Justice Is Blind, And Sometimes Deaf
What do you do when you discover that your judge's ear drum is connected to your ass? You try to be gracious, delicate and decorous. Remember, the man with gavel rules, even when the rules make no sense.
I was reminded of this today on a flatulent sort of day in trial. My client faces trial in an arson case. He stands accused of setting a residence on fire in the dead of night as the homeowner slept. We have pleaded not guilty, and are now about the solemn work of trial.
Although I live in a tiny state, I rarely try cases in the same courthouse twice in a given year. I don't generally wear well, and after one case ends, I prefer to head to another town. I doubt that absence makes anyone's heart really grow fonder as to me, but I know that familiarity breeds contempt. I sort of like the peripatetic life. The town I am now in is a nice waterfront community. At lunch I walk to a harbor to smell the sea.
Today I sat in the courtroom watching witnesses. From time to time I would object. The court's rulings mystified me. Sometimes the objections were sustained, but other times the court would say it did not hear me. I used the same tone throughout the proceedings. What gives?, I wondered. I didn't really give it a whole lot of thought as the prosecutor typically rephrased his questions after my objections.
Toward day's end, however, the judge told me that he liked it when people stood to raise objections. He understood, he said, that differing judges had differing practices, but he wanted me to stand. I noticed thereafter even an inch of elevation from my seat improved the court's hearing. I am not decorous enough to suit all who wear the robe. I need to work on that.
I apologized to the judge, of course. It has been eight or so years since I last tried a case before this particular judge. In the hurly-burly of trial it had not occurred to me to ask about his preference. I was so lost in the moment, I hadn't associated a quick, "Objection, leading," with bolting to my feet. But the judge gets what he wants in the land of decorum. I promised to do better, and I did.
The judge had nothing to say mid-day when a strange rumble issued from the jury box, however. I turned to a paralegal. "Was that what I thought it was?" My eyes were wide and mirth was tamped down with effort. "I think so," the paralegal said. And then it happened again, a loud, sonorous bit of flatulence, a.k.a., a fart, ripped through the room. We all did our best to ignore it, even the judge.
So while the court's ability to hear my objection appears somehow linked to the location of my butt, the work-product of a juror's rear went unnoticed. Justice is blind, my friends, and sometimes deaf.