Watching the legal system in action intrigues me. In fact, if I weren't so broke, so old and tired of school, I'd probably go to law school in hopes of becoming a lawyer.
But I am getting old, I've always been broke, and I definitely don't feel like burying my head in a pile of books again. So I'll just settle for second best, covering courts for the paper. (Don't get me wrong, boss, I like my job.)Covering court calendar day in 4th District Court every Friday is always a different experience. Even though much of what goes on in those courtrooms is tragic, it's still interesting. And, if you can look at the lighter side of life, you may even find some of what's going on in court entertaining. It's not "L.A. Law," but it's close. My fellow reporters and I have cracked a smile on more than one occasion.
Since I know reading this column is not likely to generate an overflow crowd in court on Fridays, I'd like to describe what you may miss by not being there.
You may miss seeing a defendant charged with auto theft try to pass a list of complaints about the county jail to reporters, only to have the reporters quickly impersonate a group of deaf-mutes and have the prosecuting attorney tell the defendant to "shut up and sit down."
You may miss seeing the same defendants appear in court, and in every courtroom, every week for a variety of crimes. Some are there so often that they are now on a first-name basis with the bailiffs.
"Your honor, my client appeared this morning in Judge Park's courtroom on a different case and I'd request that the court make any jail sentence run concurrent with the one handed down by Judge Park," is not an uncommon statement for a lawyer to make by about 10 a.m.
You may miss seeing defendants appear with so many family members in the audience that they arrived in a bus. And during sentencing the entire family is paraded by defense attorneys in front of the bench saying, "Johnny's such a good boy, judge, I don't know where he went wrong. I think he's learned his lesson now, so be easy on him."
You miss seeing defendants turn around and give their supporters a thumbs-up sign after being sentenced to only 20 days in jail for burglarizing a home.
You may miss seeing defendants appear with no family support. (And some parents just can't figure out why their child grew up to be a criminal. At least parents could show up and say, "My son's a bum, judge. Send the worthless pile of slime to the big house so I don't have to feed him anymore." I keep waiting for that to happen, but so far it hasn't.)
You may miss seeing a defense attorney plead for leniency for a client with 50 prior convictions. One attorney must have been friends with every person in Utah at one time, because every time one of his clients is sentenced he gives the same speech.
"I've known my client personally for several years, judge, and I know he is really trying to straighten out his life. He feels bad that he stole $10,000 from his grandmother and used it to buy a trunk full of cocaine. He'll never do it again, judge, I guarantee it."
You may miss seeing cases delayed until the end of the calendar because attorneys fail to show up on time. Then, halfway through the calendar, an attorney will stand up and say, "Judge, could we return to No. 2 on the calendar? I have another appointment in 10 minutes in Davis County."
And you won't miss seeing three judges complete the calendar in about one hour, while the other judge makes you late for lunch.
Kind of makes you want to become a lawyer, doesn't it?
This column is adjourned.