I thought since I am offering this short story free on Smashwords I would place it here.
Please do me a favour if you want it download it from smashwords at this link To Sue A Lucas
Enjoy this simple short fiction.
Omar Pina Pena
(To Sue A Lucas)
Copyright © 2012 by (Omar Pina Pena)
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.
Everyday on my way to work I pass a sign. It simply states the name of Suwa city in Nagano Japan. By sheer coincidence the city’s emblem looks like that of the rebel alliance from Star wars. I pictured a short fiction on what a lawsuit against George Lucas would be like if it were even possible for a city to sue an individual from a completely different country. This story is a work of fiction and to my knowledge has never actually happened.
There were no long hours of jury deliberations. The three years of the trial including over four hundred hours of testimony from supposed witnesses testifying via telecommunications from half-way around the world, the judge was ready with a decision. The courthouse was not packed with spectators throughout this trial. There were no jurors crawling over every piece of evidence as the lawyers lectured of right and wrong, just a lowly judge. There were no spectators, in fact in the current media sensitive society there was not even a mere mention on a random blog. What should have been the trial of the century managed to be nothing but a footnote in the quiet town where it had taken place. The records being sealed on request of both parties led to the likelihood that not another soul would find out anything of the proceedings, at least not for some time. Judge Ellis did not receive any hugs or smiles for a job well done. Locked away in his chambers he was alone. He bore the weight of the trial and in good conscience felt that justice had been done. He was ready to make a ruling.
The judge called to his secretary. She smiled and said, “That’s great Frank. I’ll get a clerk to pass along the news and get the parties together,” as if the clerks roamed wild throughout the courthouse waiting for a secretary to round one up. By custom everyone was required out of respect for the office to address a sitting judge as “Your Honour” or “Judge” would work as well. Margaret had been with the judge long enough to be the only person in the town next to his wife that would call him by his first name. She would also be the only one to have an ear closer to the judges thoughts even closer than that of his wife. Which would cause a flare up at the local dinner parties the judge would attend with the good wife. Though there was nothing but respect between Margaret and Judge Ellis.
The old courthouse had never seen a trail go so long or be kept so secret. In a small town there would be a shattering to the daily lives of the local populace if word were to get out of which two giants of modern society had been slugging it out in the middle of a no name town so far away from the world court, for there had never been such a case before. It was setting precedent as for the needing of a verdict. If there had been no decision after such a long time would be a shame, more over it would be a disaster for this small town Judge.
There was a soft tap at the judges door, followed by it opening. Only someone called would have the audacity to enter the Judges chambers without waiting for an answer to the knock. Looking up the judge saw a clerk standing in front of him. “Do we have a verdict?”, the clerk as if he, himself had something invested in the outcome of the trial. The judge nodded and with an old handkerchief wiped his brow noticing the sweat as it came in such humidity. He smiled at the clerk, a happy smile though his brow wore the marks of worry and nervousness, almost shock, and simply stated, “ Get the lawyers.”
It had been a week since the judge had heard closing arguments. He had resigned himself to the fact that he may not be able to decide in the end. Both parties had made sound arguments. What lay before him was who was more right than the other. To not decide would have been his worst nightmare. The three years of litigation and hours of testimony would have to be repeated, yet with his career in shambles and his town in ruin for the failure would surely get out. The prospect of failure made him ill. He could not imagine facing his friends and neighbours after a failure that would certainly make his town a laughingstock of the state if not the nation.
He got an old sport-coat off of a hanger. He was never a man of great expense, which could be seen in the old penny loafers he was now slipping his feet in. Reaching for his robe with a smile considerably younger than his true age. This trial which had sucked the life from him daily as the vampire movies of old which he used to enjoy watch. He never truly cared for the new style of cinema. He was after all one of the last survivors of what he called the silver screen golden age.
The clerk upon leaving the Judge Ellis’s office went straight for his desk. The first call went to the firm of Carlton, Franks & Luis. A not so well-known firm now operating from the third floor of an aging bed and breakfast. A lowly intern picked up the phone, after listening to the news she hung up. As quietly as she could she ran down to the breakfast nook. The head of the legal team was in the middle of a snack. Running up to him she whispered, “ The judge has made a decision.” The news made every hair on his nape stand on end.
