first_img Gavel GamutBy Jim RedwineAN OUNCE OF PREVENTIONLet’s say you and your neighbor have lived next to each other for twenty years. He helped you coach your son’s Little League team. You and he risked your lives cutting down a large oak tree that had blown halfway down across the property line between your backyards. Your wives conspired frequently to make sure the two of you did not spend your weekends playing golf or watching football or doing anything they hadn’t planned. About every other year either you or he or sometimes both of you dutifully attended a play, graduation, wedding or birthday party involving one of your children or his. Then, you decided to build a fence between your houses because your wife saw a picture in a magazine and told you via “female speak” you needed to build such an “improvement”.Because you put the entire fence well on your side of the property line you saw no need to consult your neighbor first. After all, he didn’t check with you before allowing his twelve-year-old son to take a shortcut to school across your back yard.The first thing that happened was, because his twelve year boy could no longer traipse across the back of your yard to get to school, he and his buddies started climbing over your new white picket fence to keep their shortcut. Your wife, who was unamused by a path through her new flowerbeds by the fence, demanded that you, “Do something!”Because you have watched every episode of every television legal show from Perry Mason to Judge Judy you run to the County Clerk’s office and file a lawsuit seeking a million dollars in damages and an injunction against the boy.Or … You call your best friends and neighbors of twenty years and invite them over for bar-b-q where you agree that you and he will build a gate in your fence and your wives agree to replant the flowers. Then your wives head to the mall together while you and your buddy finally get in a round of golf where he shoots 110 and writes down 88 and after you see his score you also write down 88 instead of the score you quit keeping after you hit a ball out of bounds on the third hole. Everybody’s happy.The lawsuit would’ve cost you and him enough money to furnish game-day beer for the rest of your lives. It also would’ve languished in court for months or even years before it was settled on about the same terms you four friends worked out by yourselves. Which seems more rational? That is, which reminds you less of the present presidential campaign?Of course, to resolve matters before suit is resorted to, someone has to swallow their pride and start the talking process. Based on my experience as a judge for thirty-five years I have decided most lawsuits could have been avoided if someone had just picked up the phone and started a conversation. The remaining legal matters may require some help from the legal system. If you are not busy “Mending Walls” between you and your neighbors, maybe we can move to this next stage next week.FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailSharelast_img

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