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An Interesting Morning

When I arrived at court earlier this week, the courtroom for my hearing was still locked. A group of defendants and defense lawyers began to congregate. One defense lawyer walked up to the door and tried to open it. He began walking off when a defendant called to him, “hey, you a famous lawyer, ain’t you?” The lawyer puffed up his chest a little and smiled, obviously noting the presence of other defense counsel within earshot. The defendant nodded his head and explained, “I thought so. I seen you on tons of buses. Tons.” The lawyer’s chest fell and his smile disappeared. I felt a little bad for the guy.

Later on, I was in another courtroom when a settlement conference was about to start. The back door opened and elementary school kids began filling all of the seats in the back. The bailiff gave a spectacularly exasperated look. It had been a long morning already, and he realized the judge would probably need to speak with the kids first and have them leave before discussing the facts of the settlement case. It involved charges of sexual conduct with a minor, an offense alleged to be a dangerous crime against children.

The bailiff then relayed to me a story about something that happened just a week earlier. He was working for a judge who had just been transferred from the juvenile bench. The court administration immediately began giving her adult criminal cases after she transferred to a criminal assignment. One forgetful clerk made an error and sent an in custody adult to her old courtroom, which was still being used for juvenile cases. The guy was charged with molestation, and they didn’t catch the mistake until they brought him into juvenile court and were about to seat him in the jury box with the in-custody kids.

Even knowing that, nine times out of ten, people charged with scary sounding things like “dangerous crimes against children” or “molestation of a child” are not dangerous at all and probably haven’t done anything have as bad as the name of the crime makes it sound (think about a high school senior and his freshman girlfriend), there’s still something awfully funny about that kind of slip-up.

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