Carlton stood to his feet and nodded to the intern. She ran from the nook towards The War Room, where the rest of the firm was going over the daily news. Nothing ever seemed to happen in this small town. The biggest legal news they had found was an open beer bottle container left on the courthouse steps. The culprit being the bailiff himself admitted to leaving the container. After proving that it was after hours because he had a beer with his dinner and had for the past twenty years. The judge being a man who could be seen as having a beer with himself just smiled waiving the fine for the penalty on the grounds that the bailiff’s years of civil duty far outweighed the crime. Since that day the firm had been competing to see if anyone could find a bigger legal matter. There they were as the intern walked in to inform them of the news.
The first thing that ran through their minds was if it could really be over. By the end of the week they could be in a real town eating real food. By the following month they could be with their families in the big city. After all this trial had been taken so much. Could it end so…abruptly? Could this intern truly be their saviour?
Carlton walked in and motioned everyone to huddle up. “How about we give thanks to the mere fact that we made it” he said with a slight chuckle. The rest of the group showing the signs of a battle finally over smiled in disbelief that he could be so cheerful. Throughout the case he had been their rock. He had not smiled, joked or jived. He bore the trial and every legal trick and wording in his brilliant mind. As the religious pleas for victory started filling the air. The one Carlton gave though not spoken of course was a simpler one. Lord, Jesus Christ son of god give me the strength to face the challenge once more. Do not let me waiver and break giving my team a reason to break. Do not let me falter in the eyes of my enemies no matter the outcome.
The second call went to the cell-phone of Toshi Tanaka, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. Mr Tanaka was sitting at a small desk in a small rented office down the street from the courthouse. He was reading a novella more commonly known as Manga. This one stared a basketball team. It had been one that his son had given him before taking the long flight to the states. His firm was one of the few that held offices in Japan and the United states. Though at $900 an hour his greatness did not come cheap. He listened to the message, with a press of a button he made sure the call had ended. Quietly he marked the place in his novella, and said, “OK it’s time. The judge will be waiting.” The rest of his legal team pretending to be busy formed up with the precision of a military unit. Two at the door stood holding out a suitcase and a coat. Three behind cleared the room, no matter what the outcome they would not be coming back to this office today. With everything in order Mr. Tanaka took a deep breath and proceeded to go down the street with his personal escort. They slid out of the office the youngest of the group opening doors while the second youngest making sure nothing was forgotten. Both would struggle to catch up to the group. Mr. Tanaka did not like wasting time even while walking. Something his subordinates learned rather quickly, if they lasted the long hours that he would work therefore each of them would work.
There were no lawyers to call or reporters. In fact with great pains the clerk put down the telephone. If his moral conscience or loyalty to the judge had wavered it would have been evident in how quickly the whole town would be standing in the streets. By the end of the verdict the town would be crawling with media from across the country.
Looking through a picturesque window on his compound stood a solitary man. His great empire was built on his movies and the brilliant cinematic technology that he created. A nervous aid walked into the room and whispered the urgent news to Mr. George Lucas, who immediately lost interest with the window and headed for his main office. He walked down a vast hall to a cavern of an office, where he removed his shoes. He liked his private office. Not a soul would bother him without he calling for them. On a large oak desk sat a single telephone. This was his dungeon and the only thing he could watch while waiting were the memorabilia of his great masterpiece. As he waited his mind jumped to the thought that ran daily through his head, how did what he thought was a joke get so far and now risk taking away everything that he had built with sweat and tears.
For someone so in touch with society and the needs of the public, the answer was as elusive as the force to the average fan.
When Carlton and his associates arrived the streets were empty. This was different from the big cities where even in days when court was not in session there would still be countless people heading in and out of the courthouse. His team sat waiting as if expecting the reporters to jump out from their hiding places and mob them. The questions of, “How dare they keep this from the public?” to statements of “The people have a right to know.” would be all that could be made out. Yet in this back water town the streets were empty. Everyone was at work or at home. The local high school was making preparations for the Friday night game across town. Around the courthouse the only souls where of the team for the plaintiffs coming into view and Carlton, Franks & Luis for the defence.
