Monday, January 05, 2009

Judy Judges Josh

Sometimes, late at night when I'm finishing up in the kitchen, I watch Judge Judy on TV. I confess, I have a grudging admiration for her. Not just the New Yawk accent (soothing to my ears, as a expatriate New Yawker). This post, though, isn't really about her, but about some of those summoned to face her.

See, every so often a case comes up where one person clearly took advantage of the generosity and goodwill of another. Not only took advantage, but then walked away laughing.

One case: a 19 year old woman we'll call Ruth claimed that her 18 year old ex-boyfriend (we'll name him Josh) owed her a few thousand dollars. When they were together Josh was 17 and because of his age could not sign a contract with a cell phone provider and get his own phone. So Ruth, 18 and a legal adult, signed the contract and got a phone for him. Josh ran up big and BIGGER bills, and then wouldn't pay. (This may have been one of the reasons they split.) So Ruth hauled him in front of the Judge.

What do you think Judge Judy said?

Think a moment, then read on.

Judge Judy pointed out that there's a reason the cell phone company would not give Josh a phone. He was underage and not legally responsible. The cell phone company knew that very well. Ruth ignored that little fact. Ruth had no legal basis on which to sue Josh. Judge Judy ruled against the plaintiff. Josh was not liable.

After the Judge rules and the parties exit, there a brief clips of interviews with them. Ruth was clearly disappointed at how unfair it was, but acknowledged she learned a hard lesson. Josh was clearly smiling. He said it was Ruth's own fault for believing him and getting taken so easily.

Most of the people I've seen standing before Judge Judy seem to have had more or less honest disagreements and need help clarifying their legal responsibilities. But every so often one like Josh comes on who deliberately set out to steal by seeking out someone like Ruth. Someone who will fall for their charm, who wants to be in love, who wants to show kindness and caring. Ruth probably saw the warning signs, and ignored them.

Still, be kind. Be generous. And be careful. Learn the red flags that signal a Josh is near. More importantly, heed them.

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