“Sarah’s Love” : A Lawyer-Librarian’s Novel

The New York Supreme Court Criminal Term Library has acquired many friends over the years: lawyers, librarians and other talented people who have helped us grow. Among their number is one William Stock, attorney and librarian, who did volunteer work here some years ago and still keeps in close touch. Bill has written a novel called “Sarah’s Love” that is both everyday and yet unique. It is routine in that it is a story about lawyers; it is unique -to this writer’s knowledge- in that it has no violence and does not involve criminal activity. Instead, it is a love story
A chapter of the story is offered today for your reading pleasure as well as your comments.”

” It bears reiteration that this is a work of fiction; no actual person or institution is meant to be represented and any resemblance to one is coincidental.”

CHAPTER VII A few weeks after he and Sarah had parted on such good terms, Harry closed the firm at twelve noon on Wednesday, July 3rd and wished everyone a long happy holiday weekend. He stayed an hour later to do some paperwork and then Charlie drove him to his apartment to pick up Grace. Then they headed out to East Hampton on the south fork of eastern Long Island.
Twenty years ago, back when mere mortals could afford such things, Harry and Grace had bought a small cottage on a quiet street just a few minutes walk from the beach. As the years passed they were offered many times the purchase price for their home, and some entrepreneurs had even offered them larger houses in nearby towns together along with a wad of cash to get them to sell. But Harry and Grace always refused: this was their home, and they never wanted to leave it.
Harry and Grace headed out that weekend looking forward to four days of sailing, picnics and barbeques with friends and long walks under the stars at sunset.
But it didn’t work out that way.

Three thousand miles to the west, things were going very badly for Goldsmith & Hammer. A Dutch company that manufactured submarines had signed a contract to build three diesel submarines for Taiwan. For political reasons, the deal was arranged through a California middleman, United Naval Engineering. Harry’s firm brokered the deal. The California firm had to advance one hundred million dollars for the ships with an irrevocable letter of credit. The submarines eventually arrived in the port of Taipei in such a poor state of repair that the Taiwanese navy refused to accept delivery. United Naval was left on the hook for a great deal of money.
Lawsuits were being started all over the world when a lawyer in Harry’s firm recalled a clause buried in hundreds of pages of contract language that required any disputes arising out of the deal to be resolved by the International Arbitration Association in California. For six weeks Roy Cook, Brad McDonald and two associates stayed at the Mark Pierre in San Francisco in a suite filled with boxes of paper, arguing alongside lawyers from two other continents before a three-man arbitration panel.
In the last week in June the panel ordered United Naval to post a bond of $25,000,000 as security pending a final decision. At a quarter to five on the eve of the Fourth of July in the federal district court of San Francisco, Judge Looney (known to local lawyers as “The man who lives up to his name”), confirmed the order to post the bond and gave the opposing lawyers the immediate right to begin seizing the assets of Harry’s clients if they didn’t put up the money. The judge then wished everyone a pleasant holiday and walked off the bench.
Roy Cook was struck dumb, and if the court officers had not asked him to leave so they could lock up he probably would have stood rooted to the spot for an hour. As it was, Roy found himself on the steps of the courthouse a few minutes past five California time, trying to reach Harry in New York by cell phone.
When Harry picked up the phone in his East Hampton foyer it was eight-thirty by his Rolex. He and Grace were heading out for an evening stroll into town. She waited for him by the door, as he spoke.
“Hello, Roy,” Harry said. “How are things in San Francisco?”
“The city is great but there’s real trouble,” Roy replied, and he filled Harry in.
“My God,” Harry said when Roy finished. “Didn’t you ask the judge for a stay so you could post an appeal bond? That would cost us only two and one-half mil.’”
“Of course I did, Harry. You know this judge’s reputation. He just went wild.”
Harry looked up at his wife and gestured her back. She breathed a sigh that came only with long experience as she stepped back into the house and closed the door.
“Listen, Roy,” Harry said, “we’ve got to go to the Court of Appeals to get them to stay Judge Looney’s ruling until we can post an appeal bond.”
