I left court early on Friday afternoon to meet some friends for a weekend desert camping trip. I took what I thought would be a shortcut (it wasn’t), and found myself driving down a deserted road outside of Mojave. Fifteen minutes later I came upon a stop sign in the middle of the road. No intersection, no other cars, no persons, not even a prairie dog - just a stop sign on an empty road in the middle of nowhere. The stop sign was so unexpected that I actually stopped. ADA compliance defense attorneys regularly defend and successfully resolve accessibility claims brought against our clients under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Good thing I did. I realized I was lost and turned back, got my bearings, and eventually met my friends. I made a mental note to do what I knew I would not: check out the history of the area at the county recorder’s office. Over lunch the next week, I told my unimaginative colleague Jim Regent about the sign. He called it a “real head-scratcher.” See what I mean? I suggested that there may have been a town out there in the desert, or maybe someone was just playing a joke.
“Maybe this, maybe that ... pointless musing,” said Jim. “Do your research, and you will have the answer.”Now you know why I call him “unimaginative.” I suddenly hit upon the most probable reason for the sign. I explained it to Jim. “The sign was installed for an intersection in a development that stopped before it got started. Typical. Let’s put in a stop sign before we build anything. I can imagine the lawsuit brought by the investors or bondholders, or whoever got screwed when the development was not built. We’ve decided our share of those cases.”
“Yes, we have,” admitted Jim, “but speculation does not supply the answer. Do the research, show me the facts that support your theory, and I will be ready to rule.” “Ready to rule? Jim, you don’t wear your robes in the supermarket.” I hoped I was right about that. “In our everyday lives, we make educated guesses. We speculate about a person’s past. We don’t research the point as though we were deciding a lawsuit.” “Perhaps we should,” said the irritating Jim, shoving a chocolate chip cookie in his mouth. “If we analyzed the facts as we do in a trial, and consider only those that can be verified and have relevance, we would have less rancor in our everyday discourse and maybe even less gridlock in government.” This was typical Jim - bring the Evidence Code into a discussion over a stop sign in the middle of the desert.
I pointed out to Jim while scooping up the last spoonful of nonfat yogurt, that speculation thrives on uncertainty about the past, the future, and even the present. “Your premise assumes that researching anything, including the law, provides a measure of certainty and predictability. It is an illusion. Consider how lawyers and pundits speculate about how a judge will rule on a case. They do not know. Even the judge may not know.” “What on earth does that have to do with anything?” asked Jim, who was beginning to ruffle me.
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