During the trial there had been such pressure to be able to bring in the facts without letting the public disrupt the business of such a peaceful haven. The judge had made it clear that should word get out, then at that time he would throw every member of each legal team into jail for contempt for breaking the gag order. He would not have his town life disrupted by what he saw as nonsense created by people with more money than sense.
Such as both legal teams did not want to spend time in a back water jail any-more than break their solemn vows to the law the gag order was respected and held above all. Which gave rise to the problem of witnesses who would surely talk. As this was an international case the first months of the case started with finding an answer to setting gag orders for people who would not be held accountable under U.S. Law. Mr. Tanaka was brilliant with the interpretation of international law, much more in the fact that the Plaintiffs were from a culture which valued honour over other things. He was able to issue silence statements to the witnesses involved. The plaintiffs not wanting to risk loosing over something as foolish had allowed for the witnesses to be sequestered in a mountain resort. Such were the precautions taken to allow for a fair ruling on such an extraordinary case.
Carlton broke the silence with a simple laugh.
Luis sitting behind him wondered what the joke was. Franks seeing the look in Carlton’s eyes got jest of what he was laughing about. And he also started laughing.
“You know what will happen if we lose?” Both turned around to look at Luis.
Beads of sweat appeared so fast on the forehead of Luis as he turned pale and looked as though he would be ill. They waited a few more minutes to allow Luis to compose himself before heading in.
A man came running around the corner causing everyone in the car to freeze thinking that a reporter had found out and was now charging towards them ready to berate them with questions. To their relief it was just some father of a player running to the local pharmacy. It would turn out that the big news for the day was that Bobby Smith had twisted his ankle causing the town to lose the game.
The three stepped out of the car joining the waiting interns and paralegals. They entered the courthouse knowing full well that their client would not be there again. The main reason being and one that even the judge understood would be if the client was to show the press would be the least of their worries. There was waiting for them a small table marked coffee 25 cents. The money went to pay for new band uniforms and though the coffee tasted rancid when compared to the high-end coffees served in the big city after three years of being trapped in no-mans-land it actually tasted rather delicious. It would be something that most of these legal teams would miss though non would admit to it.
The courtroom was barren. The bailiff was sitting in his usual chair as was the court stenographer. The legal team for the plaintiffs were setting up shop at the required table. The witness for the court as had been for the past three years was Uncle Sam. He had sat in the same spot every day that the court was in session. As he thought it he was there to make sure the events were fair and balanced. To that extent he never sat to close to the front or to far to the back. He would sit on the right side given to the fact that his left ear was not as good as it used to be. This way he could make to be looking at the defence while in all actuality he would be busy listening to the proceedings.
Uncle Sam was nobodies uncle. At least he was not any more. His family had picked up and moved to the big city years ago. He stayed to tend to the family land and of course the family plot where his good wife was buried. As he would have said fate landed him here and here is where he would be put to rest. Being retired he spent his days playing cards with the bailiff which made him the perfect witness to the trial. Though he had nothing truly to add to the case and was in-fact not needed by either team the Judge wanted him there. It made the judge feel comfortable in seeing a familiar face. So with a slight misdirection he had convinced Uncle Sam that the court needed a member of the town to witness the proceedings in order to verify that everything went as ordered. For Uncle Sam was considered in this town to be the nicest man around. In a way he was after all uncle to them all.
As soon as Mr. Tanaka spotted the defence team arrive he called his own team in close for a huddle. It had been an expected reaction that Carlton had gotten used to. He could not make out what they were talking about or even cared. He had learned from years of experience that a case was won on the strength of the evidence than in eavesdropping on the other side. Cases where in fact lost when you started playing the other teams game rather than sticking to your own strengths.
