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Once You Left The Room, You Had ONE JOB

, , , , | Legal | November 29, 2020

I have a colleague who was selected for jury service. He reckons the case will be interesting, as it relates to quite a high-profile incident that was in all the local papers. On his first day of the trial, he is in court most of the day, coming into work in the late afternoon for a few hours. My other colleague is full of questions, but of course, he won’t answer them because he isn’t supposed to discuss the case. Throughout the week, he falls into the same routine: court in the morning and work in the afternoon. On Thursday, the penultimate day of the trial, he comes in.

Colleague: “The verdict will be tomorrow, and then I’ll be free to discuss everything and answer all your questions.”

On Friday, our colleague arrives at work a lot earlier than anticipated.

Colleague: “Well, that was unexpected!”

It turned out that on Thursday afternoon, before dismissing the court for the day, the judge had reminded the jury that Friday would be their big day, and that until then it would be PARTICULARLY important not to discuss the case with anyone — not colleagues, not friends, not even other jurors.

One of the other jurors had been shopping in town that evening, saw the defendant, and in spite of being told not to discuss the case, decided to discuss the case with him, in full view of everyone in the shop! Word got back to the judge, who, on Friday morning, went ballistic. He declared a mistrial, held both the defendant and juror in contempt, and explained that now there would have to be a new trial with a new jury.

My colleague couldn’t believe how stupid and careless the juror had been, and was gobsmacked by how much time and effort had now gone to waste, all because the defendant and juror decided to have a chat in a shop.

The defendant was tried again six months later. The juror who’d breached protocol had charges brought against him. My colleague never got to see the new trial as he was no longer eligible for jury service.

Urine Big Trouble, Speed Racer

, , , , , | Legal | CREDIT: DCaplinger | November 29, 2020

I have the joy and honor of serving as the personal bailiff to one of the greatest judges I’ve ever had the chance to meet. Often, our court is so busy, it is just him and me in the courtroom for staff. I am the court bailiff, clerk, reporter, and probation officer. I also create about 90% of the forms we use.

One day, we have one of our regular customers in. I became very familiar with the young man well before I ever met him. Not only have I frequently entered new warrants for his arrest in the state system, but I also have the frequent occasion to be the dispatcher answering radio calls from pursuits he’s lead, and frequently evaded, our officers on.

On this particular day, he knows he is going to be drug tested (by me), which includes me physically having to watch him pee into a cup, on the side of which is a thermometer strip. He pulls out what appears to be a normal male appendage and starts to free urine into the cup. Once he has filled the cup to the indicated line:

Me: “You can finish up, and then wash your hands and meet me in the courtroom.”

Something isn’t right. The temperature of the fluid is not body temperature, at least not a normal one. According to the thermal strip, the liquid is close to 106 degrees F. As an EMT, I know that this would usually be a fatal body temperature, or at the absolute easiest, the person would be so feverish that they would not be able to hold their legs beneath them to stand. What is even weirder are the results. Now, we’re talking about a kid, about seventeen or eighteen, and I know his drug of choice is weed. Well, he doesn’t test positive for weed.

After I get back into the courtroom, I seal the test kit in a bag — normally, I throw them away — write down some information in his case file, and hand it to the judge. When I do, the judge scratches his left inside wrist and then his right inside wrist, our code for “get ready to arrest.” The judge calls the kid up, and I have him stand almost behind the court reporter’s bench, so I can cut him off if he tries bolting on foot.

Judge: “Are you feeling well?”

Kid: “I feel fine.”

Judge: “Well, according to your test kit, you’re running a very high fever, and you tested positive for MDMA and methamphetamines.”

MDMA is also called ecstasy.

I s*** you not, the kid rolls his eyes, reaches into his pants, yanks pretty hard a couple of times, and brings out a male-appendage-shaped apparatus that has a small bladder attached with a locking mechanism keeping the fluid from leaking out.

He knew that such kits usually come back under temp, so he had it suspended in a half cup of coffee until he finally took it out and strapped it to his leg before entering the courtroom. The delicious irony is that he wasn’t careful who he got the urine sample from. All he asked was whether or not the donor had been smoking weed lately, not even thinking to ask about any other drugs.

I take him into custody, glove up and take hold of the device he left sitting on the reporter’s bench, and take him to jail. I will tell the jail staff that charges are pending, but he is to be held on PC of probation violation.

On the way to the jail, I turn to him. He isn’t a bad looking kid, and he didn’t have a bad upbringing, so I say something he isn’t expecting.

Me: “You know, I’ve known about you and your exploits for like five years or so now, but I have one major question.”

Kid: “What’s that?”

Me: “Have you ever given any serious thought to doing something positive with your life?”

Kid: “What could someone like me do?”

I look him in the eye.

Me: “Dude, you’ve been doing it for over five years. On the horrible dirt roads we have in this county, you still drive ’em like you’re Dale Earnhardt. Seriously, kid, you should think about making an honest career as a racecar driver.”

