Life Lesson Learned in 4th Grade

Posted on March 26, 2010 | by Donnie

It was my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Gooden, who first showed me the word “assume” hyphenated. It’s something we’ve all heard before – Never “Assume” because it makes an ASS out of U and ME. After the grade school giggling had subsided, I learned two important lessons that day. First, I would never misspell the word “assume” again. Second, I would never assume something was fact in fear of making an ASS out of U and ME (mostly ME). I was recently reminded of this little nugget while supporting a trial in the rural town of Zapata, TX.

Zapata is located about 50 miles south of Laredo and is part of the Rio Grande Valley. It’s close enough to the Mexican border that Mexican Food is just considered food.

Zapata County Courthouse

The Zapata county courthouse is a beautiful, recently constructed modern building, and the 49th District Court is as nice and spacious as any modern courtroom that I’ve ever worked in.

While preparing for this case I was told by my client that the courtroom is “wired for technology,” and he sent me a picture he took of the courtroom showing a nice modern facility. My first thought was “great, easy setup – no running cables and taping them along the floor”.   Now I could have taken his word as fact and just shown up with laptop in hand expecting to plug-n-play, but Ms. Gooden taught me better than that.

Over the years I’ve seen “wired for technology” mean a full blown modern technology setup, and I’ve also seen it mean a 32” TV and VCR on a cart.   In the weeks leading up to trial I decided to contact the court and speak with someone to find out just what “wired for technology” meant in this case.   After a few transferred calls, I was connected with the courtroom bailiff who informed me that the court was indeed fully wired with a ceiling mounted projector, drop down screen and monitors for counsel, judge and witness.  Then came the “but”.   Apparently they were in the process of adding additional equipment to their system, and the touch screen matrix switcher (the brains of the system) had been removed for reprogramming.   I was informed that it would not be back in time for trial and that my nice fully “wired for technology” courtroom had been reduced to a proverbial paperweight.

Because I confirmed the facts and didn’t assume, I was able to order equipment and show up prepared – thwarting an opportunity to make myself and my client look like… well, asses.  So thank you Ms. Gooden. Your sophomoric dissection of a word for the amusement of a fourth grade class was sound advice then and still serves me well today.

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