I’m going to try and keep this brief as possible. I’m trying to provide an explanation of the system rather than stories. Sure, the stories are interesting, and I may use one or two to give a better picture of the system, but this post is more so to relieve you all of a misconception that many people have. Deals with the devil do not occur at the crossroads. Contrary to what you’ve learned from Supernatural or Buffy, a devil’s deal begins with a contract, and ends in a courtroom. every time.
Let me back up. I’m a lawyer in New York. I’ve been one for almost 5 years now. I work for a small firm, 10 individuals. We are considered an “insurance defense” firm, where the majority of our cases are fed to us by insurance companies for their clients. Long before I started working here, we became counsel for some of the dioceses in the state. Honestly, you’d be surprised how many times the church gets sued for personal injuries.
Now, I don’t mean for this to come off the wrong way, but I’m very good at what I do. If a case is winnable, then chances are I’ll come out on top. If it’s not, I can normally get a pretty good settlement discussion going to save the church some money. I guess that’s why they came to me. Honestly, I’m not sure if the other attorneys here have taken on these…other… cases for the church. Honestly, I don’t want to ask. It’s a burden that sometimes should be just left unspoken, but I feel like you all should know.
I guess the best way to explain would actually be a story despite what I’m trying to convey, so I guess I’ll start with my first. This happened roughly two years into practicing. One day a monseigneur of a church we regularly represent came to my office. This was weird. Normally the firm was contacted by the insurance company and did not meet with the relevant members of the church until we conduct our site visit. But here was the head of this church sitting in my office. Monseigneur (we’ll call him Frank, a fake name for his protection) explained to me that he was there on behalf of a parishioner in need of help. He stated this man may have broken a contract, and, at first thought he could represent himself in the dispute (advice for even normal cases: don’t do this, you may hate us, but lawyers are very helpful), but soon came to the church asking for help. The monseigneur felt bad for him, and agreed to put him in touch with my firm, and even pay since he could not afford the representation (I will not bore you with the legal contracts necessary for this to happen).
The issue was this case was on the calendar in Courtroom 66 in Queens in two days. Honestly, that is not enough time to prep for a hearing. But Monseigneur Frank was adamant on me representing him. I accepted reluctantly knowing I’d need to prep all night. He handed me a small case file and left without another word.
This file was THIN. Often, legal files have thousands of pages. Depositions, discovery documents, notes, witness statements etc. This file had barely anything. It had a contract between this man I’m representing (we’ll call him Mr. Alvarez) and a name scribbled illegibly. The contract was weird to say the least. It was an exchange of 5 million dollars to Mr. Alvarez for somone named “Lucillia Alvarez”. As soon as I read this I knew the case was a slam dunk. Contract is void as against public policy. You sure as hell cannot sell another person. Because of this honestly, I just browsed the few other pieces of paper in the file, a birth certificate for a “Lucillia Alvarez” showing she was just a year old being the only thing that really stood out to me. I contacted Mr. Alvarez, informed him of my representation (which he thanked me for a thousand times) and told him where to meet me before trial.
On the day of, I showed up early. I’d never been to courtroom 66 in Queens but hell, there are tons of IAS parts in Queens, so this was nothing new. Mr. Alvarez seemed nervous. I told him not to worry, that there is a plethora of case law that says contracts like this are void, that he may need to pay back the money somehow, but that his daughter was safe. Court room 66, as you may have guessed is on the 6th floor, again, something anyone who has ever been to that courthouse may have guessed.
Standard courtroom. Nothing to say here. Though I did find it a bit odd that the public was not allowed in the courtroom at anytime. Courtrooms are open to the public barring certain circumstances. But whatever, it’s not like other people would be coming to this hearing.
Opposing counsel was the definition of a hot shot lawyer. Tall, dark and handsome, shit eating grin on his face, $2000 suit. I’ll later learn that he was actually the one to enter into the contract with my client. The judge was a portly man. Went by the name of Judge Brim. Never stood in front of this man (but this sure as hell wasn’t the last time I would) but hey a judge is a judge. The only other people there were the two court officers who stood in a way that blocked the entrance. Not going to lie, these guys scared the hell out of me. They were huge and had a look on their face that basically screamed “don’t try anything”.
Let me just be blunt. This is not a fair hearing. I had no clue what I was getting into. Now I’m better prepared, but this first time was a shock. When a judge starts out with “Has the defendant produced the child” you know you’re in for a bad time. I immediately objected, as this is not only prejudicial to my client (having a judge that has already prejudged the outcome), but also goes against all public policy. This objection was met with a “shut up and sit down”. When I questioned this as out of line, a court officer took a step towards me. Like I said, I didn’t want to mess with those behemoths. Opposing counsel said no and explained that he allowed my client to have 5 more days to do so, but that he failed to perform. The judge finally allowed me to speak, to which I explained how the illegality of the contract means my client does not need to perform. This did not go over well. I got reprimanded pretty hard on an explanation that can best be simplified as “a deal is a deal”. At this point, desperate to simply get my client, who was visually hyperventilating at this point, out of the courtroom I offered to negotiate a deal. Something else in exchange. This was honestly just a delay tactic. I was already planning my appeal of this decision in my head as I spoke, including every sanction I’d have brought against this crooked judge. Opposing counsel leaned forward (I’ll never forget how smug he looked) and just kind of stated “your honor I’d gladly accept the defendant himself in satisfaction of this debt. No need to get the child involved”.
Honestly, I was about to flip in that courtroom how ludicrous this whole hearing was. As I started to speak my client cut me off. Affirmatively stating “I’ll take the deal”. I immediately advised him that this is not necessary and that we could win this case on appeal. Honestly, I still remember word for word what he said to me. To this day, these words still resonate in my mind whenever I’m in this courtroom. “I signed this contract. My daughter, she is innocent. This is my burden to carry. My cross.”. The next thing I knew the court officers had Mr. Alvarez by the arms. They honestly seemed inhuman. The quickly dragged him through the door that would lead to the judge’s chambers, over my protest. Opposing counsel was quick to follow, but not before just as smugly making some response like “pleasure doing business”.
I stormed out, looking for another court officer, but anyone I spoke to had no clue what courtroom I was talking about. There was no courtroom 66, let alone a calendar for it. I was going insane. Where was my client, what did I just witness? The courtroom I previously entered was now courtroom 69. There was no 66. I was going mad. I walked out of that courthouse and saw the one man that maybe could have an explanation. the Monseigneur. He was very open about everything.
Opposing counsel, as you might have guessed, is the “cross-roads demon”. He is there to enforce the contract he made. To this day, I have no clue who or what this judge is (it is the same judge no matter where my “trial” is), though I’ve picked up some information about him in other cases. The court officers are the “hell hounds”. I swear I’ve seen them transform at times into things that you couldn’t imagine in your nightmares.
These hearings. They are a person’s last hope. they have broken their deal, and as a result the demon has come to collect. They are not fair. They are not just. They simply are. I am not there to protect my client, I am there to simply make the punishment more bearable. It’s sort of like settling a case, except there’s a hell of a lot more on the line. But I can tell you this, you don’t want to find yourself in that courtroom. It is just as bad as a meeting at the crossroads. But this was just the beginning of my journey representing these people. I have seen many people go through this courtroom now. I can’t explain why I take on the cases. Even the good outcomes are never good. I guess I do it because in a weird way, I feel as though I’m there to help them carry the burden. That, in that unfair trial there is at least one person there willing to help them carry their cross.