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204 - The 4 Truths That Exist in Every Courtroom

204 - The 4 Truths That Exist in Every Courtroom Image

07/20/2021 4:00 pm

In this show, Leh and Todd talk about the Four Truths that exist in every courtroom in a divorce or family law case. And, they break down the 6 things you can do to make sure that your truth is the one that is the one that the Court accepts.

The 4 truths are:

  1. Your truth,

  2. Your spouse's truth,

  3. The actual truth, and

  4. The only truth that matters - what the judge (or jury in some cases) thinks is the truth.




The 6 things you can do to help the Judge adopt your truth are:


  1. Maintain Self-awareness and Accept the 4 truths regardless of the fairness.

  2. Hire an attorney that knows the Judge

  3. Listen to your attorney

  4. If you can, choose a mediator that knows the Judge and can give you some great reality checking

  5. Get a case evaluation from another lawyer who is familiar with the Judge

  6. Testify with Humility




Transcript

Leh Meriwether: Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. We are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by The Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether & Tharp. Here, you will learn about divorce, family law, and from time to time, even tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis. If you'd like to read more about us, you can always check us out online at Atlantadivorceteam.com.

Todd, Leh, I love how we are resolution-focused at Meriwether & Tharp.

Todd Orston: Yeah. It's kind of a core philosophy for us. And it makes sense. It makes sense for us. It makes sense for our clients. But I agree with you. It's something I know we believe wholeheartedly in.

Leh Meriwether: Yep. And I wanted to spend some time today to talk about part of the reason why we are resolution-focused. Now, in a roundabout sort of way, we are going to talk about what happens when you go to court. And to be clear, just because a lawyer may be resolution-focused or wants to mediate a case as soon as possible doesn't mean that he or she is afraid of the courtroom. Doesn't mean that they're afraid to go to court and battle it out for you.

The issue is there are challenging in presenting a case in court. And so, today's show is going to illustrate some of those challenges.

Todd Orston: Yeah. Absolutely. And just because you can fight doesn't mean you should fight. And that applies to so many aspects of what we do in our lives, right? And so, are there more litigious attorneys? Yes. Are there attorneys that just don't like going to court? Yes. They're really good at negotiating settlements, but if things ramp up ... And there's nothing wrong with that, right? We've received referrals from attorneys who, basically, things ramped up and they were like, "Look, this is going to get ugly, and that's not something that I handle, so I'm sending this client over to you."

But just because you can fight doesn't mean you have to turn into something ugly. So, that's what we mean by resolution-focused. We are always looking to resolve. We are always looking to avoid the big fight. And I say this so often, and if anyone's listening who has spoken to me on the phone, they could verify. I say that we adhere to that Teddy Rooseveltian rule of, "Walk tall, carry a big stick." And what that means to me ... And by the way, Teddy was kind of a monster, so I'm just taking this one statement.

But, that, to me, means just because I have the stick doesn't mean I have to hit you with it.

Leh Meriwether: I thought he said, "Walk softly but carry a big stick." Did I misquote that?

Todd Orston: Yeah. You know what? He was walking, he had a stick. You know? See? We're resolution-focused. We're going to work this out, Leh. But basically, it's, "Just because we've got the stick doesn't mean we have to use it." Just because we are litigators doesn't mean we have to drag every client into court, into a court battle. We need to resolve through mediation, through other processes and other systems that we have in place in order to try and avoid the big fight.

Leh Meriwether: Yep. So, we're going to talk about, today, what happens when it doesn't get resolved and you have to go to court. In particular, we're going to talk about the four truths that exist in every courtroom. And I have found over the years that one of the toughest things that clients have to accept or have to deal with is the reality of the four truths. We all experience life through our own experiences, and those experiences shape how we process information and events. And as an attorney, that reality plays itself out exquisitely clear in a courtroom.

