Thursday, December 17, 2009

Judge Judy: Settling family feuds in small claims court

Matt Tabbai says that the reason that Sarah Plain is so popular is because she whines a lot and makes everything personal. Heck, I can whine a lot and make everything personal too! I got skills. I´ve been trained by the best -- a dysfunctional family that has been dysfunctional for whole generations. Palin has nothing on me. I can whine with the best of them.

Here´s a great example -- my family´s latest episode of dysfunctionality. However, since one of my family members just married a high-powered lawyer, let´s all pretend that this story isn´t about me. Okay?

"Once upon a time, allegedly, there as a kind old man who died suddenly without making a valid will -- thus leaving his greedy family to fight over the pickings. However, he did have sense enough to give his daughter -- who might or might not have been me -- signing privileges on his bank account, worth approximately $60,000, and to give his second oldest granddaughter, who we will now call ´Sapphire´, joint bank account privileges also -- in order to avoid probate."

"How long is this story going to go on, Jane," you might ask. "Get to the point."

"Okay. Pop died. Sapphire took the joint bank accounts all for herself. And also the $30,000 Oppenheimer fund. And also the new car. But then the kind old man´s other daughter dragged the whole dysfunctional family through probate court anyway. (You can´t get much more dysfunctional than that!)

Then the court awarded Pop´s oldest daughter $23,000 and his youngest daughter -- possibly me -- $27,000, all that was left of the estate after Sapphire took the car, the bank accounts and the Oppenheimer. Despite Pop´s wishes that the accounts be used to help put his younger grandchildren through college, Sapphire was definitely not going to share those.

You got the picture so far? Well, there´s more.

After the probate case closed, Sapphire came up to her mother with tears in her eyes and shamelessly begged her for the rest of the money. "If you give me your $27,000 now too, I can buy a new house and then later I will pay you back by helping to put my younger sister and brother through college." Let´s call the younger siblings, er, Ashley and Joe.

Now what real mother could possibly turn down all those tears? Not me.

However. Ten long years passed and Sapphire showed NO signs of helping either Joe or Ashley through college. She did at one time write one check for $4,000 in order to pay Joe back for money she owed him for some other reason -- but her check bounced.

"Now that you own a house, have a well-paying job in the movie industry, have ´married up,´ etc," said the poor naive mother, it's´s time to start paying the $27,000 that you owe me back."

"What money? What debt? What promise?" responded Sapphire. "I have no idea what you are talking about."

So. What is a mother to do? Sue the freak out of her daughter of course! I bet that´s what Sarah Palin would have done.

Seeing as how Sapphire´s husband is a high-powered lawyer, the only option then facing the poor mom was to take the daughter to small claims court instead of superior court.

So she did.

The poor sweet mom may not win this case because she would have to ask Joe and Ashley and the mom´s sister and brother-in-law and Sapphire´s uncle and great aunt and first husband to testify against Sapphire -- and the mom was hesitant to do that.


"Because everyone in the family seems to be afraid of crossing Sapphire." I would be too! "And also because this family is already dysfunctional enough already and dragging ALL of them into court is only going to make it worse." Oh.

But there will still be some small satisfaction for the mom in knowing that "Sapphire" hasn´t completely gotten away with lying to her own mother for money.

Plus what if the mom´s case wins? Then she would at least get some of her money back -- $7,500 of the money that she spent paying off young Ashley´s college loan.

Plus it is rather pathetic but true that going to court might be the only way that the poor mom might ever get to see her second daughter -- and her first grandchild -- ever again.

So I, er, I mean, the poor sweet mom, just filed this case in small claims court.

But, wait! There´s even more!

Judge Judy´s spies just discovered this case in the records of the Berkeley courthouse and asked both the mother and the daughter if they would come on the show. The mom, of course, said, "Wow! Sign me up!" But who knows what the daughter will say?

I can clearly imagine what Judge Judy might say about this mess, however. "Mom, you were a complete idiot not to get a written contract but, on the other hand, if you can´t trust the word of your own daughter to help out her own sister and brother in need even when she can well afford it, then who CAN you trust!"

PS: Maybe Sarah Palin should take Levi Johnston to small claims court and they too can sort out their family feud on Judge Judy.

PPS: I´m still down here in Chile. My father was a Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy and was always talking about when he took an aircraft carrier ride to Valparaiso back in the 1950s. So here is a short video of Valparaiso -- in honor of my Pop:

And when I was a kid, my mother always used to drag me off to antique stores -- so here´s a video of the ultimate antique collection. It´s in Nueuva Braunau, in Patagonia, a German settlement founded way up in the Chilean Andes in 1853. Mom, this one is for you.

My mom died in 1989, but if she is in Heaven, I´m sure that her version of it will look a lot like this museum.