Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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Power Trips

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | March 12, 2019

No. 1,626

Allegheny County Controller Elsa Wagner is a powerful politician.  She is used to shaking things up, making noise and making the news.  But she just endured a few painful, public lessons in the use of power and the pain is not yet over.

• When the police come to the door in the middle of the night, you must maintain your cool.

• Listen carefully before speaking.

• Don’t raise your voice.

• Don’t touch.

It seems rather elementary, doesn’t it?  But Ms. Wagner rather than quietly dealing with the situation, she made a series of poor decisions.  She didn’t assess the power dynamic of the situation properly and she paid the price.

The power equation in such a situation overwhelmingly favors the police.  But, even in then, it was not divided 100% – 0%.  Ms. Wagner had the benefit of her vulnerability.  She was a respectable, middle aged woman who was a guest in a high-end hotel, wakened in the middle of the night, in her pajamas.  All she had to do was be meek, polite and cooperative.

She didn’t have the upper hand, but she had enough power  to bring this incident to an end.  Instead, she wasted her limited but adequate resources and brought about a very bad outcome.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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