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I was sitting with an auctioneer in an attorney’s office in 2011 going over his case and how I could possibly help him. I have certainly advised auctioneers to be skeptical, but this took an unusual turn.

Without of course disclosing any confidential details, here’s how our conversation went:

Me: I showed you the video recording.
Auctioneer: I don’t believe it — that could have been altered.

Me: Did you listen to the audio recording?
Auctioneer: I don’t think that’s reliable.

Me: We have the bidding record from the online platform.
Auctioneer: I’m not convinced those records are accurate.

Me: Here are the sworn affidavits from the clerks and ring personnel.
Auctioneer: They could have lied for all I know.

Me: Your attorney told me specifically that the law says …
Auctioneer: There are probably other laws that say otherwise.

Me: Here’s what I researched on this subject.
Auctioneer: Well, how do you know you’ve researched enough?

Me: You told me …
Auctioneer: I don’t remember telling you anything.

Does this sound like anyone you know? I hope not. I unfortunately have met a few like this while engaged regarding auction-related litigation, and otherwise. This is what complete denial looks like no matter the clear evidence, facts, and witnesses. This is no way to act and at a minimum no way to enter a court proceeding.

Needless to say, I wasn’t going to be able to help this auctioneer much until he started to believe the obvious collaborating facts of the case. As most of us know, operating with alternative facts (crediting Kellyanne Conway) is not the best strategy. Merely uttering “alternative facts” would be ill-advised virtually anytime.

As we wrote, we need to be seeking information, and not strictly affirmation. https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2019/09/05/auctioneers-information-versus-affirmation/. And if the facts amount to several facts in concert with each other, it’s time to resign oneself of the truth of those holdings.

Largely when auctioneers find themselves in court, judges primarily deal in facts and the related evidence of those facts. If you’re this auctioneer waiting until your like-minded brother-in-law comes in — and you’ll believe everything he says — contrary to all the other evidence, good luck with that strategy.

You see, your like-minded brother-in-law says (testifies) it was altered, it’s not reliable, not accurate, they lied, it’s incomplete, and everyone else is lying, and you want to believe him and all his identical contentions, so you do. Your problem is, a judge and/or jury likely won’t, considering all the other evidence.

This is part of a tendency to believe conspiracy nonsense, looking only for affirmation, and quite frankly making things up to support your position. For example, is there such a thing as an “absolute auction?” This expert said there wasn’t: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2022/10/27/absolute-auction-nope/.

The Internet has really changed the game, as now everyone has a platform — a voice — and there’s (understandably) little broad consensus as to facts and fiction. You can think, post, speak and almost assuredly find someone else who thinks the same as you. You then think … “I must be right?”

We’ve explored conspiracy theories being shared on the Internet before. For instance, without any proof (yet) did you know that IPhan from Zordland is stealing your auction business? You see, I said it, and where’s your proof it’s false? Probably doesn’t matter, since I “know” it to be true? https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2021/02/02/auctioneers-and-conspiracies/.

Ah, yes, there’s that freedom of speech which really — for the most part — isn’t. Even the government can restrict your speech if it constitutes incitement, fighting words, obscenity, defamation, commercial speech, and/or if such speech is outweighed by some other compelling interest.

None of us are immune from making mistakes, and learning should be a process. But anything beyond a reasonable skepticism is likely being too suspect, that anyone or anything that disagrees with your presupposition is wrong. Much like there’s only voter fraud if I lose?

Our advice? Be thoughtful, and reasonably skeptical, but don’t ignore facts especially when there are many substantiating — collaborating — facts to support those premises. And of course, as I told this auctioneer mentioned above, look for information rather than affirmation.

What is proof? Your like-minded brother-in-law’s opinion likely won’t matter as dealing with reality (audio, video, digital records, affidavits, statutes, research) rather than fantasy is certainly a better strategy in court as well as in life in general. https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2018/07/16/auction-expert-witness-and-standards-of-proof/.

By the way, we were able to help this auctioneer once he admitted the facts didn’t align with his thinking. Remember, to win in court it only takes a preponderance of the evidence, a reasonable assessment of adequate proof, or maybe even “beyond a reasonable doubt” but 100% in any direction is not needed.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Brandly Real Estate & Auction, and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, and an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and Western College of Auctioneering. He has served as faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.