That’s the title of a column that my middle daughter, Kate Markus, and I wrote in the Daily Business Review. Here’s the intro:
As a high school student, I deal with seemingly arbitrary scheduling decisions from teachers all the time. Especially in this age of technology, teachers can add assignments randomly throughout the day and night by sending a message to our phones, and they love to add assignments with crazy short deadlines on the day after a big event like Halloween, only to take weeks to grade them.
The same thing happens to lawyers with electronic notices. In the old days, most judges worked with the litigants to find a time that worked with everyone’s schedule for a hearing or a trial. But now, there are instances when lawyers are summarily notified by email that something has been scheduled, sometimes with only a day’s notice. And then the waiting game starts for the order.
As challenging as the scheduling may be for us high school students, the stakes are significantly higher for litigants subject to the dictates of judges who are not always sympathetic to personal family situations including the birth of children.
This happened just recently, when a lawyer asked for an upcoming civil trial to be continued due to the pending birth of his long-awaited daughter, who had been conceived after fertility treatments following a series of difficulties. A Miami-Dade judge refused to continue the case, even though it had not previously been continued and all the lawyers agreed to the continuance. The judge told the lawyer he would be sanctioned if he asked again for a continuance. Only after the story of his ruling broke in the news did the judge relent and grant the continuance.
My own birth story is another example. My dad (and co-author) was scheduled for a complicated and lengthy multi-defendant trial in Savannah, Georgia. The judge set the trial for— you guessed it—the very day my mom was scheduled to deliver me. When my dad asked the judge to push the start date back just a few days so that he could be there for my birth, the judge refused, actually telling my dad he could fly down for “half a day” to attend the birth and then fly back for court the following day. My parents solved this problem by moving up the date of my delivery so that my dad could be there for my birth before leaving town for six weeks.