I sued. It sucked. But I won. It still sucked, tho.
I recently finished a lawsuit, and it was the most time consuming process I’ve ever experienced. I have been involved in lawsuits for about 30 years as a defendant, lay witness, expert witness, and now as plaintiff. Let me break each of these down for you first:
As defendant: I have been named in several lawsuits as a police officer. In every instance, my name was withdrawn because I was never involved in the allegations. I was named sometimes just because I was on duty at the time. I’ve never done anything in my law enforcement career to justify being sued. Still, the experience of having a process server serve me at home is unpleasant.
As a lay witness and expert witness: I’ve testified plenty as a police officer, detective, task force officer, swat officer in law enforcement and in the public sector as a consultant. Looking back on this aspect, this is the absolute easiest of the entire legal process.
As a plaintiff: One time, and hopefully the only time.
More than just a lawsuit
I once thought that I knew the justice system, after all, I have been working within it for three decades in both the public and private sector. I have spoken with hundreds of attorneys, hired by many of these, spoken to judges, have had judges sign my affidavits in their living rooms at 2am, testified in front of Grand Juries, courtroom juries, and in front of judges at bench trials and administrative hearings. I have worked cases from initiating the case, filing it with a prosecutor, prepping for trial, and testifying. Still, this did not prepare me for a lawsuit as a plaintiff.
I thought I knew a lot, but I was wrong.
This lawsuit was a simple public records dispute, and through it, I learned more about the justice system that has completely changed my past perspectives of attorneys, judges, and the legal process.
So, you think you know the justice system? Think again.
Here is where this learning came from: I was acting Pro se, in that I was my own attorney. I know, I know. The Pro se has an idiot for a client. But in my defense, my attorney was guiding me along the process, even though I was doing everything (he was checking to make sure that I did it right). And this was just a public records violation.
What I thought would be a simple public records act violation turned into a full-blown litigation. I was threatened with hundreds of thousands of legal fees and sanctions, I was disparaged, defamed, deposed, and cross examined. I wrote a book’s length of paper in complaints, motions, replies and responses to motions, appeals, reports, opening statements, closing statements, and legal forms. I sent and answered interrogatories. I demanded discovery and was demanded to provide my personal emails in discovery. I deposed witnesses and was deposed. I conducted direct testimony, was directed in testimony. I cross examined and was cross examined. I offered evidence. Some was admitted and others not. I argued in trial and in filings. I did practically all legal research in state and federal case law online, in databases, and in a phyiscal, legal library.
Some of the most incredible lessons learned was that the legal process is not about the truth as much as it is which side does better in trial. Even then, considering that most cases do not go to trial, the truth doesn’t matter if trial can be avoided with a settlement or dismissal. You might think that you already knew this, but it is worse than you thought. I promise you it is much worse.
Oh yeah, opposing counsel tried to dismiss this lawsuit with multiple motions. When the court denied the motions on the basis of my claims, they made multiple and increasing offers to settle. I rejected every offer to settle.
Without getting into the deep aspects of evidence in this case, just know that there were public records that were destroyed, records that withheld, “misleading” and “conflicting” testimony in trial, and every effort by opposing counsel to prevent any of my evidence from being admitted.
On top of that, in some evidence where I proved intentional manipulation of dates, and the court agreed with my findings, the court didn’t seem to care and didn’t use this manipulated evidence.
Considering that the “conflicting testimony” came from the #2 person in the organization but didn’t result in perjury blows my mind, when it was clearly more than just “conflicting”. Conflicting is the word used by the judge….this, after the judge warned the witness that she was under oath, yet the conflicting testimony continued.
Another witness wrote an affidavit to be excused from being a witness, where the affidavit was factually incorrect. It was more than just “incorrect.” I provided documentation that this witness’s statement was false, but rather than force the witness to be forthcoming with the truth, the judge excused the witness. This witness was the #1 of a government agency and “too busy” to testify.
Lawyers are (not?) under obligation to be truthful
In court filings, the opposing attorney misled the court in such a manner that I replied with documented facts in a filed reply that directly countered the misleading declarations and filings. The result by the judge was that the misleading information was not material, therefore, not a biggie. As if this is normal. Apparently, it must be.
It was not just one lawyer
Against me, there were at least two attorneys (both Harvard law grads), from a major Seattle law firm, with several paralegals, and a government organization with 20+ C level board members from that many government agencies that spared nothing in the case. In total, over a quarter million dollars was spent on the attorneys in this lawsuit over emails and text messages. I pleaded publicly for the records to every person represented below, but got nowhere...the only thing I received was that I'd get the records in 17 years...which explains the lawsuit.
Skipping to the end
I won the lawsuit, including attorney’s fees for my attorney who guided me behind the scenes. There is a story to this ruling and process as well…which I’ll get into via Zoom.
More to the story
I will be doing a Zoom chat session about this escapade within the next two weeks, but I have to limit it only to anyone who ever signed up for a DFIR Training course, or bought a book from me through the DFIR training website. My Zoom account is good for only 100 at a time, so I am keeping it at that. If you don't get in, I apologize in advance as there are several thousand people that won't be able to join due to the 100 person Zoom limit. And it won't be recorded, and I probably will do this once for this topic.
The things that I will talk about will be:
* Some details of the public records request (it was of public and personal importance)
* Why I turned down several offers to settle
* The pitfalls of any lawsuit that you don’t know unless you have been through one on an intimate level
* How I discovered manipulated dates and times
* How evidence, great evidence, can be excluded from trial for literally any reason
* Report writing tips that make an extreme difference in trial as evidence, including illustrative and demonstrative items
* Some details on the trial, misleading statements, misleading affidavits
* What I would have done differently had I known all of this
If you ever took a www.DFIR.Training course from me, or subscribed, or purchased a book directly from me, I have your email and will send out a notice of the Zoom session if you want to join in. You are not required to participate to join, but I will take questions and give my opinion. My opinion is my honest opinion, so you’ll hear that anytime you hear me talk on anything.
To the agency that I sued:
Do not worry, I will not be saying anything that I did not say in trial or in court filings, nor will I say an specific name, even though I could since it is all public record. The purpose is to share the lessons and that only needs me to generalize the specifics and focus on the process and experience for your benefit for your next (or current) case and court experiences.
My intention to share
You’ll get 2 years of this experience in a short Zoom conversation, so if you have questions beforehand that you want me to cover, send them to me and I’ll have answers.
My goal is that you will have an intimate view into a lawsuit process and what truly matters, because there are things that I wish I knew because these things affect how I should know for forensic reporting and analysis. Not knowing some of these details means your work may be a waste of time and money because it doesn't matter if you do it 'wrong'.
Not knowing how the legal process works in detail means that case outcomes are affected. I do not care how a case ends up (win or lose) as long as the truth is admitted and that the ruling reflects the truth.
In order for this to happen, you have to argue against the untruths, otherwise, the ruling will not be based on the truth, but on who did a better job at arguing the case. You, as a witness, play into this.
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