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I Sentence You To A Year Of Awkwardness

, , , , , | Legal | April 3, 2020

At the start of my final year of high school, the school makes us all undertake a week of work experience. As I want to study law at university, I go to a local criminal solicitors’ firm. On my last day, one of the solicitors suggests I might be interested in going to a sentencing with him. On the way to the court, he tells me the client’s name and that they’re being sentenced for mugging someone. He parks the car, and we get out and start to head up the steps outside the court.

Solicitor: “Ah, that’s the family on the steps. Come on, we’d better go say hello. It’s polite and, you know, we’ll have to lend a bit of emotional support. I’ll also check they’re okay with you shadowing.”

Me: “Got it.”

I obediently follow him to a huddled group. As we approach, they fan out and say hello. I glance at them and then frown because one woman seems weirdly familiar. The woman is staring at me, as well.

Solicitor: “Hi, all. I just thought I’d come over and–”

Woman: “Don’t you go to my school?”

Everyone pauses and looks at me.

Me: *Very meekly* “Hi, Mrs. [Woman].”

It turned out that the client was the nephew of a teacher at my school. I hadn’t had any classes with her, so the surname hadn’t really rung a bell. Her family was incredibly lovely about me being there, saying it was at least nice that one of the teacher’s students could get some good out of it, but the teacher didn’t come into the courtroom — I think because I was there. For the remainder of the year, whenever we passed each other in the corridor, we couldn’t quite look each other in the eye.

Does This Mean Google Maps Provides Legal Advice?

, , , , , | Working | March 18, 2020

(Many years ago, before cell phones and even before personal computers are common, I receive a court summons. I’m not familiar with the location of the courthouse, in a town over an hour away from where I am residing, and I can’t find a map that lists it — neither the mailed summons or phone book I find in the local library have a street address, just something like “Courthouse Square” — I call a week or so before the hearing date to get directions. My bad; the very short conversation goes something like this:)

Receptionist: “Thank you for calling [County] court; how may I direct your call?

Me: “I’ve received a summons to appear at a hearing on [date] and I’m unfamiliar with where the courthouse is located. I’ll be entering town on the main highway from the west; could you provide directions or connect me with someone who can?”

Receptionist: “I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to provide legal advice.”

Me: “I just need directions from the highway to the courthouse. I’m not asking for legal advice at all!”

Receptionist: “I’m sorry, no one is here who can provide you with that information. As I stated, I’m not allowed to answer legal questions. You’ll need to contact your attorney. Have a great day!” *disconnects the call*

(I didn’t have an attorney as I’d been called to be a witness and was not a party to the suit, but I did eventually find the courthouse, just a block off the highway, no thanks to her. Although, upon arrival, I discovered that the civil matter I’d been summoned for had been resolved out of court days prior, my presence wasn’t required after all, and no one had bothered to let me, or at least two other witnesses, know.)

No Judgements, But Your Spanish Sucks

, , , , , | Legal | December 17, 2019

A buddy of mine told me this story. He is at the courthouse to pay a parking ticket when a woman approaches him and asks him, in Spanish, if he would help translate for her. My friend only speaks rudimentary Spanish, but he figures it is just filling out the paperwork, so he says yes.

The woman leads him to a window and tells the clerk, “This is my translator.” The clerk directs them through a door. It turns out to be an office. The man in the office at the desk introduces himself as a judge.

At that point, my friend is very confused and quickly asks the judge what exactly is going on. Turns out, the woman is here to dispute a ticket and they don’t have a translator on the grounds. They called someone, but he won’t be in until that afternoon, and the woman doesn’t want to wait. So, she went out and found the nearest Spanish-speaker on her own.

My friend then tries to tell the judge about the misunderstanding and that his Spanish isn’t the best. The judge only looks at him and says, “Did you tell her you would help her?”

My friend says yes.

The judge replies, “Well, then, if you said you would help her, you’re going to help her.” My friend just sits there, astounded, while the judge launches into the questioning.

Luckily, there’s a happy ending. It turns out the woman was in the subway with her baby, and unbeknownst to her, the baby dropped a toy. A policeman nearby then wrote her up on a ticket for littering — yes, really! Of course, the judge thought it was stupid and dismissed the ticket, so it was all over in less than thirty minutes.

But my friend still can’t believe the judge insisted!

Marshalling Kids Is Harder Than Catching Criminals

, , , , , | Learning | November 5, 2019

(I’m the kid of a federal defense attorney, and my dad signed me up for a take-your-kid-to-work day event, which takes kids whose parents are employed by the government in the judicial branch and helps them learn all about court, complete with some lectures, sentencing, mock trial, and court marshall activities. We’re on the court marshall activity, and keep in mind that I’m pretty small, especially my wrists. One court marshal asks for a volunteer for a demonstration, and I eagerly raise my hand and he picks me.)

Marshall: “So, we’re going to be showing you how we handcuff people now, with our lovely volunteer.”

(He goes through all the steps and fastens the handcuffs, but I quickly notice they aren’t made for children, so if I squeeze very hard, I can get them off. I hold the cuffs with one hand in front of me while the marshall continues to talk, one hand on my shoulder to demonstrate that you should not let go once they are handcuffed. The other kids start to giggle, noticing I got out.)

Marshall: “What’s so funny?”

Random Kid: “She’s escaping!”

(The marshall looks back at me in surprise.)

Marshall: “Well, I guess you’ve demonstrated the need to keep your eyes on the person you’re handcuffing!”

(Later, on a different activity, he started to teach me a move on how to use my small size to my advantage. He was a pretty awesome guy, especially as a volunteer!)

A National Irony

, , , , | Related | October 4, 2019

While on break from a statewide high school ceremony, my family got to watch as several hundred people were officially made US citizens at the courthouse across the street. It was a very moving ceremony for not only the participants, but we spectators were reminded of the greatness of this country and the spirit of the American dream.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the participants were paraded out to a very American Bruce Springsteen song. My daughter asked me why I was laughing. 

“Because,” I said, “none of these folks were Born in the USA.”