I met a young man recently who had tried to represent himself in a domestic dispute. He prepared his case, collected evidence that he wanted to present, and by any measure should have defeated his opponent’s claim. But of course he didn’t. The judge did the very thing that this man did not think possible – he chose to believe “her” rather than believe “him.” As a result, he exited the courthouse with an unpleasant 50B domestic protection order hanging over his head.
As I talked with him about his case, we discussed what he hoped to accomplish from an appeal. I pointed out that, while he had been instructed to stay away from the “victim,” that really wasn’t a large concern – he planned to steer clear of her regardless. Further, while it was certainly possible that an employer might see the order “on his record,” it wasn’t very likely, especially if he continued to work in private industry. I gently presented the idea that he might want to simply “let it go” – to save himself the time and legal fees involved in pursuing the appeal.
The young man grew emotional, and re-taught me a lesson that I learned long ago: setting aside an unjust or unfair judgment is not only about the “practical” considerations. It is about dignity. By pursuing an appeal, this man was declaring to everyone, and perhaps most importantly to himself, that he would not stand to have his name slandered. Such a consideration, in the right context, is just as worthwhile as reducing a sentence, avoiding a monetary judgment, or successfully challenging a will. Just because the “dignity” factor is subjective does not mean that it isn’t a good reason to appeal.