A few weeks ago, I was in court when I was asked to represent a return on warrant. This man (my new client) was sentenced to do one day of community service about 15 years before (honestly, I don't even remember what he was originally arrested for). There had been a warrant for his arrest for the past 15 years.
I looked through his file and then went out in the hallway to speak with him. My first question in these interviews is usually, "So, why didn't you do the community service?" I figured he might not remember why he didn't do community service this one day fifteen years ago.
But I asked anyway. His answer went something like this. "Mumble mumble mumble sick. Mumble mumble mumble mumble foot. Mumble mumble doctor. Mumble mumble mumble hospital. Mumble mumble mumble toe." This went on for a while and I had no clue what was going on. Slowly I began piecing the story together - he had some health problems, was sick and needed surgery, spent some time in the hospital, and when he got out he was in no condition to pick up litter in the park or whatever they have you do for community service. By the time he started feeling better a few weeks or months later, he had forgotten about the community service.
I knew the judge well enough to figure she'd probably just close the case and not make him do the day community service. Especially since he was an older man, not in great health, and he hadn't been arrested in 15 years.
So, we go in front of the judge, and I'm prepared to start telling the story about his surgery, when the judge just starts asking my client questions.
"Sir, what happened? You were supposed to do community service."
Once again, "Mumble mumble mumble toe. Mumble mumble mumble mumble foot. Mumble mumble doctor. Mumble mumble mumble hospital. Mumble mumble mumble toe."
The D.A. and I look at each other and smile.
The court reporter seems to by typing something, but looks up at me with a panicked look in her eyes.
But the judge continues (as if she fully understood his mumbling), "Surgery? What for?"
And my client continues, "Mumble mumble mumble sick. Mumble mumble mumble laid up. Mumble mumble mumble surgery."
By this point the D.A. and I are cracking up.
I'm thinking to myself, "I'm going to have to get some money together so I can order the minutes from this."
But then I notice that the court reporter has given up and is just reading a magazine which was on the table in front of her. No point in trying, I guess.
And the judge continues, "But you should've come back to the court. There was a warrant for your arrest."
My client: "Mumble mumble mumble mumble. Mumble mumble mumble."
And the judge looks really satisfied with this answer. Finally, she says, "I'm marking the docket satisfied. Case closed."
And what made me think of this incident today, after all these weeks? This great video called "Why I Quit Being a Court Reporter," which I found through crimlaw. Enjoy, it's really funny.