For the second time in the six years or so I have been a court appointed special advocate for children in the county where I live, I have eagerly anticipated a contested trial between a parent dissatisfied with the change of plan supported by the AAG and the state of Oregon. And, for the second time, I found that such impatience was rewarded as it usually is with disappointment, in that once I found myself sitting in a courtroom with a judge, the caseworker and her supervisor, and the AAG, as well as the attorney for the father, and my own CASA supervisor, and the court reporter, the attorney for the father revealed in asking for extra time for the father to arrive to the courtroom that the case would be settled rather than proceeding to trial as we had expected.
What is it that brings parents who are, unsurprisingly, dissatisfied with the change of plans that the state is making from reunification to either adoption (as in the first case where I went to a TPR hearing only to have it settled just before the trial was scheduled to begin) or a durable guardianship (as in this contested hearing), go to the verge of a trial but settle out at the last moment? What is it that makes the thought of engaging in a trial so unappealing to someone who nonetheless are not happy with what the state is offering them?
I am not sure offhand of the stats, but a vast majority of cases brought against criminal defendants end up being pleaded out before going to trial. If trials are the entertaining business of the legal system, it is far more common for settlements to be made rather than defendants testing their conviction in their innocence to a trial against the prosecutorial power of the state. This appears to be true when it comes to cases in family law as well when custody is concerned. It is hard, no matter how much one hates what the state is offering you, to fight against its power, especially in cases where one’s own counsel is often advising one to be reasonable and accept what is given, as is often the case.
I tend to find, when I think about the subject, that my rooting interest in parties depends greatly on the facts and law of the case in question. Those parties who find themselves caught up in the action of an overly powerful and abusive state that is seeking to entrap them have my support and encouragement. Similarly, in cases where the state is acting in defense of those who have been genuinely victimized by some sort of abuse from people, the state has my sincere support. There are a great many cases where I do not begin with any particular party I am supporting, except for the enjoyment of sparks and arguments flying and the thrill of verbal combat. It is frequently over the course of such trials, when various facts and evidence is revealed, that my interest moves from a neutrality that loves to see a good fight to something that can be quite partisan. Whether or not this love of verbal combat and ferocious claims and counterclaims is a noble or ignoble aspect of my character I leave it for others to determine, but it is something that certainly shapes my enjoyment of law and politics to a high degree. Alas, today, as is sometimes the case, I was not rewarded with the legal contest I was looking forward to participating in. Perhaps it may occur some other time in the future.