Order in the Court II

Part 2 of 3 stand-alone stories. In this one, the attorney swears this was a "deliberate prank" ...which backfired.

I had been given a small lawyer doll for my birthday; a stuffed idol about 6 inches tall and holding a briefcase. When you squeezed its tummy it would utter some lawyerly phrase in an emphatic manner. Among its repertoire were the phrases "I'll see YOU in COURT" and "My client is INNOCENT!" As it happened, I had a hearing in court a few days later, a pretrial event known familiarly as a "cattle call". Herds of lawyers would assemble in the courtroom to await a one minute hearing where they would announce whether they were ready for trial or offer some excuse for delay that they hoped would please the judge. It is one of the most mind-numbingly boring calendars for the judges. At least the attorneys can chat with one another while awaiting their turn.

The prosecutor on my case was a young pup, newly out of law school and even more newly hired by the prosecutor's office. Noticing that he still appeared nervous when appearing in court, I thought I would try his mettle. I brought The Doll.

As we were called to the bar, I surreptitiously withdrew the tiny lawyer from my briefcase, with the intent of handing it to the prosecutor at an opportune moment. The prosecutor would take the doll, squeezing it as he did so, and thus causing it to speak. The rest of us would be thus entertained at his expense and he would be gain a trivial war story to tell his buddies.

Alas! The best laid plans of mice and men gang aught awry. Or something like that. As I took the doll out of my briefcase, I grasped it too hard and it spoke. It seemed much louder than I recalled it at home; loud enough to cause the entire courtroom to fall silent and stare inexplicably in my direction. The Judge furrowed his just brow and looked at me for an explanation.

"Uh ... er ... it's The Doll," I stammered.

More furrowing, demonstrating greater perplexity from the bench.

"The doll?" I muttered, losing hope. I held the offending creature up for all to see and explained, "It talks."

A titter began making the rounds behind me, while the judge looked from doll to lawyer, doubtless observing the uncanny resemblance. The judge was clearly not understanding, and was equally clearly wanting badly to understand. So I squeezed the doll to demonstrate.

"PAY UP, DEADBEAT" it exclaimed! I felt that was not an appropriate note on which to leave the matter, so I squeezed it again.

"MY CLIENT IS INNOCENT!" it declared! There! That was much better.

Having fully comprehended the true triviality of what was occurring, the judge rolled his eyes and buried his head in his arms while the assembled herd hooted and yammered with laughter. The prosecutor and intended butt of my prank had already fled the scene.

My astonished client was nearly on the floor in tears -- presumably of laughter.

I proudly slunk out of the courtroom. That tale is told to this day down at the courthouse. So I hear. I later went to see the judge and make sure he wasn't overly angry with me. Fortunately, he was an old friend of mine. He laughed when I mentioned the incident and declared with a twinkle, "Such disrespect for the court! I almost had to use my gavel!" before breaking out in laughter again at the thought.

Posted June 14, 2010

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