During my career as a State Trooper, I came across a wide range of characters. And not all of them were defendants, some of them were Judges. I’ve had all kinds of Judges, some soft and some tough. I’ve had Judges who seemed to let everyone go and then others who would’ve nailed them to a cross. I’ve had them at both extremes and I’ve had them in the middle. I got along with all of them, because for even the ones who didn’t convict my Defendants much, in their own Courtrooms, I knew that they were the Boss. Now, I’m going to give an example of both ends of the spectrum. For the first one, let’s go soft.
He started out as a Defense Attorney years before and had been voted in as a District Court Judge, and he stayed in that position for a good twenty years. Of course he wouldn’t tolerate it in his Courtroom, but he’d do it … He drank from a coffee cup and he smoked on the bench. Rumors had it, that he even had a bottle of liquor stuck under there!
He’d arrive about thirty minutes early for Court each day, and would leave his Chambers’ door wide open. Before Court began, District Attorneys, Law Enforcement Officers and Defense Attorneys would wander out and in. Occasionally his door would close for a private meeting, but in general, he tried to be everyone’s friend.
I’d watch as he found people “Not Guilty” of some open and shut looking stuff. And many were the times that I felt I had a mighty strong case, but he’d let them go. Some Police Officers didn’t take it well …They’d take it personally and get mad. But I learned not to. I learned to just grin and bear it, and sure enough, it paid off.
After we’d known each other for a pretty good while, when I had a person charged with something and they had given me a hard time, sometimes, before Court … I’d walk straight into his Chambers and get his ear. Sure enough, regardless of who they were or which Lawyers they had, he’d burn em … And for a change, I’d feel good. In later years I remember once walking thru the back of his Courtroom while a trial was in full swing. When he looked up and saw me, he stopped the proceedings.
“How’s it going, Bryan?” He hollered out at me, “I haven’t seen you in awhile. Where have you been?” I quietly returned the greeting, and could hear him tell the filled Courtroom as I made my exit, “That’s one good State Trooper, right there.”
Boy, that made me feel good! He may not have been the strongest Judge, but he was still my good friend. Enough of the soft one, now let’s go tough.
He was a retired FBI Agent who instead of playing golf in his retirement, he became a District Court Judge. To call him a law and order Judge, would not be going too far. He carried a large case load, was intimidating to look at, and concealed a 45 automatic under his robe. He ran his Court like clockwork. At the beginning of Court, those pleading “Guilty” were told to line up at the back of the Courtroom. When their name was called out … They would walk to the front, he’d give them a stiff sentence and a Bailiff would escort them out. Most of these hearings lasted no more than a minute.
On one particular Court day, among several other Officers, I had numerous cases before him. Those pleading Guilty lined up at the back. Towards the back of the line stood an old fellow who I’d charged with “Driving While License Revoked.” Like clockwork the process began. As the line grew shorter my attention was drawn towards him. He was obviously aware of the hefty sentences being handed out, and even from where I sat, I could see him tremble and shake. After ten minutes or so his name was called out and the Judge socked it to him. To the floor, he fell flat! As I jumped up to go check on his health, with a strong voice, the Judge spoke out.
“Mister Bailiff. Get him out of here!” Without compassion he continued. “I said get that man out of my Courtroom … Right Now!”
Two Bailiffs had a hold of him now and literally dragged his limp body out of the hushed Courtroom. Because of the stress he’d been under, I just knew he’d had a heart attack. I followed them out into the hallway. After we placed some ammonia under his nostrils, he still had a greenish tint, but he came around.
“Fellow, how do you feel now?” I asked, and “Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m feeling much better now.” He replied, “But I’d been holding a large chew of tobacco in my mouth and couldn’t spit it out.” He went on with, “When the Judge told me five hundred dollars and costs … Well, that’s when I swallowed it and passed out.”
So now you have it. The opposite ends of the field … Soft & Tough.