From across the room more of a couple of paces really the defence team took to their table. Same spot as they had taken from the beginning. Everyone took the same chairs in the same order with Carlton the lead sitting second from the edge. He did like to make a small scene when getting up, sort of grandstanding but without the obviousness. The rest of the team took their seats with hardly a glance down. They did have plenty of practice in sitting in this old room. Mr. Tanaka glanced across the expanse at Carlton. Both attempted to be civil, the expression that they respected each other was barely noticed in the small nod each gave the other. Mr. Tanaka had made it clear that he wanted nothing to do with the defence. They were merely blocking the truth with motions in order to wear him down into giving in. Trials never lasted so long in Japan, mostly because the defence would admit they were wrong or had done wrong and work on a solution to the mistake. Here was not the case as had been proven to Mr. Tanaka early in the case when Carlton had pushed a motion to prevent Mr. Tanaka from requesting an “Alford Plea.”
The supporting legal teams did not look at each other. They had first tried to be civil but as it turned out the longer the case went the more the teams blamed each other for prolonging what was clearly an easy answer in favour of each team. Legal pads were made ready across both tables. Just Carlton and Mr. Tanaka did not prepare. Both sat as statues frozen in place waiting for the judge to enter.
Thoughts of a flight home filled the mind of Mr. Tanaka. He would regale his son with the story of this case and how hard it was for him to be away from his family. Though he would not break the gag order by naming names or specifics. He would tell his son about how he faced the whole American legal system and it was the strength in how his son had told him to be strong that kept him going. He might even take a few days off and go on a trip with his family. His wife would love it and his son had been trying to get his father to climb Mt Fuji. Something he said he would do before he turned fifty. That date was fast approaching in his mind.
Carlton being the complete opposite of Mr. Tanaka had never married. He had a nice condo waiting for him when he got back. He would be playing catch-up with other firms as this trial had taken so much of their time. Though a victory would definitely put them on the map for privacy but more towards the clients who would be looking for a defence team that was able to fight big battles with as little publicity as possible. Such were the cases during the times of social media where every person in the country was being connected to the web through their cell-phones.
For both lawyers a trial like this was one that carried a heavy burden. It was as if trying to swim across a fast-moving river while being tied to a piece of driftwood. You manage to stand in place and rest but every step drags you under. The world around doesn’t matter as you try to make it to the other side. And the fear of being drug down river is always present.
There were no mom-and-pop businesses at risk. This was a big money game that was being played. Though the amount of spending most would be called foolish could support every family in this small town for a decade. Neither law firm was risking anything except reputation. Mr. Tanaka had never lost a case. Carlton, Franks & Luis had a fair share of wins and loses, but never a big case. What was at risk was the blood in the water. If Carlton as he saw it failed then the door would be left open for everyone with a claim to the franchise. Even more since this was an international trial there would be the risk of plaintiffs from around the globe wanting a piece of Hollywood.
The cold stoic faces that every attorney present held masked the need for the right verdict. In the middle Uncle Sam sat feeling that he had his part in the legal system. After all a verdict could not have been reached without his place in the middle keeping the parties from going at each other like wild animals. At least that is what he told himself.
Either way the verdict would fall everyone in the room couldn’t wait to get home.
Thank god it was a Friday. They would be able to sneak out-of-town without anyone noticing. Mr. Tanaka could make it back to Japan and rest a day before his clients would ring him to get the verdict. They would all be sleeping now and it would be rude to call and wake them no matter the verdict. Such was his attention to manners. Carlton would be on his cell-phone even before the courtroom door would close behind him. If it was a good verdict he would be telling Mr. Lucas that they had won and justice had prevailed. Though if the verdict was a crazy one they would be planing the appeals and may have to face the enemy in a proper venue where the legal system was better equipped to find the facts in their favour.
The bailiff stood while in a stern voice commanding, “All rise for the Honourable Judge Ellis.” Everyone rose and waited. The judge relished his entrance. It would be after all the closing of a long ordeal which he felt was a waste of his precious time. Though there were legal grounds for the trial and as such he had presided over two children fighting over toy. Though he would not let his own feelings cloud the fact that he had been impartial throughout. His verdict was after all the correct one considering there was no precedent for such a trial.
