by Tony Longshanks LeTigre
This morning I appeared in court on criminal charges of trespassing and unauthorized lodging, stemming from my arrest at “the Lab” at the end of February. I took most of these notes while in the courtroom, amplified & rearranged them afterward.
Tuesday, April 9th, 2013, Hall of Justice (850 Bryant Street), Criminal Division, 2nd floor, Room 17
Hon. Judge Samuel K. Feng presiding
On my way in I am stopped by the guard
“Do you have a small scissors in your bag?”
The mini-snippers I use to trim my facial hair.
“You wanna leave it outside or throw it away?”
I look at the clock
“I guess I’ll throw it away.”
Drop in the bucket.
In court I begin recording almost immediately. I watch the fluttering fingers & faraway expression of the court recorder: it looks like she’s daydreaming, distant. But is she actually paying keen attention to minute details?
I write down names & numbers I don’t understand, or that seem significant.
definition of abuse—can email count?
question of previous domestic violence cases
Judge says—matter will come back on April 25th
set bail at $5,000—1st or 2nd?
Judge says—if I call your name and you are not here, I will issue a bench warrant
didn’t show up because his girlfriend had surgery this morning—2nd bench warrant—Judge doesn’t buy it—not a good excuse, set bail at $15(50?)K and no-cite bench warrant
counsel requests increase of standby from 2 to 4 hrs—no objection
on chalkboard is written in large majuscule letters
WHILE COURT IS
Chesa, my lawyer, sees me & comes over, compliments me on “looking sharp” & leans in to whisper something about my cases. I know he’s discussed the matter with Judge Feng & opposing counsel prior to the public proceedings, working on my behalf behind the scenes.
I keep track of the names of defendants I hear called:
Superior Court, criminal division, is an excellent place to observe & appreciate San Francisco’s great racial & cultural diversity. (Oh!)
Judge Feng is a good judge: both entertaining & efficient. Great, I’m tempted to say, for reasons that have nothing to do with his judgment on my case(s)—which hasn’t been rendered yet, in any case. He is able to maintain a mood of levity & good humor, occasionally joking around with counsel—during these spells of judicial sunlight the whole courtroom brightens, someone in the audience adds to the joke as if momentarily elevated to the same sphere as Your Honor—without losing the underlying seriousness of the matters at hand (peoples’ freedom, happiness & resources in the palm of his hand) or the efficient construction & ordering of the court calendar.
I envy the Judge’s power, which is demigodlike: even the police officers that occasionally report to give testimony—objects of fear & loathing to myself & many civilians in the outside world—are beneath him, at his beck & call in a way, though indirectly. I enjoy watching the copthugs rise & be seated on command, knocked down to the same level as every common plebe. Judge Feng weighs opposing counsel, slices through feeble defenses, punctures flimsy excuses, pausing occasionally to consider more complicated scenarios, very occasionally recalling a decision he has just made to ask a clarifying question or hear an interjection by counsel, then modifying or reversing his initial stance. He does not give the impression of being conceited with power, spiteful or malicious, or in any way weary or burdened by the demands of his pillarlike position. It seems there is a quota, an almost mathematical formula, to the frequency with which he yields to counsel’s requests versus revising or sweeping them aside; but this could be imagination. It strikes me, strangely, that I want to be a judge, that of all the people & power levels in this courtroom it is Your Honor I identify with most (attorney second), & that I feel—whether delusionally or not—that I possess qualities that would make me a good judge, too: humor, fairness, resoluteness tempered by willingness to re-evaluate, compassion countered by refusal to be deceived or manipulated, restraint of power contrasted with its fierce deployment when necessary. Strange, I say, since a career in jurisprudence has been the furthest thing from my mind, until now. But even in the midst of this probably-egomaniacal fantasy, I know in my heart that I’d never make as good a judge as I do a writer.
Wouldn’t be jurisprudent, at this juncture
reduce bail from 15K to 10K
“and make that without prejudice”
Chesa comes over to apologize that it’s taking so long—no need, if I wasn’t tired & wanting a nap (not enough sleep last night), if the weather wasn’t divine so far this week, I might spend all day in this courtroom as a spectator, out of pure enjoyment. I’m becoming something of a court spectator.
sentenced to 10 days in county jail, remaining time in SWAT (SWOP?)
.16 blood alcohol level
“Your honor, if I could just waive her appearance—she’s a single mother, she works full-time…”
judge declines moving date to the 17th, keeps it on the 15th—“to keep it a green date”
Hong Wang Proo
Abogado? (Which is he, an officer or a lawyer?)
“Either I’m going to get late discovery, or…”
Judge asks, “Is that OK?” accommodatingly, though it often has to be
Ask for a short continuance at the court’s convenience
I believe we may have reached a disposition (dispo)
Miss Davis was here all morning, got up & went to the bathroom just before her line was called (~11am)—judge mock-threatens to cite her for FTA; several attorneys cry out on her behalf—judge relents, grants continuance
“we just want to amend a sentence”
3-month FOP extended
Judge asks, “Where’s Chesa?” Out talking w/ someone in hall. “It’s not his client! Go & get him.”
Recent case of manslaughter involving a bicycle
attorney objects just for the record—won’t change anything
Chesa complains—partly on my behalf, “Your honor, I have 4 clients who have been waiting all morning.”
Judge (in stung, defensive tone): “I’m going down the liiine.”
Chesa argues persistently & passionately on behalf of another client—“there’s no reason she has to come up 3 times Your Honor, it’s an undue burden on someone who lives 800 miles away.”
Judge grants telephone standby for the next date.
Miss Davis (indignant-seeming, uppercrusty white lady wearing shame shades)
my turn: the matter of me
Chesa asks that the matter of me be continued til the 26th, at which point we hope to consolidate it with my other, similar case & resolve them both—unless it becomes necessary to go to trial
Judge says that’s OK
On my way out of the courthouse I see police officers parked at the curb admiring new weaponry, cocking their rifles, special new toys of death & agony to use upon the recalcitrant populace
Copthugs, I detest them. I sense peoples’ intelligence like a visible energy field, & theirs is low, generally speaking. Low intelligence + deadly weapons = scary combination.
I cross at the cross walk just as a motorcade of police officers comes roaring up. A herd of fat, sated, porcine mostly-men in uniform.
But what can we do? We are powerless. They have the weapons.
“FUCK YOU, YOU BUNCHA PIGS!” yells a man crossing on the other side of the street.
I stop, amazed. Is he really? The cops don’t respond, but rev up their bikes, eager for the light.
I question the man’s judgment, while finding no fault with his sentiment.
And some people think I’m brave!
That was my day in court.
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