“We can’t prepare any papers out here,” Roy said, exasperated. “We don’t have the facilities.”
“I know,” Harry said. “I’ll get a team together in the office tomorrow and we’ll get a set of motion papers together. We’ll e-mail them to you at the hotel by seven o’clock Friday morning. You’re admitted out there. You can sign the papers and walk them over to the Court of Appeals yourself.” He looked at the captain’s clock on the mantle over his fireplace. “It’s twenty minutes to nine. Get some rest and call me at the office tomorrow morning at five A.M. your time. Have a good night.”
Grace walked up to Harry and put her hand on his shoulder. “Are you really going into the office on the Fourth of July?”
Harry took her hand in his and kissed it. “Yes I am. There’s $25,000,000 at stake. But one way or another I’ll be back for a late snack on Friday night and we’ll spend an extra day out here to make it up to you.” He squeezed her hand. “Besides, I don’t have to head back until tomorrow morning. We’ll still have our walk tonight. Just let me make a few calls.”
He chartered a helicopter from the local airport to fly him back to Manhattan at six the following morning; then he called up a taxi to get him there. Next he called up Helen and asked for a run-down of who was available to handle the emergency. He didn’t like what he heard. Max was in town, but then he never took time off. But there weren’t too many other people besides him. His four best lawyers were sitting in a hotel room in San Francisco, unable to do much except answer questions by phone. Most of his other lawyers had decided to head out of town for the holiday, one was getting married and Harry was not about to disturb him. Finally, it seemed that only Jonathan Crane and Annette DeKoven would be available to help out. Harry was worried: the two firms that were up against his had more than five hundred lawyers between them.
But then Harry got an inspiration. It made him smile. It was the kind of idea that Harry was famous for: one that would solve an immediate problem that everyone knew about as well as a problem in the future that only he could foresee. He called Manhattan information.
Sarah was locked in her room studying for the bar exam when her father picked up the telephone. As a man who was equally likely to be getting a telephone call in either English or French, he always answered the phone by saying “‘Allo’.” That way, he could switch into either language with ease. He knew who Harry Goldsmith was, and he knocked on Sarah’s door to tell her that he was on the phone. She took the call.
“Hello Harry,” she said. “What’s up?”
“An interesting project has just come our way, and we’ve only got one day to solve it. Tell me, how is your studying for the bar exam coming along?”
Sarah let out a great sigh. “Harry, it feels like I never went to law school in the first place. I go to review classes five days a week for six hours a day in a room with a few hundred other people and then I spend the rest of my time studying.”
“I’m sure you’ll do wonderfully, Sarah,” Harry said in his most reassuring manner. “Tell me, would you be interested in a day of hands-on legal experience at $125 an hour?” Harry explained the situation facing the firm. “I need every good legal mind I can lay my hands on in a hurry. I know the bar exam is in less than two weeks, but think of this as a chance to get some real experience. It might even be a stimulant to help you with the exam. It’ll only be for one day.”
Sarah thought quickly. She could think of many reasons for saying yes and just as many for saying no. But she agreed to help out for one reason, which she kept to herself. Her parents always had paid her expenses, and now she had a chance to make some real money very quickly, in a single day. “What time do you want me there, Harry?” she asked.
“A quarter to eight,” he said, making no effort to disguise his pleasure. “I make it a rule never to dress down when going to the office but that’s just me. Feel free to come in jeans and a sweatshirt. We’ll bring in lunch and dinner from the best places in town.”
As Harry hung up the phone he reflected on all the long hours and missed holidays with his family that were part of the price he paid for building his practice. If I had just become a law professor as I had hoped to, I’d be leading a much more quiet life now. Was it worth it, he wondered? But then he took a long look at the foyer he was standing in, and when he gazed back over his shoulder he could see the Atlantic Ocean through the French doors that lead out onto the patio. He thought of the two cars in his garage: a Cadillac for his wife and a Jaguar for himself. With a moment’s sadness, Harry knew he had the answer to his own question.
After Sarah hung up the phone she headed into the living room to speak to her parents. Sarah considered herself a grown woman, but as long as she was living in their house and taking their money she felt an obligation to let them know what she was doing.
Her father didn’t like what he heard. “Sarah, you have too much invested in the bar exam to interrupt your studies for a few dollars. If you need money, I’ll be happy to give it to you.” Her father was a slight man, about Harry’s size, but with slicked-back dark hair where Harry’s was curly and white. But what made people remember Maurice Mendes were his eyes. Pure brown verging on amber, they appeared to leap out with a vital energy that hardly seemed human.
Her mother did not look up from the book she was reading. “Let her do as she wishes, Maurice. You know she’s going to pass the bar with flying colors. Now might be a good chance for her to see what being a lawyer is really like.” And that was that.
Sarah skipped her daily jog through Central Park the next morning. Instead, she headed to Harry’s office on 42nd Street with a business suit in a backpack. She walked into Goldsmith & Hammer at seven-thirty. The place was deserted except for Harry. “Thank you for coming, Sarah.”
“I’m not here officially yet, Harry,” she replied.” Can I use the shower and steam room before we get going?”
“Of course, Sarah,” he said, and he was pleased at her request. It meant she was already starting to feel at ease in the office.
When she emerged from her morning ablutions she looked every inch the proper businesswoman. Then she walked directly into the main conference room where Harry was waiting with his team. Harry sat at the head of the table with Max to his right and Jonathan and Annette to his left. She could not help noticing that Harry seemed anxious for the first time since she met him while Max seemed to be perfectly at ease with himself.
“Good morning, Sarah,” Harry said. “Let’s get down to business.” And he gestured her to a seat. Then he pushed a button on a speakerphone. “Roy, can you hear us?”
“Yes I can.”
“Would you please give us your version of what happened in court yesterday?” Harry asked. Calmer now, Roy took only a moment.
“Good,” Harry said. “Now Max will discuss our proposed response.”
Max put down his cup of coffee and began to speak. “The court has ordered us to put up $25,000,000. This is an injunction. According to. …”
“Max,” Harry said, “Perhaps you’d better explain what an injunction is.” He shot a quick glance at Sarah, who had never practiced law before.
Max spoke with a hint of contempt, as if he were speaking to a group of idiots. “An injunction is when a court orders someone to do something, or, in some cases, not to do something. The classic example is a court ordering someone to take down a fence that was accidentally put up on someone else’s property.”
“Now what can we do about this injunction, Max?” Harry spoke in a tone that revealed that his real calling was teaching.
Max suddenly seemed very pleased with himself. “We can get the Court of Appeals in San Francisco to reverse Judge Looney’s injunction by showing the court that we are likely to win on the merits of the case when it is finally decided. So we’ve got to review the entire case and prepare a detailed discussion of it for the Court of Appeals. There are a couple of thousand pages of testimony and exhibits to review, but with our computers we should be able to crank out some good papers in time to get them to the coast before the Court opens its doors on Friday.”
“What will be our chief argument?” Jonathan asked.
“We’re going to argue that United is only a middleman and that the manufacturer of the boats is responsible for their screw-ups. There’s no logical reason for us to have to post a bond because there’s no way the arbitration panel can possibly find against us less they’re on the take. Of course, we’re going to have to go through several hundred inspection reports to document the defects in manufacture.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with your approach,” Sarah suddenly remarked.
“I don’t care what you agree with,” Max snapped back at her. “You’re just here to review documents.”
But Harry had a different reaction. He put his hand on Max’s arm to silence him and then looked at Sarah. “You opinion is welcome, Sarah. What do you have to say?”
“Just this,” Sarah began. “First, all of you know a lot more about practicing law than I do, and normally I would just be quiet and take notes. But, as it happens, I do have experience in this one area of law.”
Harry invited her to continue. Max shifted in his seat as if he were waiting for recess in kindergarten.
“I clerked for the Court of Appeals in Boston the summer after my first year. One of the things I did was to review motions in cases like this. This is not an injunction, it is a judgment, which is an order to pay money, and according to the federal rules of procedure you are automatically entitled to a ten day stay of execution of a money judgment to allow time to post a bond. And if you post a bond your assets are safe. That judge was completely wrong. He had no right to refuse you a stay.” Then she went silent and waited to see what effect her words would have.
Harry was quick on the uptake. “How long would it take to draft a motion your way, Sarah?”
“About an hour and a half,” she replied. “Maybe less.”
Now Max spoke up. “But if she’s wrong, we’ll have nothing in our hand and come Monday our client’s assets will be in danger.”
Harry went silent, but everyone could see he was thinking. He held his gold fountain pen horizontal just a few inches above the table, as if it were the scale of justice. No one spoke until he finally said what was on his mind.
He looked at Sarah. “I think you’re right, Sarah, but I can’t risk everything on a single approach.” He rose from his chair and leaned forward, resting his knuckles on the table. “This is what we’ll do. We will argue for a bond as if Judge Looney’s order were both an injunction and a judgment. We’ll let the court decide what it is. Sarah will write the argument for the judgment portion and Max will work on the other part.”
Harry looked at the speakerphone. “You’re pretty quiet, Roy,” he said. “What do you think of all this?”
“It sounds good,” Roy said. “But I’ve got to have the papers by the crack of dawn tomorrow.”
“You’ll get them Roy, “Harry said. Then he looked around the table. “Okay, everyone,” he said, slamming his open hand. “Get to work!”
Harry went to his office and closed the door, letting Max turn the conference room into a war zone. Boxes and boxes of papers suddenly appeared; yellow legal pads were rapidly filled up with notes as documents were painstakingly reviewed. Meanwhile, Sarah took her laptop and adjourned to the library.
Sarah took little more than an hour to put her words on paper. Her argument was so simple and direct there was no way she could stretch it out. Papers in hand, she knocked on Harry’s door with her work and he invited her in.
Sarah was surprised by what she saw. Harry was seated at his desk, head in his hands and a small glass of brandy in front of him. Sarah felt she was intruding. “Here is my part of the project,” and she left it on his desk and turned to leave.
“One moment Sarah,” Harry said apologetically. “I’m sorry you caught me this way. I confess that Max is more at home in tight situations like this than I am. He likes nothing better than a fight under the gun. I prefer a more leisurely pace to my litigation. Let me have a look at what you’ve written.”
He picked up the papers and began to read. Within a few moments the grim expression on his face became one of contentment. “Excellent job, Sarah. Now let me pay you so you can enjoy the holiday.” He pulled out a large checkbook from his desk and started to write out a draft.
“Before you do that,” Sarah wondered, “Do you need me to help out Max’s team?”
“We could use all the help we can get,” Harry replied. “But are you sure you want to take more time away from your studies?”
Sarah grinned. “I think you were right when you said this experience might stimulate me for the bar. I’m really enjoying myself, and I’d like to finish what I started.”
Harry put the checkbook back. He didn’t know if he was nurturing a future star in the legal world or a monster. He adopted a neutral tone. “Sarah, as I said, we can certainly use your help, you’re welcome to work here as long as you wish.”
Sarah thanked him and headed off to join Max and the others, leaving Harry to finish his drink. Back in the conference room she found Max and the two associates nearly buried under mounts of papers. Max was cursing the judge, the opposing lawyers, and life itself. He threw papers around the table and barked out orders to the two young attorneys. Suddenly Max looked up and saw Sarah standing in the doorway. “What the hell do you want?” he demanded.
“I’m finished with my work. Harry said you might need some help.”
“We’re just fine here,” Max half-snarled. “You can go home.” Jonathan and Annette got pained looks on their faces when he said these words.
But Sarah had a quick answer. “Okay, just thought I’d ask. I’ll be in the library studying for the bar. Harry said I could.” And she walked off.
Besides having an impressive number of books for a firm its size, the library at Goldsmith & Hammer was a cozy place. There were leather chairs, hand-finished wood shelves for the books and even an unused fireplace. Sarah pulled out a textbook on property law, her weakest subject, and sat down to read.
But Sarah was secretly waiting for something to happen, and after about an hour it did. Suddenly she saw Max standing at the library door. There were a slew of papers in his hands; some typewritten and others were yellow legal pad sheets with scrawled notes. When their eyes met he walked over to her.
“Sarah,” Max said, using first name for once, “we’re not going to make it if we don’t get more help. Will you join us?”
Sarah thought of many things she could say to take revenge for the way Max had treated her, but she said none of them. Instead she snapped her book shut, stood up to face Max and politely asked how she could help.
For the first time Sarah actually brought a smile to Max’s face. He held out the papers he had been carrying. “Harry showed me what you wrote and you know what you’re doing. We need someone who can write well and write fast. We need you to turn this stuff into a sharp legal argument.”
Sarah took the papers from him. “My pleasure,” she said.
Max went back to the conference room while Sarah adjourned to a word processor in an empty office. From that moment until late in the afternoon Sarah was running back and forth from the library to look up points of law and to show Max each draft. He made changes in each revision. Sarah knew some were justified, but she thought other changes were just to keep her ego in check. But it did not matter to her; she found it all exciting. She could feel the drive that sent her to Harvard Law and soon to the Supreme Court burning inside her, and it was thrilling. It was better than being in love.
Finally at five o’clock Max announced that there would be no more changes to the motion papers. Now they had to assemble several hundred pages of exhibits, scan the entire document and e-mail it to Roy on the West Coast. At eight o’clock the assembly was completed, then Harry, who had kept his distance from the fray, sat down and reviewed the final product. After nearly an hour, he looked up and said, “Good job,” to everyone around him. Sarah felt like cheering.
The scanning took over an hour. Then, with the touch of a few buttons, the document was printed out at Roy’s hotel in California.
Harry would not have been Harry if he didn’t invite his gallant lawyers in for a drink at his private bar before sending everyone home in a limo. With his second brandy of the day in his hand, Harry made a toast: “To honest hard work, may it always pay off.”
Afterward, when everyone else had already gone home, Harry handed Sarah a check for $1,500 and a compliment to go with it. “You earned every penny today Sarah. You have our thanks.”
Sarah was much too lady-like to stare at the check. She put it into a pocket and then shook Harry’s hand. “I had a great time helping out,” she said.” I see that the law can be a lot of fun.”
“Fine, Sarah. Now go and ace the bar or I’ll feel guilty about taking you away from your studies.”
She headed out to her waiting limo. Harry toasted his own cleverness with an extra thimbleful of brandy and then had Charlie drive him to his apartment. He had spent fewer than a dozen nights away from Grace in their thirty-five years of marriage, but this was fated to be one of them. He had to be close to the office when the decision from the Ninth Circuit came down.
Sarah got home at a quarter to eleven and she was not surprised to find both her parents watching television in the living room, awaiting her to return. Her mother asked pleasantly how the day went while her father asked if it was worth the risk of failing the bar exam just to make some money.
“You don’t understand, papa,” Sarah explained. “For the first time I was really practicing law today and I loved it. It was so exciting working with people on such a big project. This day was important to me because it showed me that I’m going to enjoy being a lawyer. And I promise you I’m going to pass the bar with flying colors.”
Before he could say another word she gave him a hug and kiss and then headed off to her room. Somewhat bewildered, Maurice Mendes looked at his wife. “Let’s just give her a small car after she passes the bar,” she said. “A big one might go to her head.” And that was that.
The mark of a good lawyer is the ability to turn from a project she has been engrossed in to a new one and never look back, and Sarah had that skill. After her morning jog across Central Park Sarah spent the next day reviewing her notes on property law. By ten o’clock she had put her Fourth of July at Goldsmith & Hammer out of her mind, although she left their check on the corner of her desk so she could steal glances of guilty pleasure at it whenever she wanted to.
At five-thirty in the afternoon her father knocked at her door to ask if she wanted to go to Friday night services with him. Sarah was immediately agreeable and she began to get ready. Her mother was going to stay home and prepare dinner.
