Friday, October 11, 2013

Elvis and the Judge

There are three things known to draw additional attention from a judge I appear in front of regularly.

First:  Lying.  Almost every defendant will be asked if they’re taking any drugs.  It doesn’t matter if they were huffing paint in the janitor’s closet before walking in to court, if they are honest, it won’t be as painful as being discovered in a lie.  If the mom/girlfriend/grandma/buddy they say drove them to the courthouse really is waiting outside in the parking lot, there will be no problems at all after they are introduced to a Deputy.  Get caught lying though, and it’s going to be a rough hearing.

Second:  Drinking and driving.  Obviously it’s bad enough if you’ve done it once, but if you are on probation for such an offense and do it again, it’s going to be a rough hearing. 

Third:  When your momma cries.   If your misdeeds bring your mother to tears, it’s going to be a rough hearing.  The poor kid today didn’t see it coming.  He thought it was going to be a quick plea.  It wasn’t the crime of the century, but he was young and dumb and had done some pretty young and dumb things…enough to merit criminal charges.  His parents drove him to court and sat in the gallery watching their teen deal with the consequences of his actions.  The judge was administering an admirable “judicial counseling”.  Then it happened.  His mom did what mom’s do.  She cried.  The judge noticed.  He then invited the parents to the podium, and pointed out the tears.  “You’ve made your momma cry!  Are you proud of that?”  “No, sir” was the strangled reply. 

I’m not sure if the judge is an Elvis fan or not, but whether musician or jurist, the principle is the same.  It’s bad news when momma cries. 

Apparently no stranger to the experience, the judge continued:  “I made MY momma cry once.  Once, and I’ve never forgotten it.  Am I ever going to see you in this courtroom again?  Are you going to put your momma through this again?”  “No, sir.”  The emotion had clearly burned through the bravado.

In that moment, I think he was telling the truth.  I hope he was.  For his momma’s sake.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Criminally Civil?

Remembering why I chose criminal practice.

There are times when “going private” seems wildly attractive.  This usually corresponds to making another student loan payment or planning another car repair.  Otherwise, I find criminal practice to be exponentially more interesting, collegial, and frankly, fun.  I was again reminded of this just last week.

As I sat in court waiting for the judge to call my case, the public defender and I were treated to a hearing in a hotly contested civil case.  Even after sitting through it, I couldn’t tell you what it was about.  It had something to do with a promissory note worth nearly a million dollars.  The hearing became a bit of a spectacle for all who watched.  This is what I’m sure I heard:

Plaintiff’s  Attorney:  “Your Honor, I filed a Motion that means I win.  Please declare me the winner.  By the way, the Defense has questionable parentage.” 

Defense Attorney:  “Your Honor, we filed a similar motion that proves they are lying and undeserving of any compensation.  I’m sure we can all agree that his sister is easy.”

Plaintiff:  “We were first, having filed on Friday, and my suit is more expensive.”

Defense:  “It was NOT Friday in Australia, they have lied again.  My shoes are nicer.”

Plaintiff:  “I would like a trial date as soon as possible to avoid additional costs and to avoid trampling my vacation to Bali.  My tie cost more than that prosecutor’s suit”

Defense:  We just received the response and need additional time to bill our clients before resolving this out of court.  My tie cost more than the public defender’s entire ensemble.” 

The exchange was so comically spirited that the public defender leaned over to me and commented: 

“Almost makes you feel like you and I are on the same team, doesn’t it?”

Yes.  Yes it does.

Our case was eventually called and his client was sentenced to 8 years in prison. 

For the record, I thought we were both dressed quite nicely.