I mean, I've been in court and I have watched a husband and wife testify, and it can be mind-boggling. I sit back and go, "Were they married to each other? Because I'm hearing that their marriage ... I mean, these stories are so opposite. There's no way they were married to each other. They had two separate marriages." But they'd experienced life so differently, they were telling their story and they each believed it to be true, but the difference in the story was just crazy. Was mind-boggling. That's the best word for it.

As an observer, you might be saying, "Well, at least one of them is telling the truth, right?" And sometimes the judge is sitting up there going, "I don't believe either of them."

Todd Orston: Yep, right.

Leh Meriwether: And the clients are saying, "He's lying!" Or, "She's lying! It never happened like that." And each of them are in utter disbelief that the other is saying what they're saying. And so, you can see both of them saying, "You're lying!" And they firmly believe it.

Todd Orston: Well, we see that very often. And sometimes people are ... What's the word? Lying. But, we have had many cases, and I have, myself, experienced through representing clients, situations where it ... You're looking and your client is saying, "That's a lie," but you're watching the other party and it's like they fervently believe what they're saying is true. And so, I agree with you.

And just because the other side is lying, I tell clients all the time, "Be prepared," meaning when you walk into court, don't be surprised by what you hear the other side say. And so, unfortunately though, you're right. It's a matter of perspective. Every one thinks of things differently and has experienced things differently, so their truth may be different from your spouse's truth.

Leh Meriwether: So, let's talk about the four truths, and then what you can do about them. So, the four truths are your truth, your spouse's truth, the actual truth because there really is an actual truth, and then the only truth that matters when you're in the courtroom, what does the judge, or in some small cases, the jury, thinks is the truth? Because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what your truth, her truth, his truth, the truth is, it's whatever the person that's deciding your case thinks the truth is.

And so, that is the challenge, and that is where so many clients I've seen struggle. They tell their story ... And a lot of times their story is the truth. I mean, they have ... Yes, they've processed it through their experiences, but their version of the truth is extremely close to the actual truth, and the other side is lying. We've seen that happen before. But when they get in the courtroom and just see how the truth may not come out, it's heartbreaking. It's frustrating, especially when you sit there as the attorney. I've sat there as an attorney, so I know my clients have been frustrated. I've sat there as an attorney and go, "Wow. They are telling this story that is so far from the actual truth it's not even funny."

Todd Orston: Yeah. And that's ... No. I was just going to say, and that's where evidence comes in. It's not just, "What's your story?" Because if it's just your story versus the other party's story, then the court's going to figure out what story they believe. Maybe it's his story, her story, somewhere in the middle. Whatever. But, it's going to come down to, "All right. What can you prove?" That's a topic for a different show, but you're right. And we walk into court all the time, and everyone's presenting what their truths are, and one person is sitting there, forced to decide who's credible. "Who am I going to believe?"

I mean, the judge wasn't there when the argument happened, wasn't there when something was said or done, or whatever. And again, it's not just what you say, it's what can you prove because the court is sitting as exactly what they're called, a judge. Judging to decide, "Who should I believe here? Who should I give benefit of the doubt to?" And that's where credibility and all these other issues that we talk about all the time, anything you've done that could destroy or damage your credibility in the eyes of the court, that can really hurt you. It can really hurt your case.

But now, if you go in thinking within this structure that we're talking about, that you do have your truth but you have to acknowledge the other side has a truth. Somewhere in the middle maybe, or maybe closer to you, there's the actual truth. And then, what can we show and prove to the court so that that becomes the truth they believe in? And that's a really great framework when you're dealing with these types of legal issues.

Leh Meriwether: Yep. So, we're going to address this four truth challenge in two different ways. So, the first way is today's show. We're going to talk about six ways that you can help move your truth closer to the judge's truth. And we're going to talk about that today in more of a holistic mindset sort of way. And then, we're going to have another show later where we're talking about evidence. Like, getting evidence in that's going to help persuade the court to believe your story. And there's challenges when it comes to evidence. We're going to spend a whole nother show on that one, but don't say, "Well, I'm going to put this one on pause and I'm going to wait for the next show," because this one is just as important because the court can look at evidence ... For instance, a video of you. Maybe you catch your spouse doing something with a video, and the court can go, "You know what? They didn't know you were recording them."

