He looked like an idiot.
He could only hope that the lighting in the courtroom would be dim, and that the judge, who sat fifteen feet away from the podium he’d be arguing at, would somehow not notice the grapefruit-sized mocha splotch plastered across the left side of his chest.
J.D. arrived at the Dirksen Federal Building and hurried inside. He had to take his coat off to get through security, and was momentarily tempted to leave it off for his oral argument, but decided in the end that appearing jacketless in court was not only disrespectful, but also far more likely to attract negative attention from the judge.
The elevator was packed during J.D.’s ride up to the twenty-third floor. He waited until the last minute to slip his jacket back on, doing so right before he walked into the courtroom. He immediately headed to the front and took a seat in the galley while he waited for his case to be called.
J.D. had never before felt self-conscious about his appearance in court (or ever really, come to think of it) and he hated feeling that way now. He had an image to uphold, after all: he was a corporate defense attorney—he got paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend multimillion-dollar corporations. His clients expected, and paid for, perfection. They did not pay to have their uber-important opposition to class certification motions argued by some jackass who looked like he’d spilled his Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Coolatta all over himself while driving in from the suburbs in his Ford Taurus.
J.D. shuddered at the mere image.
His case was third on the docket. When the clerk called the case, he stood up, straightened his tie, and forgot about everything else. He had a job to do.
He got up to the podium and nodded to his opposing counsel, who approached from the other side of the courtroom. If the plaintiffs’ attorney noticed the stain on his jacket, he didn’t acknowledge it, and J.D. was immediately grateful for the courtroom’s softer lighting.
The plaintiffs’ attorney argued first. J.D. listened attentively, watching carefully for the points where the judge interrupted and making mental notes to address those issues. When the plaintiffs’ ten minutes were over, J.D. stepped front and center at the podium. Opposition to class certification motions were of crucial importance in the cases J.D. handled and luckily, they were his forte.
“Your Honor, today is the day the Court should put an end to Mr. DeVore’s six-year class action charade. By asserting a breach of contract counterclaim and seeking nationwide class certification, Mr. DeVore has literally made a federal case out of what should have been a simple foreclosure proceeding. Whatever this Court makes of the mortgage contract and the provisions Mr. DeVore challenges, one thing is certain, no class can be certified in this case because Mr. DeVore is not an adequate class representative. He perjured himself in his deposition . . .”
It was at about this point that J.D. noticed the judge leaning forward in his chair. He peered down curiously from the bench, trying to get a better look at something.
The judge suddenly held up a hand to stop him. “Counselor,” he asked J.D. with a quizzical brow, “did you get shot on the way over here?”
The judge leaned down farther from the bench. He squinted at J.D.’s chest, trying to get a better look at the stain.
“What is that?”
J.D. could only stand there at the podium, while the courtroom deputy, the clerk, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, and now pretty much everyone else in the whole damn courtroom fixated on the softball-sized mark on his suit.
So much for scraping by unnoticed.
AND THEN IT got worse.
Of course, John Grevy, a partner in the litigation group at J.D.’s firm, would happen to have a motion before the same judge that afternoon.
“That’s why we tell associates to keep a spare suit in their offices,” he hissed disapprovingly as J.D. passed him on his way out of the courtroom.
Really, John? he wished he could say. No shit.
And then still, it got worse.
Once outside the courtroom door, J.D. set his briefcase down, hurrying to get the splotch jacket off as quickly as possible. He heard a familiar voice behind him.
“Are you trying to embarrass me, or just yourself?”
J.D. closed his eyes. Brilliant. Exactly what he needed right then.
He turned around, taking in the grave-faced man standing before him.
“Hello, Dad. Imagine running into you here,” he said, although it actually wasn’t that much of a surprise. As a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, his father’s chambers were in this very building.
The esteemed Honorable Preston D. Jameson looked upon J.D. with much disappointment. It was a look J.D. knew well.
“Margie saw your name on this morning’s docket,” his father said, referring to his secretary. “She watches out for your cases. Since your mother and I haven’t seen you in a while, I thought I’d stop by and watch your oral argument.”
Preston took a step closer, his gaze fixated on his son’s suit coat. J.D. braced himself for the inevitable.
“You look ridiculous,” his father told him. “You really should keep a spare suit in your office.”
“Thanks for the tip, Your Honor,” J.D. said sarcastically. He grabbed his briefcase and stepped into the elevator that had just opened up.
“Tell Mom I said hello,” he said tersely as the elevator doors closed shut.
Inside, J.D. stared ahead as the elevator descended. He had only one thought on his mind.
It would soon be his.