NYC Bench Warrant Vacated in the Nick of Time
Another Job Saved!
As a lawyer, I have to put up with being the butt of my share of lawyer jokes, but it’s never something that offends me — probably because I know that I am the FARTHEST thing from the stereotypical lawyer.
The fact is that there is NOTHING I enjoy more than helping someone land a job in these tough economic times and if a client’s ability to obtain employment hinges directly on getting rid of an outstanding bench warrant, I am thrilled to get to work immediately on the case.
This past Friday, I was having lunch with a client in midtown Manhattan when I received a telephone call around 2pm, seeking assistance in having a NYC bench warrant vacated. The gentleman on the other end of the phone had recently applied for a federal job and the urgency of the matter was that the government would begin conducting its criminal background check on the following Monday morning. With my office several blocks away and the court at 346 Broadway set to close early on Friday (usually around 4pm) here was precious little time to act.
I don’t often consider myself a Superhero, but the situation required immediate action and I looked for the nearest telephone booth in which to don my cape and fly down to the Courthouse. Unfortunately, my client was working on a construction site and was unable to get me the necessary documents (Driver’s License, retainer agreement) and in an expedient manner. I had a choice to make — Do I consider my client’s urgent situation and the ticking clock and head directly to the courthouse (without payment) or do I head back to my office and wait for the documents before trying to make it to Court in time to have the case called (warrant cases usually require additional time because of the need to have the court clerk locate the old file and send it over to the court room).
My 15 years of experience has taught me that Judges will leave early on a Friday and that the walk back to my office could potentially cost my potential client his job. By the same token, experience has also taught me that until a client has paid for my services, it is usually foolhardy to begin work on a case.
Nonetheless, in evaluating the pros and cons of the situation, I decided to put my client first. From his urgent text messages, I sensed his desperation and I took a cab directly from West 54th Street to 346 Broadway while pressing him to get me the necessary documents for me to assist him. Horrendous traffic resulted in my arrival to the Court at close to 3pm and as I stepped out of the cab into the pouring rain, my potential client finally sent over the documentation needed to proceed. He was now officially a client and I had no time to waste. I ran up the steps to the Court Clerk and asked the Clerk to please pull my client’s file and send it over to the court room.
The Records Clerk told me that I was TOO LATE and that the Courtroom clerk had just told him that they were shutting down and there would be no more warrant cases heard today and to come back on Monday. But Monday would be too late for my client. I ran to the courtroom and pleaded with the Courtroom clerk to let the judge hear the case. She told me I was TOO LATE. I tried to explain the urgency of the matter but she screamed at me to get out of the courtroom and take it up with the Records Clerk. Always wanting to keep the client informed, I texted my client ‘Sorry, looks like we’re a few minutes too late’.
Then I ran across the hall to a different courtroom and asked the Clerk if I could have the case heard there. NO! I was told. I ran back to the Records Clerk and bypassed the previous clerk I had spoken to and motioned to a different clerk I am friendly with to meet me at a different window. He walked over and I explained the situation. SORRY, he told me. I asked him to call the Courtroom on my behalf and ask them to take the case. He picked up the phone and called the courtroom. He shook his head. SORRY. At that moment, I saw another Courtroom clerk I always greet politely and I called to her. She knew exactly what I wanted. NO, NO, NO! she said. COME BACK MONDAY.
Please, I said. I would never ask you to do something like this for me. But this is for my client and his job depends on having this warrant vacated today. It cannot be done on Monday. I raced down here in the pouring rain to help him do this today and I’m begging you to help me.
I shoved my iPhone under the window with my client’s driver’s license image on it and looked at her pleadingly. Time seemed to slow down as she leaned forward and looked at my client’s ID. She looked at me and I guess my years of greeting her with a Good Morning and Thank You and Goodbye every single day paid off for me and my client.
‘Get to Courtroom 2 NOW!’ she barked. I ran down the hall and entered the near-empty courtroom. The judge looked at me and said, “What are you doing here?” I told him that my warrant case was on its way. He snarled at me and snapped at his clerk ‘I thought I said ‘NO MORE WARRANTS TODAY!’.
Minutes later, a Court Officer entered the room and handed my client’s old summons to me and the Court called my client’s case. I stepped forward and made a motion for the judge to vacate the bench warrant. Another moment that seemed to pass in slow-mo. He begrudgingly obliged. I breathed a sigh of relief as the case was resolved and I sat back down to await the paperwork from the Court.
I pulled out my phone and texted my client: SUCCESS! WARRANT VACATED!
Here are his unedited text messages to me:
YOU ARE A LIFESAVER. SERIOUSLY.
I WAS SO DISAPPOINTED WHEN I SAW THAT YOU WEREN’T ABLE TO I JUST COULDN’T GET OVER THE FACT THAT IT JUST DIDN’T WORK.
I’M SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW MAN I OWE YOU MY LIFE.
GOD YOU JUST MADE MY WEEKEND.
YOU ALWAYS HEAR THE PHRASE HOW DO LAWYERS SLEEP AT NIGHT BUT THIS MUST BE A GOOD WAY TO SLEEP BECAUSE YOU JUST MADE MY DAY.
And that’s why I do what I do. Before hiring a lawyer, ask yourself one question: Will my Lawyer fight for me harder than I would fight for myself?
Because I know I will.