Let's say it's a legal recording. "They didn't know you were recording them. You set them up to say that." So, you may capture the evidence that you need to win your case, but because of the way it was presented in the courtroom, well, the judge just writes it off, creates an excuse for the other side. And that's why what we're going to talk about today, the six ways you can help move the truth, that's why this is so important. We're going to get into those six things when we come back.

I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1 AM on Monday mornings, WSB. So, you can always check us out there as well.

Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess, right? You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back everyone. This is Leh and Todd and we are co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at Atlantadivorceteam.com. If you want to read a transcript of this show or go back and listen to it again, you can find it at divorceteamradio.com.

All right. Today, we're talking about the four truths that exist in every courtroom. While many lawyers are resolution-focused and try to settle your case, there are some that just can't be settled, and you've got to go to court. Or, maybe you're wondering, "Why shouldn't I go to court? Why should I settle?" Well, we're breaking down the four truths, which is your truth, her truth or his truth, your spouse's truth, I should say ...

Your truth, your spouse's truth, the actual truth, and then, the only truth that matters, what does the judge think is the truth? So, that creates a big challenge because your story might be the actual true story about what happened in your marriage and what got you to this divorce, but if you don't do the right things in the courtroom because that's your one shot, the judge might believe a different story, and that's what you don't want to have happen.

So, let's start with the first one that often is a challenge for people to get past.

Todd Orston: I agree.

Leh Meriwether: So, the first one is maintain self-awareness and accept the four truths regardless of the fairness, because I've seen people just get so upset that it wasn't fair that the other side was lying, in this case. They just felt it was so unfair that they were just lying, or they were masters at manipulating the truth. You see that.

Probably, the book that explains it the best way when you're dealing with someone that perhaps has a personality disorder is Splitting written by Bill Eddy. He's been a former guest on our show, twice. And we actually want to have him to come back on and talk about this book in particular, but you can have some people that they tell their story with a lot of emotion behind it. And even though the story is an absolute fabrication, it is incredibly believable when the judge is meeting two people for the very first time. And they've been married for 20 years, and maybe there's an emergency hearing in front of the judge. And so, the judge has three, four hours to decide what to do with these two parties, and the one that is the more persuasive in the story-telling, oddly enough, because of their personality disorder, can often sway the judge.

But maintaining self-awareness, and that these are part of the four truths, you can ultimately win in the end, and that's what the book, Splitting, is talking about. Time is on your side. You have to be able to grit your teeth and bear through maybe a bad ruling at the beginning of the case, knowing that you're going to have a positive one at the end because the truth comes out through the course of time.

Todd Orston: Yeah. I agree. Obviously, I agree 100%, because, look, we experience the same feelings. We believe our client's truth. We go into court. We present what we believe is the truth. We hear the other side talking. I've had clients come out of their chairs. Don't do that in court.

But, I have had clients come out of their chairs because they're just dumbfounded. They get angry. I can't believe what the other party is saying.

Leh Meriwether: And sometimes they're saying, "He gets angry all the time."

Todd Orston: Right, yeah. But the problem is that you have to go into this hoping for the best but expecting the worst. And you have your truth. Embrace that truth. Own that truth. All right? Be ready to present and discuss and describe that truth. That's fine. But, when something else contrary to that truth is presented, you can't let it get the better of you. All right?

Coming out of your chair in court, everything you've said at that point about how the other side is the angry one, if they've said one time that you're the angry one, now the court has seen you lose control.

Leh Meriwether: Right.

Todd Orston: And so, there are primary and secondary effects of you not maintaining that self-awareness, understanding what your goals are, and understanding that you're going to walk that high road. And I know there are some people who are like ... You know, the people who walk the high road, they're the ones who don't get ahead. They're the ones who ... So, "Fine. I'm going to tell the truth. The other side is going to go and tell lies, and I'm going to get my you-know-what handed to me by the court." All right? You have to trust in the process and trust that if you present your truth the right way with the right evidence, then hopefully that's going to become the court's truth, the judge will adopt that, and hopefully that will benefit you in the end.

