Kevin Rhodes (cormac) wrote,
Kevin Rhodes

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Swiftly turn the wheels of justice

This afternoon, I went downtown to traffic court to plea "not guilty" on a charge of running a stop sign in March. (It was 12:30 AM, at Outer Traffic Circle and Atherton, and I not only came to a full and complete stop, but waited for 6 seconds while the guy across the way decided whether or not to turn right. On top of this, the officer was rude, and if he shows up at the trial will be even more rude, as I caused an Internal Affairs investigation into his conduct....but I digress).

I had thought that the arraignment process had been resolved via phone, that I had already entered a plea of "not guilty," and that this phase would be the actual trial; therefore, I brought my evidence, my witness (mysryael was in the car on the night in question), and my testimony. Apparently I was wrong, so this was still the arraignment process. Alas.

Anyone who has seen movies with serious court scenes in them (Witness for the Prosecution comes immediately to mind, but more recent ones work too) knows that when one appears in court, one dresses in business attire. Anyone who's been in the SCA for a reasonable amount of time knows the basics of proper mundane court etiquette (just don't bow to the judge). Apparently, 95% of defendants today have never seen these types of movies, and have never been around the SCA. T-shirts and jeans, women's outfits that can only accurately be described as "skanky," baggy pants that have to be pulled up during sentencing, and HATS! MY GOD, THE HATS! ON!!! WHILE ADDRESSING THE JUDGE!!!!!!! Of course, some of them might have thought that since the traffic courtroom is currently a double-wide trailer out back behind the courthouse (until retrofit remodeling is completed), such attire was appropriate. They were informed by the bailiff (a really fun guy who smiled and laughed with us while he read the roll) that the trailer was still a court of law, and that they would be expected to act in the proper manner.

The judge was a temporary appointment (translation: he's a lawyer interning to become a judge) and a decent fellow; very fair, very patient. He was more than willing to drop the conversation to the level of most of the defendants, and help them out. A great example was the way he offered "deals" to the defendant: "This all goes away for $50 for no license, $35 for no registration (etc)." Unfortunately, he was faced with a docket of defendants who not only disrespected the court with their attire, but also didn't listen to him. Case in point: we were directed to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If the judge asked for anything before the plea, then it could be offered, but otherwise no. At least three people before me (and I was early on the list) tried to present their entire case to the judge, who stopped them by asking "Do you want this to go to trial?" Their response (further reinforcing that they'd not been listening) was "No." So he asked them if they wanted to plead "no contest," which they did. By the time he got to me, he was pretty irritated by the lack of respect or cognitive function in the room. Enter Attorney General Rhodes.

When my name was called, I stood up, walked to the table in front of the bench and stood in an "at ease" position (no one was sitting in the chair, in order to keep the process moving), and said "Yes, your honor?" There I was, slacks, long-sleeved dress shirt, conservative tie, brushed hair. The judge was clearly taken aback, amused at the welcome respite from the idiot gallery. After reading the charge, he asked my plea. I said four words: "Not guilty, your honor." Now, there were two "not guilty" pleas before me, and both of them were sent to the clerk to schedule a court appointment. The judge took it upon himself to schedule mine from the bench (October 19, 8:30 AM for anyone interested), then said "Welcome to Long Beach. You're out on OR." For those of you who don't know, the phrase means that I was allowed to leave without paying bail, on my "Own Recognizance." I was the first (and most likely only) person on the docket to be released on OR; the other two "not guilty" pleas had to post bail.

So, to sum up, for a moving violation I allegedly committed in March, I have a trial on October 19. How swiftly these wheels of justice move! Here's hoping I collect enough evidence to get the charge thrown out, and for added measure, that the officer doesn't show.

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