A case of a woman scorned teaches lessons in legal semantics

A case of a woman scorned teaches lessons in legal semantics

You can learn something about how the legal system works by studying law, watching certain episodes of Judge Judy, and getting into legal trouble. You will not learn anything about the law by watching movies with fictional lawyers like A Few Good Men and Legally Blonde.

You can learn certain aspects of the law from unlikely sources, too. For instance, you can find out how to properly file a lawsuit, which court to file, and how to behave in front of a judge by reading this blog about a woman who sued a man because he stood her up on a date.

There’s no such thing as “emotional infliction of emotional distress”

In September 2020, QaShontae Short was supposed to go on a date with a man named Richard Jordan, but he bailed because the date happened to fall on his late mother’s birthday. While reasonable people would see that excuse as valid, Ms. Short didn’t.

Instead of just firing off a series of tweets or writing an essay about the evils of “ghosting”, she sued him for $10,000 for emotional distress.

She filed her complaint in a district court, but court judge Herman Marable Jr. told her in a Zoom court hearing that she should have filed it in a circuit court.

What should have been a short and sweet virtual hearing turned out to be far more dramatic and louder than it should be.

Judge Marable had already told her that the case is not justiciable in district court and that she needs to take it to the right court. He was simply informing her of what she needed to do to file her case. But alas, she kept talking over the judge, citing at one point how she was a victim of “emotional infliction of emotional distress”.

For those of you who plan to file suit against individuals who stood you up on a date, the correct phrase is “intentional infliction of emotional distress”.

More important than learning what perjury means is learning what it isn’t

Meanwhile, Mr. Jordan told the judge that he thought the case was just going to be thrown out. The judge advised him that if he wanted the case dismissed, he had to file a motion for its dismissal.

Ms. Short then alleged that Mr. Jordan lied in his response when he merely made a statement about what he believed actually transpired — that they only had one date and nothing else, and that now he was being sued for $10,000. But Ms. Short, who is not a lawyer, insisted that Mr. no-show “perjuried [sic] himself”, which the judge said she was in no position to determine. She added that her ditcher “brought forth the perjury”, which is just wrong.

A person can be said to be guilty of perjury when he/she knowingly makes a false statement while under oath. Yes, it is essentially lying, but the terms ‘perjury’ and ‘lie’ are not synonymous and should not be used interchangeably.

But try telling that to Ms. Short. You might have better luck than Judge Marable.

A demonstration of contempt

In clips of the virtual hearing, Ms. Short could be seen aggressively debating legal semantics with the judge. However, if Ms. Short was as knowledgeable about legal terms as she thought she was, she should have known that her behavior could be perceived as constituting contempt.

How to stay calm in the face of intentional infliction of a distressful commotion

It’s not uncommon for a judge to place someone in contempt if they’re acting erratically and/or if they are disrespectful toward the court or judge. But how Justice Marable conducted himself in the face of such aggression is a masterful demonstration of patience.

At one point, he had to take off his face shield, exasperated with arguing with someone who kept using ‘perjury’ as a verb. Ultimately, his only recourse was to mute her so he could explain to her that the case was a civil matter, not a criminal one, and therefore must be heard at a circuit court, not district.

The judge could only hope that the hostile plaintiff listened to his advice. It would come in handy in her pursuit of justice for intentional infliction of emotional distress she might experience from future date ditchers.

If you have a family law or personal injury case in Washington State and want to spare yourself the hassle of having to learn such terms as “perjury” and “contempt of court”, consult attorneys Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams. Call our offices in Renton, Seattle.