Many times, I have “appeared” telephonically for hearings. I took part in the hearing, but my part was done over the phone, not in the courtroom. And often times opposing counsel appeared by phone as well. That means that, for all I knew and all opposing counsel knew, the judge presiding over the hearing could have been sitting in chambers in flip-flops and cut-off shorts. Doubtful. But possible. But today’s rant is actually not about telephonic appearances at all. Surprise! It will be a flashback episode to a memorable scene from my first year as an ADA. Who doesn’t love a flashback episode?
So, I’m in court, finishing up my pre-trial hearings for the day, and some defendant decides he wants to go to trial on a misdemeanor charge (shoplifting? disorderly conduct? I don’t remember. But the charge isn’t important. That’s not what this scene is about). He and his attorney take their seats at the defense table. I take my seat at the other table. I call the first witness.
During the trial, the judge takes a recess to do…I forget what, but that’s also not critical to the story. There is a young woman sitting in the courtroom, watching. It’s so rare that people are there to observe misdemeanor bench trials in the middle of the week, and I’m feeling chatty, so I say hello, and I ask if she’s there because she knows the defendant. She says no, that she’s just there to observe as part of an assignment for her criminal justice class at the community college. It sounded like a valid explanation, and I am aware of that being a thing that people do, so I told her, “Right on.” She told me she was a sociology major. She seemed nice. The judge returned, and we resumed trial.
Trial ended. The judge left the bench. The defendant was still in the custody of the state, so security led him back into the hall that would take them to the prisoner transport van. The bailiff left the courtroom. I left the courtroom. I went to lunch.
I had no court settings in the afternoon on that day. I only had authority to appear on misdemeanor cases, and the judge was hearing felony first appearances that afternoon. But when I came back the next morning, I heard that the nice young sociology major was now in custody facing her own felony charges.
It turns out that, after everyone else had left the courtroom, she stayed and snuck across the bar (that’s a super big no-no), and she taped a baggie of marijuana to the bottom of one of the seats reserved for the in-custody defendants who would be coming for their first appearance. I was pretty amazed she had been able to get into the courthouse with the pot in the first place (an even bigger no-no). But then she had the nerve to secure it to an in-custody seat up by the judge’s bench (felony-level no-no).
Here’s the thing…she failed to realize that, not only is the courthouse fully staffed with security guards, the courthouse and courtrooms have security cameras. Or maybe she just didn’t care and getting some marijuana to her bf in custody (I actually never learned what their relationship was) was so important that it didn’t matter that the course of her life might change that day, and she might end up in a cell too. Who knows.
So, my first entry and already doing a flashback after zero content. Take that, Kevin Smith, who waited until his second episode of Clerks: The Animated Series, to do a flashback episode. Take that, sir.