Family Dispute Brings Out the Best in Benny (and the Bull in Dr. Bull)
Here’s a question: Why hasn’t anyone in the World of Bull ever called him out for providing legal advice and representation without a license? I get the whole “gotta-make-it-sexy” spin from Hollywood, but isn’t “Bull” supposed to be about jury consulting? In yet another episode this season, we find Dr. Bull doing very little jury consulting and a whole lotta lawyering.
This week, we have a story involving a family matter between a daughter, Sadie Williams, and her father, Gerald. Sadie built a wildly successful company in her teens, and by the time she turned 18 or so, she had a bit of a meltdown — psychological breakdown might be a better description. Sadly, the incident was captured on video and was posted on the internet for the world to see. Turns out, Sadie was suffering from undiagnosed Bipolar disorder. Dad, in an effort to save the company and help Sadie help herself, petitioned the court for full guardianship and the court granted the request.
Fast forward three years, and Sadie’s business is thriving. So much so that an international corporation wants to buy the business for $100 million. Sadie is emotionally invested in the company she built and wants to maintain an active role in the future; the prospective buyer, however, is not interested in having her on board in any capacity. She doesn’t want to sell, Dad does. And because he’s got full conservatorship, it’s his decision to make whether she likes it or not.
What’s a girl to do? Hire Dr. Bull, of course. She petitions the court for relief from the guardianship in a quest to stop her company from being sold. Bull reminds her that his expertise is juries and conservatorship issues are typically handled by judges. She then reminds him these judges typically have mental health training and his three PhD’s would come in handy with winning the court’s favor, which didn’t really pan out the way she had hoped.
There were a few nuggets of truth this week, mixed with a ton of silliness, but none had anything to do with what I would consider typical jury consulting. So let’s revisit “Truth or Bull.”
Truth or Bull: Bench Trial to Jury Trial to Jury Selection in a Single Day
Team Sadie attends a pre-trial conference with her father, his counsel and the judge. Everyone is preparing for a bench trial. The judge is sympathetic to Sadie’s plea for relief, but because similar rulings in the past have “bitten him in the butt,” he’s extremely reluctant to end the guardianship.
Bull, Benny Colón (trial attorney extraordinaire) and Sadie confer in the hallway for about 30 seconds and decide right then and there to request a jury trial. While this is absolutely within their right, methinks the time for making such a request had long since passed. The very next scene we watch Team Sadie exit the courthouse in the very same clothes they wore during the conference with the judge. Who cares, you ask? I do… because according to Benny, they have just seated their jury. Um, what? Who has ever gone from bench trial, to jury trial, to jury selection on the same day?
Truth or Bull? Never say never, but I call a big fat “bulloney” on this one.
Truth or Bull: Be on Your Best Behavior
Because Sadie is a public figure, Bull and Benny warn her to mind her Ps and Qs because public perception is critical to her success. Bull tells her to assume she’s being watched and judged at home, work, on the street, etc.
This is very true, and it stands true for any party in any lawsuit, including the legal and support team. And friends and family. If you’re in the public eye, the need to behave is magnified because any slip will most likely be fodder for the next news cycle or viral internet meme. But even if you’re John Q. Public in a fairly mundane matter, the jurors in your case will watch everyone in the courtroom. And they observe everything from the shoes people wear, to the ties worn, to the facial expressions made during important testimony. And they observe everything in the hallways, restrooms, security lines, parking lots, cafeterias, etc. Treat everyone you encounter with the utmost respect. If you need to rant, do it in the privacy of a conference room with your attorneys.
Truth or Bull? This one falls in the TRUTH category.
Truth or Bull: Non-JD Jury Consultants Should Act as Legal Counsel
Um… no they shouldn’t. For a whole host of reasons, including this pesky little thing called ethics. This season, Dr. Bull seems to have decided he can practice law without a license. He does this often, but this week he went all-in.
For instance, Sadie had a difficult time minding her Ps and Qs (see above) and got into a scuffle with the paparazzi, which landed her in jail (Side note: If you find yourself in jail, don’t call your jury consultant, call your attorney). Bull shows up at the jail to bail Sadie out, only to discover her father and his attorney have already done so. Mr. Williams orders Sadie to go home with him, and Bull – in typical Hollywood fashion – spews out what could be construed as a threat: She doesn’t want to go, so if you force her, it’s kidnapping. Yes, you’re the guardian, but nobody here knows that, and the press will pick up the story, which will kill your dreams of selling the business for $100 million.
Dad retreats. But what’s really funny is his legal counsel just stands there. Does. Not. Utter. A. Peep. She just lets Bull do his thing and allows her client to acquiesce to Bull’s “demands.”
Truth or Bull? Definite Bull. The likelihood of that happening is slim to none.
Truth or Bull: Some Disputes Are Best Handled Outside of a Courtroom
Toward the end of the episode, Benny drops some wisdom: The situation does not belong in a court of law. This is the kind of thing that gets solved by sitting down and looking someone in the eye and forcing them to look you in the eye.
Litigation is hard, people. And when family members or close personal friends are embroiled in a dispute with each other, emotions run high and, sometimes, the end goal gets lost in the quest to assert legal claims and surface as the “victor.” But sometimes, nobody “wins” in the courtroom, and compromise is the best solution to minimizing the ugly and preserving some peace.
Truth or Bull? Definite Truth. Once again, Benny is the sane one.
Compromise and Forgiveness
The episode wraps up with Dr. Bull scheduling a private meeting with Mr. Williams and laying out a few fairly realistic scenarios on how the lawsuit might end. And then he once again pretends he’s Sadie’s actual legal counsel and tells Mr. Williams that if he will “loosen his grip,” then Bull can get Sadie to meet him halfway.
It’s probably no surprise dad and daughter decided to compromise and reached an amicable settlement. A win-win for everyone, even if there was some bull along the way.
This article was originally published by Texas Lawyer on October 10, 2019. Reprinted with permission. © 2019 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved.