January 2015 Bar Bulletin
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January 2015 Bar Bulletin

A Different Winter's Tale

By Rick Stroup
Assistant Director Public Law Library



On a chilly winter afternoon, a stiffer than usual gust of wind shakes the already ice-laden boughs of a good-sized dogwood tree. Over the past few years, a number of these boughs have crept across the fence that separates the yard belonging to Mr. Smith from the yard belonging to his neighbor, Mr. Jones.

As relationships between property owners go, theirs has been good - formal, but cordial. Mr. Jones has politely voiced concern about these encroaching limbs and Mr. Smith has promised, albeit vaguely, to "do something about them."

As she is wont to do, Mother Nature takes matters into her own hands. The aforementioned violent rush of wind rattles the dogwood to its core and most of the limbs in question snap off and fall into Mr. Jones's yard. They make a general mess of his otherwise well-manicured grass and crack a few fence boards.

When Mr. Jones spies the carnage, he grabs one of the limbs, marches militantly over to Mr. Smith's front door and proceeds to pound and shout. The understandably startled and confused Mr. Smith answers - formality and cordiality quickly take a back seat to anger and rudeness - and the entire scene ends with bits of bark scattered all over Mr. Smith's porch and threats of "I'll see you in court" hanging in the air.

Scene One: The Journey

Somewhat calmer, but still harboring - or, if bare truth be told, nurturing - a nugget of righteous indignation re: the verbal brow-beating he weathered at the hands of Mr. Jones, Mr. Smith concludes: (a) that there must be redress for the wrongs he has suffered; and (b) that further research is necessary to determine just what is what. So armed, he does what most sensible and broadband-connected individuals in the 21st Century would do in similar circumstances: He jumps onto Google.

A few keyword searches lead him to: (a) the obligatory ads-masquerading-as-reasonable-results-to-your-search; and (b) a link to the Public Law Library of King County's website. This is good - for him and for us. He now knows we exist and we now have the opportunity to help him on a journey; a journey that will carry him toward - if not a completely satisfactory resolution of his problem - at least a better understanding of legal resources directly available to anyone who is willing to invest the time to learn about them and a better understanding of the complexities of our courts.

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