Arizona courts in the old days
Just attended the only really fun, and funny, CLE course that I've ever been to. It consisted of four local legends talking about how it was the practice in Tucson in the good old days. I started really just at the end of that time, and I enjoyed it greatly. Highlights:
We had two identical twins on the bench, Robert and Richard Royalston. They not only looked alike, they also thought alike. So if one of them had something important come up during a jury trial, the other would just substitute for him, without telling anyone.
They had a hell of a sense of humor, and spoke in a soft, almost whispering, Tennessee drawl. Late in his life, one was coming onto the bench to start a jury trial -- and the bench is so laid out that the judge enters thru a door at its rear. He stumbles, falls over his chair, his cane goes up and he goes down.
As he struggles to get up, he peeps his eyes over the bench and asks the jury, "How did you like (lahk) the firs' part of mah act?"
One day an attorney is trying to take child custody away from one parent, and proves that he was seen several times with his son in the Bayhorse Bar. The judge responds, "Richard and ah take little George to the Bayhorse all th' time, counsel."
A criminal case witness who vigorously denied he'd been convicted as a procurer, and finally said, "I'm not a procurer. I'm a pimp!"
(More in extended remarks)
A tough county judge who, upset by how long an attorney was taking to get documents admitted into evidence, told him to bring that stack of documents up to the bench. The judge looks at them, takes the stack, leans over the bench and slaps the attorney in the face with them, lets them fall to the floor. The attorney gathers them up, goes red, opposing counsel realizes what is about to happen, grabs his arm, but with the other arm the attorney slaps the judge in the face with the same stack. The jury watches in shock. The judge calls a ten minute recess. Then he comes back in and says to the attorney, "you may proceed."
How one of the presenters walked into the same judge's court and saw everyone frozen in shock. Then he noticed a ballpoint pen buried in a chair next to counsel, and the judge asking counsel "did I get any ink on you with that pen?"
Then there was the time there was a big legal party over in Yuma, lots of drinking, every attorney in the county present (free booze provided by Xerox, which was marketing its new copiers). The sheriff complains to the chief of police that he's hiked salaries and is stealing men from his office. The chief of police responds that if he can't hold onto his deputies, it's not his problem. They go outside and fight. The Chief drives away. He rear-ends another car and flees. Two officers are shocked to see Squadcare No. 1 go past them, weaving, front end smashed in, radiator spewing steam.
At the resulting trial, they had to bring in an entire legal team, since every judge, every prosecutor, and every defense attorney in the county had been a witness to the drinking and the fight. Told that the city would let the Chief keep his job if he was convicted of drunk driving, but not if he was convicted of leaving the scene, the defense concentrated on the latter, and brought in a doctor to testify that the concussion caused by the crash might have rendered the Chief unable to know he was leaving the scene. The doctor turned to the jury and said "You remember that high school football game where Raul Ramirez took that concussion, and played the last quarter without a memory of anything?" The jurors nodded back. He got acquitted of leaving the scene, convicted of DUI, and kept his job.
A federal district judge who, convinced that a fellow who plead out to taking a stolen car interstate really had stolen it out of poverty, asked if he had anywhere to go if given probation. Upon the guy responding that his uncle back in Indiana would probably take him in, the judge called, found the uncle would, gave him probation and money for a bus ticket back home. That night the guy got drunk instead of taking the bus. The judge gave him more money, and ordered the US Attorney to escort him to the bus and make sure he got on.
A lady judge, prim and proper as I remember her .... one of the attorneys went to the bathroom just before closing arguments, and found his zipper wouldn't come up. He stayed in the bathroom until she sent her bailiff in for him. Upon being told of the problem, she had him come to her chambers and told him to take off his pants. Upon his wonderment, she said she had a sewing kit and could fix them. He was reluctant, and she ask did he have on underwear? Well, yes. So off with them and we'll get on with the trial. She's working on them when the opposing counsel walks into the chambers. He quips "Can I take off my pants, too, your honor?"
