Friday, November 4, 2011

Preposterous Parental Indulgence

Sometimes, it's tough to write believable fiction when real life seems so over the top. No, I'm not going to write about the Texas woman assaulted with a frozen armadillo earlier this week. That story made me say wow, but I saw no parenting angle. Other than the old don't hit people, it's not nice bit. I imagine it's doubly not nice to use an icebound carcass as a weapon, but I digress.

This particular story takes wow to a whole new level. The New York Times reported yesterday that an unemployed equity analyst named Todd Remis has sued his wedding photographers for breach of contract over his 2003 wedding (a concurrently filed claim for emotional distress was tossed by the judge). Now, as 2011 winds down, he seeks to recoup the $4100 paid to the photography studio, as well as an additional $48,000 to re-enact the entire event.

Why does Mr. Remis want his wedding re-enacted? So that another photographer can capture the bouquet toss and last dance, events Mr. Remis now contends that the photographers missed.

Here's the punchline: The marriage ended in divorce four years ago. Mr. Remis' former bride's whereabouts are unknown. Parties to the suit suggest she may have returned to her native Latvia.

So what kind of hack takes such a ridiculous case to court?

One of the nation's top law firms.

You see, Todd Remis' father is a man called Shepard Remis, and he's a prominent partner at a major national law firm called Goodwin Procter.

The senior Mr. Remis chairs the firm's intellectual property litigation department. I know he's a big deal at the firm because he's served on the executive and allocation committee. Law firms like Goodwin never let just any partner serve in such a key role.

Goodwin Procter is a fine law firm, full of talented, credentialed, serious professionals who do not usually make their living by filing silly lawsuits against small business owners.

Sicking a firm like Goodwin Procter on a family photography business is not unlike trying to fix a household rodent problem with a grenade launcher.

Let's just say that reasonable minds can infer that the younger Mr. Remis did not choose his counsel utterly at random. It's also safe to say Shepard Remis could have easily prevented his firm from accepting his son's case.

I understand wanting to give your child what he wants. Really, I do. But when what he wants is not only ridiculous, but indulging him opens your family and your employer to national ridicule, I think it's fair to criticize your parenting.

Perhaps the senior Mr. Remis might have persuaded his son that spending five figures to sue for five figures doesn't make a lot of sense, especially since Todd Remis hasn't held a job for three years. A far-fetched contract claim against a sympathetic small business doesn't strike me as the absolute best way for him to chip away at whatever savings, family funds or lottery winnings he may have in his bank account.

Similarly, one thing parents often must teach their children is when to let go.

Re-enacting a wedding that led to a failed marriage is creepy and weird.

I expect most people who were guests at the first event (from both sides) would decline to participate in such a wasteful, pointless charade. Mr. Remis' argument that he wants the photos for posterity also rings hollow. No children were born of his marriage, so it's safe to presume nobody will be scarred by the absence of a bouquet toss photo.

I can't be the only person who read the NYT piece and came away with the impression that Todd Remis harbors an obsession with his ex-wife that borders on scary.

If I were her, I'd stay in Latvia. Presumably she's moved on with her life.

Instead of indulging his adult son's insane behavior, Todd Remis' father might have encouraged his kid to move on with his.

Because ultimately, for the plaintiff, this case isn't about the cash. Assuming the senior Mr. Remis makes just the average annual partner's salary at Goodwin Procter, that means last year, he took home $1,450,000 (according to The American Lawyer). If his son were strapped for cash, he could presumably ask his indulgent dad for a loan of the $52,100 sought in the lawsuit. Maybe the older Mr. Remis doesn't want to give handouts to his adult kid. Who knows?

But one thing I'm pretty sure about is that parents who either passively or actively help their children lick old wounds for years on end do them no favors.

Life's too short to sulk over photos of the past.


  1. Shameful for such a law firm to indulge in this frivolity. There simply must be something genetic in this, Bowdoin aside.

  2. Hi Mari: Is this the result of law firms not being busy enough with "real" work?
    I don't know if you remember me? We used to ride together in Wrentham. I had a bay TB named Bobby.
    I'm glad you had a child, I know you thought long and hard about it. My baby is now in law school!
    This blog is great, you do write very well and I can't wait to read your book.
    Drop me a line if you get a chance.

  3. Hi Karen, and thanks very much for checking out my blog and book. Of course I remember you and your horse, Bobby. As for your question, I don't believe this kind of case is the result of firms not having enough "real" work. When top firms don't have "real" work, they tend to lay off associates and junior partners, give stuff they would give to temps to junior associates, and try to mine existing corporate clients for more mundane matters that they might otherwise refer down the food chain. Firms like Goodwin do not go out looking for one-off lawsuits worth $4100. The economics make no sense. This is a favor to the partner.