Leh Meriwether: And sometimes you're maintaining that self-awareness and knowledge that you could ... Just going back to what you said, Todd, you can do everything right and it still come out adversely against you. Now, keep in mind, I'm talking about you go through the court process, and often, the court process with a family violence hearing, or a temporary hearing, or some sort of hearing at the beginning of the case.

And you may not get a result in that first hearing, but by maintaining your self-awareness, you can say, "Okay. I knew this was a possibility, but this is not a final. This is a temporary situation. Now I know what I need to do to win on a final basis before the judge." And if you get angry, or lose your cool, or change lawyers midstream, something like that, that can set you down a path where you won't be successful at a final. And that's why we wanted to make that number one, self-aware that these four truths can happen and sometimes you can get an unfair verdict at the beginning of a case. Sometimes at the end.

But, if you follow our advice, and we have a whole show talking about the right attitude to have in the court process, and listen to that show, you follow us, you're increasing your likelihood of having a successful outcome in the courtroom.

And that's what this information is for, to increase the likelihood of having ... Well, number one, having a positive resolution to your case without going to court, but in the alternative, if that's not possible, that you are prepared to present your case in court and have the best possible outcome.

Todd Orston: Yeah. And let me tell you this very quickly before we go on. Leh and I, not because we're bad spouses, and we've made this bad joke before, but we've had the benefit of going through scores of divorces. And what we see ...

And I'll speak for myself, and Leh, chime in. What I see is that emotion, the anger that comes with these types of cases, does absolutely nothing to help you. All it's going to do is increase the strife and the conflict. It's going to increase the cost, and depending on your level of anger, it could even impact the ultimate rulings, whether they be temporary, emergency or final rulings. It could have a negative impact on what the court thinks about you and your case, your story.

And so, you need to understand that when we're talking about these things, we have the benefit of having seen so many people go through it. Some stay calm, some don't, some get angry, some stay calm. And we see the impact that it has. And you know what? Many, many, many cases settle outside of court. Sometimes it takes weeks. Sometimes it takes months. Sometimes, unfortunately, it takes years. It depends on the level of conflict, the issues. Sometimes the issues are so serious, you can't avoid them.

But, I'm just telling you, oftentimes when the emotions are running high, when parties are just getting caught up in, "They're lying!" And, "They're this," and "They're that," and it's name-calling and all of that, once the dust settles, once everyone calms down, that's when we can get to a resolution. That's when we can get to an agreement, and there's nothing that's changed other than people have put their non-literal weapons down and they're just ready to talk. They're ready to be reasonable.

Leh Meriwether: Right. So, number two of the six ways you can help move your truth closer to the judge's truth is hire an attorney that knows the judge. There's an old saying, "A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the judge."

Todd Orston: Now, before we go into a break, let me be very clear: What we're not saying in any way is find somebody who has some improper relationship with a judge. That's not ... Or, has some improper influence over a judge. That's not what we're saying. But, sometimes, people have heard, "Oh, you go into that court, you're going to get home cooked." Well, what does that mean?

I'm one of the first people to say, "Eh, that doesn't happen as often ..." But it does happen. You walk into a courtroom as an attorney, you walk into a courtroom and you've never been in front of that court and you're standing up against Mr. or Mrs. Attorney Of That County, I'm a little worried, only because I don't know if the court will find them more credible than me because they have built up that level of trust.

So, that's what we mean when we say, "Find someone who has some experience with that judge."

Leh Meriwether: And sometimes it's a matter of, they know what the judge wants to hear. They know what the judge likes, what the judge doesn't like. And so, it looks like someone may have gotten home-cooked, but it really turned out that the lawyer on the other side knew how to present the evidence so that their client's truth was closer to the judge's truth.