One small town in the old days that couldn't afford a prosecutor and a judge, so they hired one guy to be both. Funniest part was that he was actually fair, and ruled against himself if his case was weak. He also knew which police were honest and which weren't, and would regularly acquit if he didn't trust the officer.
One attorney (later the bankruptcy judge) who had to take an appeal where he was aware his legal theory was absolutely dead in the water, but had to do it as a matter of duty. He comes before the Ninth Circuit, and the first question is a scornful "how do you come to be before this court?" He replied, "American Airlines, Flight 503. If the court has no further questions, I will close now."
One of the presenters had sat on the Court of Appeals. He smoked. They never wore fancy clothes, since it would all be under the robes anyway. He'd been in the Marine Corps and had a collection of tattoos. So he's outside the courthouse smoking, in casual clothes and tennis shoes, when a group of Phoenix attorneys in fancy suits asks him where the court of appeals is. He replies, that building over there, there's a directory inside, you can find it. Then he asked them, are you attorneys? One says yes. The judge jokes "I bet your clients would be worried to find out you didn't know the way to the courthouse." One of them snaps "smartass."
As the judges come out on the bench, he's first in line. He sees the attorney who spoke close his eyes in shock and then bang his head on the table.
Burr Udall talked about how in the small Mormon towns up north, almost everyone is related. Most were founded by a handful of families, and his grandfather (I think) had 19 wives and 54 children. So in one jury trial, to be fair, he asked the jury who was related to him. One said she was his aunt -- he'd forgotten, to his embarassment. In another personal injury trial, defense counsel was shocked to see the jury going up to the plaintiff and hugging and kissing her. He moved for mistrial, and the judge explained -- no way we can find a jury that isn't kin to her, and we all know this is the first day she's been able to leave home, due to her injuries.
He'd been in Mo Udall's office, back when he was a practicing attorney. Mo had won a big verdict and they broke out whiskey and cigars. The secretary rushed in -- Mo's father, Levi (chief justice of the state supreme court) was parking outside. They threw the whiskey and cigars out the window, and did their best to air out the office before Levi came in.
Stan Feldman, who'd been Chief Justice, talked of the problems they had with small JP courts at times. He instituted an annual seminar for JPs, esp. important since state law does not require them to be attorneys. You could get excused for cause. One day a JP's secretary calls up and asks if he could be excused -- he's got all these medical conditions, hasn't even been able to get to the office in a year. Stan was busy that day and said, sure. The next day it dawns on him -- hasn't been able to get to the office in a year? He calls the secretary -- how are cases being decided out there? Oh, she replies, I've been handling it. Uh -- issuing orders, deciding cases? Yes.
A bit of real fun he had. While Ev Mecham was governor, he'd had to sit thru official functions where Mecham excoriated the judiciary for letting criminals off on technicalities such as, oh, the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments. Then Mecham got impeached, and during it, took a petition to the Supreme Court. The Senate had ruled that he could take the 5th, but counsel could point that out to the Senate, and the Senate could draw inferences from it. Mecham's counsel objected to that. During oral argument, Stan had the amusement of asking ironically "But, counsel, isn't that a technicality." Counsel responded no, it's at the very core of a defendant's rights, etc. Stan asked "Would you like to confer with your client on that point?" Mecham looked like he was going to charge the bench.
Oh, and Stan, when out of law school, had been interviewed to become Justice Douglas' clerk (he didn't get the post). He spent weeks boning up on Supreme Court caselaw. But the person interviewing (Douglas didn't do it himself) never asked about a bit of it, but kept on asking what he thought of Justice Frankfurter (then still on the bench, I gathered). Later he asked one of his law profs, who had clerked for Douglas, what that was all about. The reply: Douglas absolutely hated Frankfurter, when asked why the two didn't get along, had replied "because the little SOB knows how much I hate his guts."