Many questions lawyers are asked concern monetary courthouse judgments. The answers may surprise you.

I had a business client for which I secured a judgment years ago for nearly $250,000 against two employees who had stolen the money from the company. The employees went to jail, and we had no real belief that our client would ever get paid. But the matter took an unexpected turn.

The elderly mother of the mastermind passed away. She had not changed her will, and the mastermind inherited a large amount of money.

We immediately filed a claim against the estate, and we collected every dollar. While the client was very grateful, the truth is that most any reasonably nimble lawyer could have gotten the same result.

Despite this and some other limited exceptions, however, the surprise is that monetary judgments are rarely ever collected in whole or even in part.

Then there are the harsh judgments of the heart and spirit, which are rarely ever paid off in whole or in part, either.

When families are disconnected and they carry to the end of the life of their mother or father old hurts, recorded on their personal Judgment Ledger of Wrongs, it is highly likely that they have no expiration mark. They follow family members, like the cloud of dirt that perpetually follows Pig-Pen in the Peanuts comic strip.

Sometimes the best advice a lawyer can give a family is to try to let that unpaid judgment on that internal ledger be written off. Family members don’t much like to hear this advice sometimes, but it may the most valuable advice given that day.

Whatever fixed assets family members receive from the estate of their loved one will never compare to the value of the ensuing peace of mind one gets when they let go of an old hurt.

This same clearer view of it all sometimes shines a better light on issues with neighbors and even close friends.

I participate each year with so many other lawyers in a volunteer program of the North Carolina Bar Association (4 All) in which over 600 lawyers around the state gather in several call centers on one day to field pro bono nearly 10,000 questions from citizens. One call I got concerned a “hot” dispute with a next-door neighbor about a property-line infraction. A post on social media, hardly helpful, fanned the flames. This otherwise thoughtful caller turned to the law to extract justice.

Lawyers and courthouse judgments, I told the caller, could not extract justice here. But he sure needed to seek with his neighbor a peace that a courthouse judgment and a lawyer could never give him.

As we move into the New Year, the annual season of new resolve, add these resolutions to your list for 2020:

1. Let some of your internal judgments, of others and of yourself, take a positive and unexpected turn, as my client’s judgment claim did many years ago. Mark as paid any long-held harsh emotional judgments, if you can. Forgetting about them does not mean you are not entitled to them. But letting them go is the best old hurt which will no longer weigh you down. And I am guessing you know where to start on your internal judgment list. (I know I do.)

2. If you are in a renewed get-healthy mode, get rid of these matters which only stir up old emotions. You may not lose any physical weight in the process but avoiding the journey to that place that is not worth going will save your heart, your blood pressure and your spirit an awful lot of wear and tear.

Remember: An informed choice is a smart choice.

Mike Wells is a partner with Wells Law, PLLC in Winston-Salem. His email address is and his telephone number is 336-283-8700.

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