Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Brekke v. Wills (Cal. Ct. App. - January 25, 2005)

There are some cases that an attorney just shouldn't take on appeal. This is one of them.

A 15-year old boy is going out with a 16-year old girl, and the mother of the girl -- for good reason, in my view -- very much doesn't like the boy. So the mother tries to get her daughter to stop seeing the boy. In response, the boy writes some disturbing letters to the girl that are designed to be read by the mother, who's apparently routinely searching her daughter's room. The mother finds the letters, reads them, and then goes to court to seek a restraining order to stop the boy from having any contact with the girl. 'Cause the letters are allegedly violent and harassing -- and are indisputably far from polite.

Now, I don't have a real problem with counsel (retained by the boy's parents) representing the boy at trial and trying to avoid a restraining order. The boy's parents (who, parenthetically, I think Justice Scotland's opinion unduly harshes on) think that entering a restraining order will just fuel their son's irrationality -- in a "Romeo and Juliet" sort of way -- and ask the mother to drop the suit so the parents can work it out themselves. But the mother doesn't agree. Fair enough. I could see an attorney agreeing with the boy's parents and trying to avoid the issuance of a restraining order. But the attorney -- Freda Pechner -- is unsuccessful, and the court indeed issues a restraining order.

That's when, in my view, the attorney should bow out. Not that it's unethical or anything; after all, everyone is entitled to an advocate. But that advocate doesn't have to be me -- or any other particular attorney, for that matter. Instead, Pechner continues the case and files an appeal that (in my view) only makes matters worse by lengthening the conflict and by trying to turn it into a grand constitutional dispute about the boy's free speech right to harass the mother. Which it ain't. It's an immature child throwing a temper tantrum with adult consequences. Let it go. If the child wants to continue to throw his tantrum, he can brief the case himself.