And when we come back, we're going to continue to break down the six ways to move your truth closer to the judge's truth.

Todd Orston: Hey, everyone. You're listening to our podcast, but you have alternatives, you have choices. You can listen to us live, also, at 1:00 AM on Monday morning on WSB.

Leh Meriwether: If you're enjoying the show, we would love it if you could go rate us in iTunes or wherever you may be listening to it. Give us a five-star rating and tell us why you like the show.

Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh and Todd and we are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at Atlantadivorceteam.com. And if you want to read a transcript of this show or go back and listen to it again, you can find it at divorceteamradio.com.

You know, Todd, today, as we're talking about the four truths, I remember a story about you. This is when you were opposing counsel in a case.

Todd Orston: I was young. I needed the money. What are you talking about? I ...

Leh Meriwether: No! But, I remember, the attorney that was going up against you in a case ... So, this was not a case I had against you. You were presenting the case, and I remember the associate sitting next to the partner that was handling the case and going, "What's he talking about? Is this ... Does he have the wrong facts?" And you didn't. You were just trying to craft a story that was very favorable to your client. Unfortunately, your client didn't have a very good story to support theirs.

But, you were really crafting a wonderful tale. And it threw off the associate. Now, the partner was ready for it.

Todd Orston: Yes. Yes, he was. And so was the judge.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. But if you had been going up against the associate, they would have been thrown because you presented a completely different truth.

Todd Orston: Yeah. She was ... I know what you're talking about, and she actually was funny because years later, after I joined the firm, actually, she basically was like, "I was sitting there listening to you and I started believing you until I realized I did hours of research on that point and you were just wrong." And I was like, "Yeah. Well, I get it. Hey look, you won, so ..." Anyway.

But yes. I mean, obviously, there was no misleading information that I was providing.

Leh Meriwether: No, you weren't lying about anything.

Todd Orston: But my client had a certain story, and I was presenting that story, and the court was then put in that position of, "Whose story should I believe?" And let's just say, my client's story was not believed.

Leh Meriwether: But you did a masterful job. It goes back to what we were talking about, the number two of the six ways to help move your truth closer to the judge's truth, or vice versa, is hiring an attorney that knows the judge, and hiring the right attorney, too, that can tell a very persuasive story. That kind of goes without saying.

But, the attorney that knows the judge can craft the story that the judge wants to hear. And that's where I was going with that in bringing up that old story.

Todd Orston: And that judge ... Just to build on that story. That was a judge I enjoyed being in front of, I was in front of all the time. And so, I'm not going to lie, my comfort level, knowing what the judge wanted to hear and how to present the argument and present the story, I found, was a benefit. And so, the bottom line was, as a litigator, am I more comfortable walking in front of a judge with whom I have experience in front of whom I have experience than somebody where I'm just walking in cold, have never been there?

Yeah. Now, of course, I've been doing this for years, I can walk in front of anyone and I'm going to do my job, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it's more of a wildcard. I don't know what that court wants, how they like their evidence presented.

And I'm not going to lie, there have been times over the years, especially when I was younger, when I walked in front of a judge, had never been in front of that judge, and I realized after the fact, "That's not how they like certain things presented." And it became a learning process. But, anyway.

Leh Meriwether: So, if you can find an attorney that knows the judge and knows how to craft a story for that judge ... And when I say, "Craft a story," I am not saying we're lying or misrepresenting the facts, but facts, you can tell two different stories with the same set of facts.

So, all right. In that, I just want to say, if you can't afford an attorney and you're representing yourself and you don't have a clue what this judge is like, you can go to the courtroom, and sit in the courtroom, and watching hearings and trials because courts, at least here in Georgia, they are considered open. And you can go and watch the judge that will be deciding your case to learn about what it's like. And I would recommend that, if you're afraid. But that's it for now. We got to keep going.

Whats number three?

Todd Orston: All right. So, number three would be: Listen to your attorney. We just got done talking about, hire somebody who understands the system, understands the court and the judge. But, have trust in your attorney. And Leh, I will say, you started going down this path a little bit in the sense that you made a comment about changing attorneys.

