedings in cases such as these, Harley made so many avoidable mistakes, she was sanctioned by a judge and charged with paying the legal bill of one defendant. As Weiser writes,

One particularly exasperated judge observed: “The world is going to end someday, and my job is to try to see that this case gets adjudicated before the world ends.”

If you’re contemplating a side career in plaintiff-cy, read the whole thing. Take notes. I will be testing you on “how many mistakes did this plaintiff make?” and “how many conventional court procedures are mentioned here?” later.


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