“Good day everyone. Please be seated,” he said in a very dismissive tone. It was late in the afternoon and he would really like to be finished in order to get a good seat for the upcoming game. He glanced around making sure that the key personnel were all present. “As you all know I expect you all to behave until I have finished. There will be no outbursts. If you have any questions then you will ask them in a respectful manner. Before I continue are there any frivolous motions from either the defence or the plaintiffs?”
Neither side looked directly at the judge. They knew that he was not to fond of this trial. He had made it clear in private chambers on how though there was merit for a trial the mere fact that this suit came into being was mere greed. It brought a bile taste to the back of his mouth that during these times of need people with so much money were willing to waste so much of it in order to get more.
Both Mr. Tanaka and Carlton continues to avoid the gaze of the judge as two children being scolded by their father. The judge pulled out the envelope which held the verdict holding it at reading distance from his face to make sure he had the right one. This was after all nothing but a way for him to make both legal teams feel a bit of what he felt. The room seemed to get colder, eyes fixated on the paper. The freshmen of each legal team prayed in the back of their minds that the verdict swing their way. The seasoned lawyers found themselves staring at the paper with hungry eyes. They quickly found something else to look at. The only sound was that of the judge opening up the legal envelope. The scratching of the string on paper as he unwound it seemed to echo throughout the dead silent room.
Judge Ellis pulled out the simple white paper which held his written verdict. “In the case of Suwa vs George Lucas over unlicensed use of a brand-name. The court finds in favour of the defendant. There has been no clear evidence showing malice or intent on behalf of Mr. Lucas to wrongfully use a symbol of the city of Suwa. Furthermore there has been a failure to prove to the court by the plaintiffs that Mr. Lucas was ever in the city to be able to notice the emblem in question. Given the nature of Mr. Lucas’s carrier it can be made clear that a certain amount of artistic freedom can be given. Gentlemen what we have here is a mere coincidence at the very least and an artistic influence at the most.”
As if waiting for either side to speak the judge asked if there were any questions on his ruling. Mr. Tanaka looking dismayed yet keeping his composure he refrained from pressing the issue. The next move would have to be decided by his clients. He knew deep down the judge had made the right call but would not show it. “Thank you, your honour,” was all that he said. Carlton kept his composure as did the others on the side of the defence. Though it was clear to everyone as it was clear to Uncle Sam in the room that they were fighting to keep that composure.
Judge Ellis enjoying the moment that he could bring this whole mess behind him savoured the last seconds. His hand followed a short arc with the gavel yet it seemed to take hours rather than the seconds it actually took.
“All Rise,” the bailiff stated as the judge stood, gathered his papers and left the courtroom through the same door he had entered.
Mr. Tanaka turned towards the defence and gave a slight bow as was his custom. Carlton acknowledged it in kind. With that Mr. Tanaka returned to his family back in Japan.
Carlton, Franks & Luis shook hands and told the interns and paralegals to head back to the bed and breakfast and take an extra day in this quiet peace of America where justice had prevailed. This was no longer a backwater town but the true symbol of what fairness was about. They should absorb as much of the purity that was this town before heading back to the office, for Monday would bring a new load of cases and new battles to fight. Carlton himself stepped outside to use his cell-phone. There was one person waiting for his call.
In a big office deep within the safety of his compound George Lucas forced himself to answer the phone. He had let it ring three times knowing that if it reached five rings it would go to the answering machine. He would not let the fear from hearing by his own choice the outcome on which his whole livelihood was based on.
“Hello,” George answered the phone in the most casual manner possible. Though the tone of his voice betrayed him.
“Mr. Lucas you can relax,” Carlton’s voice came through the line. “We won.”
With that George thanked him and told him to have an extra beer as though he was there. With that he sat back down in a plush leather chair. With a deep breath of relief he opened the paper. It was of a small town in the middle of nowhere. Though the paper was a day old it had just arrived in the morning. He had an aide order it for him under the illusion of research for a screenplay he was thinking about. There was only one aide throughout the house who actually knew what had transpired. The weather being the only interesting point of the paper showed a forecast with highs in the 90′s and lows in the 60′s with a very high humidity. “Hmm, looks like it is going to rain,” he muttered to himself.