Look, if you don't have trust in your attorney if its been earned, that lack of trust has been earned ... If you don't have trust simply because you don't understand the system and need further education, that's different. But, if you trust your attorney, then listen to your attorney because ...

It doesn't mean you don't have a voice. It doesn't mean your opinions don't matter. It's your case, but at the end of the day, that would be like saying ... I just got into a horrible accident and the emergency room doctor is sitting over you, and you're like, "Listen, I see what you're planning on doing. Let me tell you what I think." And the doctor's like, "Can I get your leg sewn back on, please? Just trust me."

At some point, you just got to trust, all right? You should figure that out well before you're in court, meaning whether or not you have that trust and whether or not you're going to be able to listen to the advice of your attorney.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And many people will misinterpret their lawyer criticizing their story or the presentation of the story as they're not advocating for you, they're not going to fight for you in the courtroom. Rarely is that ever the case. Normally, the fact that they are challenging your story saying, "Yeah. I don't think the judge is ... The judge isn't going to like how you're presenting it."

And by the way, there are certain mannerisms you're presenting as you tell your story that are going to turn off this judge. They're telling you that because they want you to win. And if you do things that they know are going to irritate the judge, then you will not win even if the law and the facts are on your side. So, that's why it's so important to listen to your attorney.

All right. Let's get to the next one. We, actually, I think, had a whole show on listening to your lawyer.

Todd Orston: Yep. Absolutely. All right. So, then, how about this?

Let's move from attorneys to mediators, right? We've been talking about how we can reach an agreement. If you can, choose a mediator that knows the judge, that knows how the judge deals with certain issues and can give you some really great, what we call, "reality-checking."

Leh Meriwether: So, mediators aren't supposed to give their opinions through mediation, but they can reality-check. Like, "Well, I've heard these things about this judge. Knowing that, do you think the judge is likely to believe your story?" Or, "Do you think the judge is likely to award that kind of alimony knowing that, in these other cases that I've heard about or I've been in front of a judge, the judge hasn't done that?"

They can't say, "I don't think the judge is going to do that." They're not allowed to say that, unless ... I guess you could give them permission. But they're supposed to be neutrals. But you want a mediator to challenge you.

And there was a case, years ago, where ... It wasn't mine. It was somebody else in the firm. And it was a mediator we actually trusted, and the mediator really thought our case was very weak. They thought it was weak. And they said ... And it was done in a form of reality checking. So, I'm not saying this mediator was violating the rules by which they were mediating, but they were saying, "Look, I think the court's going to have trouble ..." I'm shortening how they said it.

"I think the court's going to have trouble accepting your premise because of X, Y, Z." And they weren't giving legal advice. They were just making these points. Now, the mediation failed because the other side wanted way too much, but as a result of the reality-checking from the mediator, the lawyer changed the presentation of the evidence and ultimately went to court and won.

So, picking a mediator that knows the judge can be a reality-check for the presentation of your evidence. You're not trying the case in front of the mediator, but you go in there to ... I'm not saying you pick a mediator and you don't try to settle, but I'm saying, while you're going through that mediation process, you are analyzing whether ... You are trying to get feedback as to whether ... Maybe the way you're approaching the problem is going to come across very poorly to the judge.

Todd Orston: Yeah. It's the same analysis with the attorney. Mediators become really valuable to litigators when they have a level of familiarity with the court system and the judges so that ... It's just a deeper level of conversation. "Hey, we're not just in this court, but we're in front of this judge." If the mediator can go, "Well, look, I can't tell you what the court will do, but I have heard through the grapevine that this is how the judge looks at this issue, or that issue, or whatever." That level of reality-testing can be invaluable.

Leh Meriwether: Right. Something to keep in mind. And the mediator, while it's helpful to have your mediator as a lawyer that perhaps is litigating from that judge, it doesn't have to be the case. I've had some great mediators that were not lawyers and they gave my clients some great reality-checking.

