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Vail Daily column: The myopia of the repeat offender

RKV Law Group

Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, I inherently believe in the promise of our species. Recently accosted by a surly, disgruntled sort who lamented, in great detail, the failings of our culture, I surprised myself with the vehemence with which I defended humanity.

Sure, there are obvious outliers: the crooks, the shysters and the purely malevolent that can be found in every crevice of society from cubicle farms to capitol buildings, from bus stations to boardrooms. Conspicuous though they may be, these cretins are far outnumbered by the genuine, the kind, and the dedicated. It is a reassuring recognition, but it unfortunately is inextricably linked with another fundamental truth: the people that cause the most frustrating conflicts are those that believe themselves to be virtuous but are in fact vultures. The myopia of these societal offenders is their personal funhouse mirror. Unfortunately, they believe it to be a true reflection.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts and intentions, we end up embroiled in disputes. Easy to avoid in theory, fights are an inevitable consequence of being human. Fallible and emotional, we engage in usually figurative combat, unwilling to discover, or even search for, our mistakes until it is too late. The issues are exacerbated when we embrace the comforting fallacy that our conflicting counterpart is an evil, irrational demon come to earth.

Occasionally, these imbroglios end up in the legal system, or at least in the pre-litigation channels in which attorneys are involved. Any sane, well-adjusted person that gets through that experience, unscathed or not, is not keen to want to repeat it, and adjusts their behavior accordingly. This includes giving short shrift to the idea that blame for a dispute cannot be placed all on one party; that there is responsibility on both sides.

That’s for the normal people, though. In the course of my professional life, I have come across a certain subset of bad pennies that will not stop turning up. Never once do these folks have any conception that their behavior could in any way be the cause of their repeated legal woes.

Mind you, I am not talking about criminal entanglements. Frequent violators of our laws are the subject of a different discussion that is informed not only by individual culpability but also external factors such as race, economic opportunity, and chemical dependence. No, my focus here is on the business owners, the employees, the neighbors, the homeowners association officers, and the others who are alarmingly recurrent consumers and targets of the civil (often a misnomer) legal system.

If you, as CEO, sit at your desk and wonder why so many of your customers are refusing to pay their bills due to bad service, the logical answer to your internal query is not that all of them are penny-pinching grifters. There should be at least a flickering glimmer of an idea that your business practices could be improved. When, instead of reconfiguring your team, or devoting more time to training, or paying your people more, you instead issue threats of litigation, you only aggravate the situation and create further unnecessary discord.

In a just world, this would be the immediate demise of your company. Existence being decidedly unfair, sometimes these entities linger around like a particularly malignant infection. But, particularly in a small community such as ours, it is impossible to outrun a bad reputation forever.

If you have been fired so many times that it is hard to remember how many jobs you have had, people are rightfully going to have a hard time believing that your latest termination was the result of odious discrimination. Perhaps you should not have screamed at that client, or stolen from petty cash, or slept with the boss’ wife. It is remarkably uncool to, in the face of your transgressions, cast aspersions on others. Not only does your accusatory position defy all reason, it also weakens the legitimate gripes of people who have been harassed for their gender, or age, or disability. Patently unacceptable.

Even as I write this article, I recognize its intrinsic irony. The miscreants to which it is directed will, true to form, assume that its message is intended for another. It is hard for anybody to see themselves as others see them, but impossible when you refuse to look. Fortunately, the problem is self-correcting: if you fail to correct your vision, you will eventually walk right off a precipice. And then, of course, rail against the cliff for not having proper signage.

T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner/mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, tj@rkvlaw.com or visit http://www.rkvlaw.com.


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