Thursday, October 28, 2010

Still Undefeated

The records of only two pseudo lawyers are known to me—mine and that of William Shatner, who portrayed the zany attorney Denny Crane in “Boston Legal” on network television.

My memoir, Days With The Dads, included a tale about my 2007 triumph in small claims court as a representative of our homeowners association. I won by uttering a couple of sentences after the defendant failed to show up. Nevertheless, I concluded that real attorneys earn their keep, and announced my retirement from matters legal with an unbeaten record—one for one.

Shatner was retired when the network cancelled “Boston Legal” after six seasons. We find few television programs worth watching once nowadays, and none except this one worth viewing twice. Currently, we are enjoying reruns of the comedy show.

Denny Crane famously enhances his legal legend at every opportunity by loudly intoning his own name. Through usually strange machinations, he claims to have won every case in his long career. After each victory, he proclaims:

“Denny Crane . . . Still Undefeated.”

I came out of retirement as a pseudo attorney two years ago when our first property tax bill showed an assessed value nearly $40,000 higher than what we paid for our new home in Michigan. Sandy and I appeared before the township tax review board to protest. We thought we had a great case, including photos and documents and a carefully rehearsed presentation. The board members listened politely and then curtly rejected our claim in their decision letter.

That sent me to the Michigan Tax Tribunal with an appeal of the board’s decision. Taking the action was a bit scary. Aren’t tribunal decisions known to be followed by firing squads? In this case, the frightening part turned out to be the paperwork and the length of the process. I had to send a brief of my argument with supporting documents, and then wait more than a year to gain a hearing.

During the wait, our township surprised just about everybody by announcing a 17 per cent reduction in 2010 assessments for most residential property, including ours. I fired off a copy of my letter from the assessor to the tribunal with an amended argument that this action constituted on admission by the township that the tax review board was dead wrong in denying my 2009 claim.

Minutes before my appointment to plead our case before the tax tribunal, our assessor called my name in the courthouse hallway. She was accompanied by a tribunal judge.

“I apologize,” the assessor said. “You shouldn’t have had to make the trip here. You were supposed to get a letter, but something when wrong. I reviewed your case, and you are right in all respects, especially in light of what happened with the general tax reduction. You’ll be getting a refund check after we calculate your corrected rates.”

The check will be nice, but once again, folks, legal work ain’t easy for those whose only encounters with the bar were to order refreshments. So I am officially retiring from the courtroom scene (including hallways) once again, but I do so with pride:

“Dick Klade . . . Still Undefeated.”

1 comment:

joared said...

Congratulations! Denny Crane would be proud of you. "Boston Legal" has been a favorite of mine -- the over-the-top humor also taking on some serious issures.