When we come back, we're going to go over the last two ways to move your truth closer to the judge's truth.

I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1 AM on Monday mornings, WSB. So, you can always check us out there as well.

Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess, right? You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back everyone. This is Leh and Todd, and we are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at Atlantadivorceteam.com. And if you want to read a transcript of this show, you can find it at divorceteamradio.com, along with transcripts of the other shows as well.

All right. Today, we're talking about the four truths that exist in every courtroom, and often, it is a difficult reality for clients to come to grip with, especially when they walk in the courtroom and hear their spouse saying something that they think is really far from the actual truth. But, the four truths are: Your truth, your spouse's truth, the actual truth, and then the one, the only one that really matters, is what does the judge think is the truth?

So, we've been going through the six ways that you can help move your truth closer to the judge's truth, or maybe I should say, the judge's truth closer to your truth. And we've gone over the first four ways that you can help move the judge's truth closer to your truth in the courtroom, but we have two more to get to.

Todd Orston: All right. So, let's jump in with the next one we talked about. Attorneys, we talked about. Mediators ... Here's another angle, another tool that you can use, which is ... It's called a case evaluation. So, get a case evaluation from another lawyer who is familiar with the judge.

And we've done this before, and we've acted as case evaluators before. But, sometimes your attorney can get so caught up in your case, they may lose sight of certain aspects of the case, and they may lose sight of the fact that there is another truth out there. They are so caught up in presenting your truth, they forget that the other side has a different truth, and simply saying, "Yeah, but they're not telling the truth," that doesn't help.

Leh Meriwether: Right.

Todd Orston: Right? So, sometimes, using this ability to go and get a case evaluation with another attorney, it can basically allow you to sort of step back and say, "Okay. I think a certain way. My attorney believes in me. What does this third party believe? If we just start presenting this stuff, and if we're honest about what the other side's going to say, where do we really stand? What is the true strength of our case, or what are the true weaknesses?"

Leh Meriwether: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And going back to the ... I mean, as a lawyer, we're supposed to be a zealous advocate, but there's a fine line between zealous advocacy and blind advocacy. And sometimes, lawyers, we want to win for our clients, and it can result in a blind advocacy. And that's where case evaluations can be so helpful.

Now, some courtrooms have late-case evaluations that both parties can agree to, and it's like a mediation in that, usually, the late-case evaluator is acting as a mediator, but it's not mediation. So, the case evaluator is allowed to express their opinion as to whether your case will be successful in the courtroom.

Now, sometimes, there's what's called judicially-hosted settlement conferences where you get to have a retired judge hear your case, and again, in an informal setting. It's kind of like a mediation, but the judge is allowed ... The judge is not going to decide your case in this judicially-hosted settlement conference. I'm kind of lumping these together. But they're allowed to present their opinion as a judge that may have been sitting on the bench for 20 years before they retired. And those things can be very helpful.

Again, I've had a lot of very contentious cases that were able to be settled through either a late-case evaluation or a judicially-hosted settlement conference, but I've also gotten a lot of feedback from the judge that allowed us to ... The case didn't settle, and we used the feedback from the retired judge to tweak the presentation of our case and our evidence to have a successful outcome at court. So, that's where using these case evaluations come in real handy.

And I will say, I guess before we move to the next one that we did want to spend a little time on, but if you are not represented by a lawyer, what you can do is ... If a hearing's coming around the corner, you can get a consultation with a lawyer and present your evidence, your story, to the lawyer and let them give you feedback. Let them say, "Yeah. I know this judge you're in front of. Let me just tell you my thoughts on how it's going to go." And then, either settle the case after that or make adjustments, but I'm telling you, it will be worth the consultation to get feedback from a lawyer.

Todd Orston: Great point.

Leh Meriwether: And that would probably be a consultation. I mean, it'll be confidential, too. And we've even done it where we just hired a lawyer that we knew knew the judge and just ... There was no opposing side. We just said, "Hey, look. We're having a tough time on this case, and we just had somebody come in with a fresh pair of ears that ..." Well, inside the firm, we're usually bouncing ideas off each other.

