E Pluribus Unum – A Child’s Question Leads to a Silent Courtroom
In 2018 I prosecuted a criminal contempt action in a state court civil proceeding. The contempt action was very difficult for my clients, my law firm, my family, the courts, and opposing counsel. For the first time in my career, I received legitimate threats of harm from an opposing party, and the animosity among some who were involved had reached a tipping point the likes of which I had never seen before.
Somehow, and with cooperation from opposing counsel and the courts, a resolution was reached. I insisted that all terms, including testimony from opposing party (after being informed of and waiving 5th Amendment Miranda Rights), be placed on the record in open court. So, a final hearing was scheduled.
Two of my children accompanied me on the train from Grapevine, Texas to Fort Worth for the final hearing in the proceeding. While on the train, and as I was wondering what I wanted to say at that final hearing, one of my kiddos asked, “Daddy, what does E Pluribus Unum mean?” E Pluribus Enum happened to be the title of the then-latest Stranger Things episode that we had watched together. I answered her question in a brief minute and then in the next five minutes wrote the content below to serve as my “counsel’s comments” about the contempt proceeding and its ultimate resolution by agreement of many who were involved in the matter.
The Honorable Judge Melody Wilkinson presided. My children were in the gallery. After all testimony and evidence was presented, I was given the opportunity to comment or close. So, I presented what I had written on the train. I was very emotional as I knew my comments represented the end of a difficult legal proceeding that involved many parties and diverse interests, a concurrently-prosecuted federal lawsuit, unique issues of law, and even law enforcement–the matter had taken quite a toll on me personally, the court system, and many others.
A few seconds into the presentation, the courtroom fell silent, listening.
MAY IT PLEASE THE COURT
E Pluribus Unum
My kids asked me what that meant as we were on the train headed to this hearing. That was the title of the latest Stranger Things episode that we watched, but it stirred a discussion of relevance here.
E Pluribus Unum is the De facto motto of the United States, debatable to the other, “In God We Trust”.
E Pluribus Unum means Out of Many, One.
I’m a homer for philosophical aspirations like E Pluribus Unum.
I believe —perhaps naively—our Constitution and our tri-partite system of government is the finest on the planet. It is not perfect; but, in my view it is desirable and one I enjoy protecting on a daily basis.
Situations or actions that spur lawsuits such as this and its sister federal lawsuit between these parties put “In God We Trust” and E Pluribus Unum to the test.
Laws crafted by the Legislative branch are tested. The executive branch is tested to enforce laws that are in the books. And, our Judiciary—its Courts, Dockets and Judges —are tested in applying the law to a set of challenging facts and circumstances.
On behalf of my law firm, I am pleased that this matter has come to an agreed upon resolution.
I submit, the means expended to get to this end were not without hardships or trial. My family and my law firm were placed on lockdown for a period. For the first time in my career, I was worried that my work spilled into my home in a manner that put my children and my wife at risk.
But, with legal drafting and use of the Due Process clause, my fears were expelled through Court orders and Judges’ direction, and ultimately, we were able to get these two lawsuits in a posture for potential out-of-court resolution.
With direction from the Judiciary, and with the cooperation of [opposing party] and his court-appointed criminal defense attorney, Mr. Greg Westfall, and with a commitment for positive and amicable resolution from [my clients], and with trust in God, the many in this matter became one, and the Rule of Law leveraged to arrive at a resolution.
E Pluribus Unum
The image posted with this blog is a section of the hearing transcript that captured opposing counsel’s comments immediately following my presentation.
It was a fine moment; one of my most memorable courtroom experiences.