The other day I come to court where there is a “visiting judge.” That means he is there for the day from another county. I have only done one case in front of this judge because I had to. It was an aggressive driving charge (have to prove three driving offenses like speed, lane change, cutting other people off), as my maniac mistook the Harbor Tunnel for Pocono Speedway. I tried all kinds of shtick to get one of three tickets thrown out so I could beat the aggressive charge, but he did not buy any of it. I asked him to reduce the $500.00 fine and he looked at me as if I had asked to eat one of his children, and growled that if he could put him in jail he would. I then said I took that as a no, and we appealed. The police officer never showed up and everything was dismissed.
Over the years I have asked for a jury trial or agreed to postpone every other case. Well this week in the afternoon, there were about 6 lawyers in near apoplexy when we saw the name tag. The prosecutor told me what he was doing with people with similar charges in the morning and I decided I was going to stay and try my case. The verdict was unanimous that I was crazier than the judge. I told the group that nobody ever tries a case in front of him and I know he is smart, and I thought he would enjoy it, might suppress the breath test, and give me the fair sentence on the lesser charge. One by one their cases were called and they either asked for a postponement or a jury trial. He looked at each and knew the postponement requests were actually, “You don’t really expect me to do this case in front of you,” and smiled or smirked and granted it. Meanwhile I am sitting there with my trial bag with 50 pounds of law. An hour into the docket when I am the only private counsel left, the State asks fro a brief recess and tries to track down the breath tech. I know there is no way a midnight officer is getting out of bed and coming to court at this time of the day. The prosecutor confers with the arresting officer and they agree to allow us to plead to the lesser offense. I still want to approach and speak with the judge because I disagree with one of his standard probation conditions. I am still going to plead and just appeal it if I have to get the condition deleted. The case gets called, I wheel the bag of shtick up, she announces the deal, and I ask to approach. He did not realize I was going to stay no matter what he said, because he gives me the same look he gave everybody else who approached. As i walk up, I announce that I am staying, I just wanted to show him something and discuss the probation option. I point back to the brief case on the floor and tell him I planned to try this case and brought 50 pounds of law for him. I said I had a dinner meeting at 7:00 PM, and already planned to miss it because I was going to be here with him. He is now laughing and realizes that I might just be crazy too, although I don’t think he thinks he is crazy. I explain the problem with his personal standard probation condition, which apparently no one in the 13 years he has been a judge ever has, and he sees the logic in it and deletes it. At the end of the plea and sentencing, I tell him I would like to try to “gild the lily” and ask if he would waive one of the two probation fees. He squinches his face and announces that he will not. I tell him I already knew the answer before I asked, but I just had to ask anyway. He laughs and we wait for the probation order. The next day I see one of the lawyers who ran and he is surprised I am alive and asks what happened. I told him I got exactly what I wanted and he just looks at me and shakes his head. Now there is a moral to this story and it goes back to the late Alan Goldstein, who was and always will be the best lawyer to set foot in a courtroom. Many years ago there was a District Court judge who crushed everyone who had a trial. He gave one of my clients three straight weeks of PBJ on minor traffic because we plead guilty. Now Alan calls me and asks if he can try a case in front of this judge. I tell him no and he corroborates it with every lawyer he knows. As the trial date approached, he contacts the court so that the judge knows there will be a long trial that afternoon. Around lunchtime I get a call from a lawyer who is at the courthouse who tells me the judge is so excited he is going to have a trial with Alan that he makes the bailiffs find water pitchers and cups for the trial tables. When the case gets called Alan decides to pray a jury trial. The other lawyer calls me later and says the judge is crushed that he did not get to do the trial. Now my situation is not the same. The judge I had may or may not know who I am and that I know what the hell I am doing. However he did know that I was willing to treat him as a “real” judge and probably give him the first trial he has had over here in 13 years. I expected him to be bright, and now know that he is intellectually honest and reasonable as well. The next time he is visiting, I will be sitting next to the aisle with my 50 pounds of law briefcase in the aisle. When he gets to the bench and looks out into the audience and sees me, I will point down to the bag. I expect him to laugh, and hopefully I will have the fun trial I expected this week. That is after every other lawyer in the courtroom postpones or asks for a jury trial. I look forward to posting the results of that case.