Saturday, December 8, 2012

Resumés tell new legal tale of 'the people's court'

Double the action, double down on rules man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.” - Judge Gideon J. Tucker, Final Accounting in the Estate of A.B. (1866)(click here to learn who really said that)

Waco – The Texas Legislature has moved to bring a big part of the days of good old boy politics to a close.

In six months time, gone will be the day of Judge Roy Bean's frontier, chicken-fried, corn-pone vinegaroon justice, or the fabled actions of Faulkner's legendary jurist who, informed of the latest antics of the colorful mulatto, Boone Hogganbeck, in the Yoknapatawpha County saga, remarks, “If that ain't again no law, it ought'a be...”

The trial lawyers are taking over the fabled justice courts of Texas.

According to one candidate, Joshua S. Tetens, the legislators have made sure to move toward a “more formal courtroom decorum” in the Justice Courts – the venues where autopsies are ordered for those who pass in suspicious, unattended, or accidental ways, evictions are ordered, traffic tickets adjudicated, and warrants of search and arrest are approved following the presentation of affidavits of probable cause.

To sweeten the pot for the lawyers, the “amount in controversy” in suits of equity has been increased from $5,000 to $10,000.

But it's in the rules – the new way of it all – that there is proof in the pudding.

Said the Honorable Denton B. Lessman, a Waco attorney who wants to be appointed, and who holds a municipal judgeship in the Falls County seat of Marlin, for the first time since that same august body passed the Small Claims Act of 1953, there will be a new application of the rules of evidence and the Rules of Civil Procedure.

Tut tut. Imagine that.

All that and a bag of chips, dear hearts.

According to Mr. Joshua S. Tetens, no more will the suits heard in Justice Court be known as “small claims.”

No way. No small potatoes in our future.

There will be some changes made. From now on, it's all big deals.

Small claims suits will now be called “justice suits,” full dress actions replete with motions, orders and side bar, pre-trial conferences in which it will be humbly shown unto the Court that thus and so is right and proper and other words to the effect thereunto appertaining, all decisions and interim rulings, no doubt, to be made at a glacial pace, in the most complicated fashion possible. We're talking about writs of hocus locus, petitions of panjandrum, over here.


Then there is Joel Douglas Froneberger, Esq. You will remember Mr. Froneberger. According to his resumé, he is the self same attorney who “discovered that convicted felons were practicing medicine in Texas without reporting their criminal histories to the Texas Board of Medical Examiners.

“CBS 11 TV Dallas did extensive coverage of my story resulting in sweeping laws protecting the consumers/patients and requiring health care professionals for the first time in Texas to be fingerprinted.”

Sounds like the tale “little big man” told on himself – the one where one drunk pointed out to another that in the dregs of the whiskey barrel, Jack had inserted some snake heads – just for the flavor, no doubt – and the fight was on.

We all know what Clarence Darrow said about going to court. The famed Chicago barrister once said you could get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich – for being a ham sandwich, no doubt.

Someone else – maybe it was one of the lawyers who went to the federal penitentiary in the aftermath of the Watergate mess – said if you ever have to walk into the courtroom, you've already lost.

That's right up there with what Attorney General John Mitchell said.

“Admit nothing.”

Then he stuck that pipe back in his mouth, and stalked away to the limousine that would eventually take him to prison.

Everyone seemed to adhere to conventional wisdom at the time. It was nothing any other President and all his men had not done in the murky past. Could be some truth to that. Those who weren't soldiers or sailors were lawyers – or both.

The truth is, just about every judge in the state gets his job through appointment.

His predecessor runs for a final term, one the finality of which he does not clue in the public, serves a couple of years, then suddenly realizes he's wanted at the ranch where he must put his affairs of the heart in order – and other words to that effect.

That's when he suddenly remembers another good old boy with whom he went through law school, practiced with, or whose dear old daddy was a former partner, and urges the Commissioners Court or the Governor to make that critical appointment.

In every Court, they do it the same.

No matter if it's the Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, the local Justice of the Peace, or the District Courts – the “trial Courts of original jurisdiction” - our judges make the same stab at success in each election cycle.

But it doesn't end there.

You see, it takes money to get yourself elected to any office, and being a judge is no different.

Fund raising?

The managing general partners of law firms whose associates practice in courts high and low throughout the Lone Star State receive these late evening phone calls from judges seeking re-election – as a matter of routine.

As they know, he's up for the office, and he's going to stay on, but then, there's the matter of money.

He's got them down for so much. What can be done?

That's where the negotiations take place. So much paid before the primary, so much before the general election, and then there's the all-important transition period, etc., etc.

When he suddenly learns he's got to get back to kith and kin, hearth and home – then what?

He donates his campaign funds to the one he got appointed to take his place.

Such a deal. Does it get any better?

We're talking appointments, here, appointments as masters at chancery, attorneys ad litem, and the staple of any nutritious legal career, ham and egging those prone to plead out into making that all-important admission of guilt and collecting that fee at the clerk's office.

Ho hum. Stay out of that court room, hoss. Those old lawyers are right. “There's no justice, in or out of court,” said Mr. Darrow.  

No comments:

Post a Comment