But, back when we were a much smaller firm, there were times when I would bring in another lawyer from another firm, my client would pay for it, to give us some feedback, to make sure we weren't missing something.

Todd Orston: Yeah. I've used them sometimes because I believe my client needs a fresh perspective, and I've done it sometimes because I feel both my client and I need a fresh perspective where I feel so strongly about a certain set of facts, and I'm like, "You know what? Let's just bring somebody else in and let's see what their thoughts are because maybe I'm just approaching this the wrong way." And I've got the humility and the ...

I know I'm not perfect, all right? But the bottom line is, I'm okay stepping back sometimes and saying, "Maybe a third party stepping in, hearing with fresh ears," like you said, "maybe they'll be able to enlighten and point us in the right direction if we happen to be off track."

Leh Meriwether: Right. I'm glad you mentioned humility because that's the last element to help move the judge's truth closer to your truth is testifying with humility. And what do you mean by that?

So, now you've gotten all this information, you've gotten access to how to adjust the presentation of your story, and your evidence and everything. You want to testify with confidence but not cockiness. This means you must tell the truth.

You can, of course, learn how to present the truth ... And if you've followed the first five steps, you have learned how to present the truth in a way that's most favorable to you, but you might be going, "But wait! Didn't you just tell me there's four truths? What do you mean, 'Tell the truth'? You just said there's four truths."

But here's what I mean. There's some things that are plain on the face, okay? It's how these little elements fit together. So, here's an example:

If, out of a fit of anger, you had told your wife ... And this is leading up to divorce, that she was stupid and she was a terrible mother. Now, you said it. You know you said it. That's the truth. You said it. But, what's the rest of the story surrounding that? Is that a reason to get a divorce? And I'm not going into whether this impacts the case or anything. This is just a hypothetical example.

Did you mean that when you said it? Do you regret saying it? Was there something else going on in your life that triggered you to say that? So, when you're in court and you're testifying, I've seen people, they just hem and haw, and try to avoid answering the question that's asked by a lawyer. "Did you tell your wife that she was a terrible mother and she was stupid?" And avoiding that question is going to look bad, okay? So, that's where you just admit. And obviously, whatever the situation is, you need to talk to your lawyer about the best path.

In this particular case, I'm giving you a specific example of how it can help. You don't try to avoid the question, you answer it because if you avoid it, suddenly, your wife's story about how the marriage fell apart and how you mismanaged finances will start to ring true to the judge.

But, if you quickly admit the truth, apologize for it, and explain what led up to you saying that, then your story may start to ring true to the judge. So, you say, "Look, I did say that, and I regret it. I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. I was having a bad day. I, along with 30 other coworkers, had been laid off from our jobs. We'd all been laid off. I had no idea how I was going to pay the credit card, let alone the mortgage. And when she said she wanted to go out to eat, I just lost it, and you know what? I wish I hadn't. She was just trying to make me feel good by taking us out to dinner to try to cheer me up, but I wish I had taken a moment to explain to her how that actually made me more afraid because at the moment, I didn't know how we were going to pay for the meal."

So, now, all of a sudden, something you said that sounded horrible now suddenly sounds a little more reasonable. And so, do you see how the fact, the truth, if I isolate this truth, "You said some pretty bad things to your wife," but then you put that story around it, now, all of a sudden, that one fact doesn't sound as bad when you quickly admit it and then you tell the story that may have led up to it.

You're not excusing the fact, but you're saying, "Look, I was under a lot of stress. This is what triggered this. I regret saying it." So, I hope all these factors help you, that if you are getting ready to go to court, you couldn't settle it, I hope that you understand now the four truths that may come out in the courtroom, how certain facts you may need to testify to, you need to admit, but you put them all together and you follow these six steps and you can move the judge's truth closer to your truth. Hey, everyone. Thanks so much for listening.