02 December, 2005
Next on the WB: a very special episode of "Traffic Court!"
Ever since I failed one of the [statistically] easiest bar exams in these United Lovely States, I have been denied the privilege and sheer pleasure of prosecuting the mopes in the City of Chicago’s unparalleled, inimitable, nonpareil, and often just Wiggedy Wack TRAFFIC COURT [in the Circuit Court of Cook County, First Municipal District, Hon. [that’s apparently questionable, according to unsubstantiated rumor, rumor I uncharacteristically can't even remember the gist of, and did not investigate] Walter Williams, Chief Presiding Judge].
For those uninitiated, it seems that Chicago has the largest and busiest traffic court in the country (world?). The only reason for this must be because Chicago likes big things; because I’m no aficionado, I haven’t researched what other jurisdictions do. I am prone to imagine that the few more populous centers in America the Bountiful have chosen to establish branch courts, rather than a central stalinist* monolith (welcome to Chicago politics).
What do you get when you mix seven courtrooms, seven – on a good day at least 1 competent – judges, about 14 cranky kvetchy clerks of all shapes, sizes and humors, hundreds (thousands?) of defendants? Why, you get 35 daily episodes of high-powered (hah!), high stakes (double hah!), rollicking (more like it) courtroom hilarity. This creation should be in reruns for decades to come, but alas, it is more of a soap opera, with no time to pause and reflect. I kick myself now for not writing a journal of my experiences in these trenches. Luckily, a lovely co-worker and sometime companion at Cardozo’s Basement Boozery has some vivid notes on her blog, [link removed to protect the innocent, until the innocent have had a chance to approve].
In terrible taste and wicked bad form, I’ve pasted them below, and I will add commentary. Since everyone loves lush blogscapes, I will retain her font, and comment in my customary courier.
The receptionist in my office seems to get a real kick out of asking me, in a patronizing voice, whether my feet are hurting. She’s just about begging me to retort that unlike her, I don’t sit on my ass all day. Well today I was wearing these shoes which were decently comfortable. I walked over to court and my crankiness subsided a little after an iced latte but I still felt like being by myself for a bit at lunch so I headed to McDonalds. While I was sitting (sitting!) there eating a cobb salad MY HEEL BROKE COMPLETELY OFF. In order to deal with this catastrophe, I had to limp very slowly to the Marshall Field’s shoe department, only after an unsuccessful search for an alleged Naturalizer store on Randolph. I guess I should be glad that a) it didn’t break off in court for all the vulture-like CPD Officers to witness and b) I have über-long lunches.
I was definitely feeling sorry for myself by the time I left work and decided that I’d get some mangos while I waited to transfer to the notoriously unreliable Division St. bus. Predictably, I had time to both purchase and eat the mangos while sitting on a bench waiting. There are several round benches situated under trees near the bus stop and since there were pigeons galore begging for my mangos, I checked to make sure I wasn’t sitting under a branch where pigeons could perch and then shit.
I finally disembarked on Leavitt and escaped the Weirdo Convention on the bus. I was feeling happy and relieved to be almost home and was cheerfully saying “good afternoon” to my neighbors when A BIRD SHAT DIRECTLY ON MY HEAD. I guess I can be glad it was my head and not my suit because my head is less expensive to clean?
Ok, so this isn’t strictly about Traffic Court. But an office character does appear (she is lovable in many ways – especially if one is not female – though she is gruff) and I think everyone, yes anyone would enjoy a good bird-shit story.
Meanwhile, at work, we are all having tons of fun. Here are some of the highlights of this week:
1. A defendant with a relatively simple case involving registration on a tow truck insisted at trial that he had not been the person in the tow truck to whom the officer gave a ticket. Instead, he had arrived on the scene in his BMW. The officer testified that indeed there was a BMW involved but that the defendant’s girlfriend had arrived in it. This prompted the defendant to call his wife as a witness, who said she could not possibly have driven the BMW because she is a nursing student who spends all day in the suburbs at school. Uh oh. As one might have anticipated, the officer then gleefully testified that the wife in court was not the girlfriend he saw driving the BMW!
2. One defendant had a defense to his seatbelt ticket that consisted mostly of testimony about how he was pulling into a “chicken place” at the time he was stopped. What chicken place? If this fact is so important, why aren’t you naming the chicken place? And wouldn’t that be basically Popeye’s or KFC? This isn’t Tallahassee.
3. Overheard cross-examination:
Prosecutor: Were your front windows tinted?
Prosecutor: Were they clear?
Prosecutor: Okay so they were a shade?
Prosecutor: They were a shade of tint.
Prosecutor: Were they like my glasses?
Prosecutor: So they were not clear?
Defendant: No, they were clear.
4. We all found a Dairy Queen right around the corner from our courtrooms and had an ice cream party in the hall outside of court yesterday. We were really loud and living it up right there amongst the defendants, who were waiting miserably. There was a lot of laughing and shenanigans and some suggestion of keeping Coronas and limes in coolers under our desks for the future, and we’re figuring we’ll soon get a memo barring ice cream during court due to the excessive silliness it causes.
The DQ I found in one of the many labyrinthine tunnels of the Loop “pedway”, but sadly never visited. The Corona Lime Cooler is a brilliant idea; if defense attorneys and coppers can stink of booze (and worse, dear child, oh so much worse) then why could your lowly $12/hr traffic prosecutor not kick back now and then with a bottle of sunshine?
And yes, back-and-forths like Signor Tintoretto above instigated happen so often at trial down there that they actually cease to amuse. Tragic, but true.
4. The grotesque appearance of our traffic court Arch Enemy Defense Attorney. More to come on this man later. I would post a picture but that is no doubt a blog no-no. Email me and I will send you your own personal Arch Enemy JPEG, although I don’t think the photo is detailed enough for you make out his sparse hair plugs.
You’d really have to read the whole entry to sink the eyetooth into the meat of this one. I’ll refrain from lambasting today, since the gent recently had massive heart problems – though I hear he’s back at his old tricks after a stay in hospital. Oh, hell, even that was probably just a stunt: He just tried to prove he actually had a heart.
*I composed this piece of crap in Word, which insisted on automatically capitalizing Stalinist. I don’t accord Papa Joe that much respect, no matter how impressive his mustache.