He kind of laughed me off, but I was 100% deadly serious. The kid could drive. For him to drive so well he could evade multiple-car pursuits at high speed, on winding, poorly-maintained dirt roads, surely he’d be no match for an oval circuit. I even offered to put in a word for a local racing team, whose owner I knew.

Sadly, the kid never took me up on my offer and just sank further and further into the quagmire of the justice system, ultimately spending time in a state pen for his actions. I still maintain that he would have made one h*** of a racecar driver.

For clarification, he did not get put in jail for drug charges. He got put in jail for a probation violation on one of his high-speed pursuits. We can’t charge a person for testing positive for marijuana, except if it’s one of the terms of their probation with the court.

Stuck On The First Letter

, , , | Right | September 27, 2020

My very first job after graduating is at an office within a courthouse where people can get their official documents pertaining to their lawsuit or verdict. Mostly, they need a version of the official verdict that they can take with them — the original always stays in the archives — e.g. a verdict wherein the judge says that their insurance does have to pay them, which they can then use to take steps to receive this payment.

One day, a little old lady shuffles into our office, and when I ask what I can help her with, she pushes forward an envelope and says, “Letter.” She has an obvious accent, but that’s nothing new, and usually, I can work around the fact that people might not speak Dutch very well.

But it soon becomes very clear she only knows this one word: “Letter.”

I can see the letter she’s given me is from an insurance company, but she is unable to answer any of my questions so I don’t know how I can help her. Even asking if I can read it doesn’t get me any other response than her pointing at the letter. So, I read it in the hopes that there are instructions in it and that they are asking for her to bring a certain document, which I can then provide.

But there’s no such thing; it’s about something completely unrelated.

I try suggesting she come back with a translator, but of course, she doesn’t seem to understand that, either. I decide to make her the most common document mostly used for insurance cases and she seems happy with it, so I think that’s that.

The next day. “Letter.”

Yup, there she is again, with that exact same letter. No translator, nothing. I try my best to show her examples and work around the language barrier, but she doesn’t get any of it. I decide to make another type of document, thinking maybe it was the wrong type.

The next day. “Letter.”

At this point, I’m lost. I get a second opinion from several coworkers — even though they work at totally different services and don’t know as much about our documents — just to see if they can understand. Nope. The only other thing I can do is just give her a copy — which has no “value” or use at all, short of reading what’s on it — and besides, she would have already gotten a copy by letter when the verdict came out, so I cannot imagine it’ll help. Again, she seems happy and leaves.

The next day… you get it.  “Letter.”

I try to say as clearly as I can that I have given her every document she could possibly get from us, and I can do nothing else. She does not move and just repeats, “Letter,” every once in a while.

My patience has finally worn out, so I just say, “There is nothing I can do with that letter. I have given you everything we can. I can no longer help you. Bye!” I even make a point to wave goodbye and just go sit at my computer and begin working on something else. 

She stands there for a minute, during which I pretend she isn’t there, until she finally shuffles away. 

At least I haven’t seen her since!

Get Some Blinds Before You Go Blind

, , , , , , , | Working | June 5, 2020

I am working as a court clerk in civil cases. Our courthouse is in the middle of the city and is several storeys high. Modern development has built up around the court, so that from levels four up, the back of the court overlooks and looks into a flashy five-star hotel.

One day, I am assisting in a settlement conference, and the judge and I are sitting at opposite ends of a long table, with the parties down either side. The judge is sitting in front of the window with his back to it, and I can see clearly everything going on behind him.

The judge recalls to me later that suddenly my face changes and contorts, and I busy myself in a piece of paper, looking horrified. 

He decides we should have a break and when the lawyers have cleared, he asks what happened. I raise a shaky hand to the hotel across the way, which does not have frosted or tinted windows, and the very large, naked man doing Zumba. In front of the windows. 

The judge laughs so hard he extends the break for an extra fifteen minutes so he can calm down, and he teases me about it for the rest of the week.

Guilty Of Not Doing The Reading

, , , , | Legal | April 30, 2020

My mother is a prosecutor working for the UK Crime & Prosecution service. On this particular occasion, the person on trial is a “Freeman-On-The-Land,” a person who claims that no English law save “common law” is valid. These people often produce documents which they claim trump statute law.

This particular defendant is pleading “not guilty” on the basis of his own law code. He’s presenting evidence that follows the strange rules of the FOTL. Unfortunately for him, my mother does her research.

Lawyer: “The defendant would like to present a signed affidavit.”

The lawyer hands it to my mother, who gives it a look.

Mum: “Sorry, I can’t accept this.”

Defendant: “Why not?!”

Mum: “Well, that’s not robins-egg blue paper, is it? And this signature is definitely not your own blood. It’s not valid.”

There is a pause. The defendant and the lawyer have a quick chat.

Lawyer: “My client would like to change his plea to guilty. He knows when he’s beat!”