Friday, October 26, 2007

Subpoenaing Lawyer Responds

It looks like I will be forced into court in January to testify on behalf of a Salemtown property owner against her co-owner father based one of my blog articles. A couple of days ago I received the following letter:

Meanwhile, Ms. Norris, Esq., replied yesterday to my first post on getting subpoenaed for blogging about blight; she defended her client and argued that I assume too much about her. I make my reply in the comments.

Take note, that the lawyer invites me to speak with her rather than her client about how she intends to improve the property. That just reinforces my belief that the client is an absentee landlord with little investment in improving the quality of life of the people who actually live here. Even in the possibility of approaching her neighbors for help, Ms. Gherghescu is absentee: she requires an attorney to soften them up. So, if she hasn't been among our neighbors, why should we assume that she is invested in improving the neighborhood?

A second point about speaking with Ms. Norris rather than Ms. Gherghescu: Ms. Norris has a professional responsibility to defend the interests of her client. She also has an economic conflict of interest insofar as Ms. Gherghescu is paying her to win her case against her father. Either way, Ms. Norris is prone to make promises about hypothetical future improvements that she cannot guarantee in order to help her client win her case. Since my testimony would apparently help Ms. Ghergehscu's case, it is entirely reasonable to conclude that Ms. Norris will tell me what she thinks I want to hear to help win a decision in her client's favor.

If Ms. Norris had come to me as a neutral third party without an interest or, better yet, if Ms. Gherghescu had previously developed a neighborly relationship with me and then told me of specific plans she had for improvements (and, still better, if she had put it in writing and sworn it to a notary in the manner of this subpoena they sent me), then I might be persuaded that improvements will occur.

As it stands, Ms. Norris is merely asking me to jettison a set of inferences about Ms. Gherghescu's absence from Salemtown for her own no-guarantee assumptions about Ms. Gherghescu's future intentions. And she is guaranteeing me a whole hour's notice (which would be only a little more lead time than the last phone message notification that I got from her before the trial started earlier this month). I will testify because I am forced to, but I have not seen anything to persuade me that good will result from this case.


  1. Thanks for the update. I've been especially curious about how this is going for you since I live over in East Nashville where we also have many issues with absentee landlords.

    BTW, I really appreciate your blog and the time and attention to put into it.

  2. You know, perhaps there is an opportunity in all this. It's not like the landlord could be anymore absentee - there's nowhere to go but up from here. If this guy is willing to cheat his own child, perhaps he has had the upper hand all along. Try and reach out to this woman by setting some kind of congenial tone and maybe, just maybe it can be the start of a dialog that does not and cannot exist now. Just a thought -

  3. It would be one thing if this were a fight between me and the landlord. I got pulled into this by the lawyer, who is running interference for her client. Ms. Norris is the only one interacting here, and she fired the first salvo by subpoenaing me after one phone conversation. She asked me for other neighbors' names whom she could contact. I refused to do that, because that would have given her the chance to subpoena several here. As far as I can see, congeniality will only allow Ms. Norris to take advantage, because her client is invisible to this community.