Waxing Eloquently over a "Scorched Earth"
Bankruptcy litigation is generally no lovefest, but few cases are so vicious that they spur Judges to include famous quotes commenting on the perniciousness of base hatred, vengence, resentment, delusion, lies, and "scorched earth" litigation. In In re Nartron, the Honorable Jo Ann Stevenson, Chief Judge of the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Michigan, combined each subheading of her findings of fact and conclusions of law with apt quotes on the human condition.
The Beginning: "Mighty things from small beginnings grow." John Dryden (1631-1700)
Nartron and Amway Do Business: "Trust can be a powerful weapon." Unknown
The Long and Winding Litigious History Between Nartron and Amway/Alticore: "Hate traps us by binding us too tightly to our adversary." Milan Kundera (1929-
Richard J. Pluta's Betrayal of Nartron and Rautiola: "Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die." Malachy McCourt, (1931-)
Nartron's Problems With General Motors: "Delusions, errors and lies are like huge, gaudy vessels, the rafters of which are rotten and worm-eaten, and those who embark in them are fated to be shipwrecked." Buddha (563-483 B.C.)
The Bankruptcy: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) [NB: Actually, the "eye for an eye" approach to compensation for damages is well-established in Jewish law as strictly monetary in nature. I suppose this explains why we don't hear of storehouses of eyeballs and other body parts being discovered in the archeological digs from the Temple Mount, at least not yet.]
Alticore's Motion to Appoint a Chapter 11 Trustee: "Scarcely any law [of humanity] is more openly transgressed, or more industriously evaded than that which [commands us] to forgive injuries and prohibits .. the gratification of the desire which every man feels to return pain upon him that inflicts it. Many who could have conquered their anger are unable to combat pride, and pursue offenses to the extremity of vengeance, lest they should be insulted by the triumph of an enemy." Samuel Adams (1722-1803)
Factual Findings: "I am here to make decisions and whether they prove right or wrong I am going to make them." Harry S. Truman (1884-1972)
The Court's Own Observations: "It is reasonable that everyone who asks justice should do justice." Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Conclusions of Law: "You can't shake hands with a clenched fist." Indira Gandhi (1917-1984)
She ultimately decides, Solomonically, that "cause" has been established to appoint a Chapter 11 trustee, but that its powers would be limited.
Though she goes out of her way at the beginning of the opinion to praise counsel to these spiteful combatants for being "extremely well prepared and zealous in the pursuit of their clients' positions," the case leaves me wondering whether lawyers really deserve praise for scorching the earth, even if they're very good at it.
© Steve Jakubowski 2005