Together father and daughter walked to 73rd Street to the Sephardic synagogue. The building was all marble on the outside with stone columns and a stained glass window that reminded Sarah of Notre Dame in Paris (Of course she never said this to the rabbi.)
The sanctuary always made Sarah think of eternity. The carpeting was thick and dark; the soft lighting came from gas candles mounted on chandeliers and the seats of carved wood took up three sides while the marble ark filled the fourth wall. Sarah’s father took his customary seat while Sarah adjourned to the women’s balcony. In her younger days she thought the arrangement was sexist, but now she saw it as almost poetic: the women were nearer to heaven while the men had all the praying to do down below.
Then the music began. It was an open secret that the choir had a few paid singers from the City Opera Company on the Sabbath, so the voices were good. But the hymns always enchanted Sarah. The melodies they sang had followed the congregation from Spain to Holland and then to America some three hundred years ago. “Rich and strange”: that was the only way she could describe how they sounded to her.
At the conclusion of the service, Rabbi Harari shook the hands of the congregants as they left. When he met Sarah he asked how her bar review was coming along.
“Pretty well,” Sarah said, “we’ll know in a few days.”
“Sarah, you know that this congregation has had two Supreme Court justices over the years. I think you’ll be the third.”
Sarah giggled. “We’ll see,” she said. “Have a good Shabbes.”
Stepping out onto the street she found herself wondering what the rabbi would think of her offer from Playboy. She dismissed the thought with a private laugh and then walked home with her father.
When they got back to the apartment Sarah gasped with surprise when her mother opened the door. Sitting in the living room were Harry Goldsmith and Max Hammer. They were doing something she had never seen before: they were both looking at her and smiling at the same time.
“What’s going on?” she demanded.
“Easy, Sarah,” Harry said, and he reached into his suit jacket and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. “Read this. It’s a fax from the Ninth Circuit. We got it half an hour ago.”
She grabbed the paper and looked at it.
It read: “Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 62(a) and Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure 8(a)(2) the judgment of the lower court is stayed for ten days to allow the respondent to post a bond. This matter is remanded to the lower court for the fixing of said bond.”
“We won, Sarah,” Harry said, “and it was with your arguments.”
Max stood up and walked over to Sarah. “Ms. Mendes, you were right and I was wrong. It’s as simple as that.” They shook hands.
“And saving a client twenty-five million dollars is nothing to sneeze at,” Harry added. He pulled out an envelope and handed it to Sarah. “Here’s a check for another thousand dollars. You’ve earned it.”
Sarah didn’t know what to say, but her father did. “I don’t pretend to know anything about law, but would you gentlemen care to join us for dinner?”
Max started to speak but Harry got the words out first. “Thank you for your kind offer, but Harry and I have places to be. I’m sure we’ll meet again on other happy occasions.”
The two men got up and headed for the door, but just before he exited, Harry got another idea. He turned back to Sarah. “Tell me, would you like to use our library to finish studying for the bar? I can give you your own office and complete use of our support staff.”
Sarah didn’t hesitate. ‘“I’d like that very much. Thank you, Harry.” They parted in high spirits.
Once in the elevator Max dropped his good behavior. “Okay Harry,” he demanded, “tell me why you’re making such a fuss about this. So she hit it right. We already paid her for her time. Why the bonus?”
“Max, I’m surprised at you,” Harry said in a happy voice. “Don’t you realize that for every dollar I’m giving Sarah now I’m saving twenty-five in hiring bonuses when she comes to work for us?”
“And just how can you be so certain she will be coming to us after the Supreme Court?” Max wanted to know.
“Where is your imagination?” Harry replied. “We just gave Sarah her first taste of legal combat, and she loved it. When she’s done with the Supreme Court she’s going to want more of it and she’ll make a beeline for the place that first got her excited about the law and that’s us. She’ll come back to us the way salmon fight to get back to the stream where they were born.”
The two men shared a laugh, and Max acknowledged to himself that Harry deserved to be the first-named partner in Goldsmith & Hammer.

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