I had to go to the Sacramento County Court the other day – what a nightmare. I got a lesson in abuse and disrespect. I was there to clear up a fix-it ticket that had gone to warrant — the ticket was for not handwriting my new address on the back of my license. I had originally corrected it directly with the DMV within days of the ticket and sent in proof but it apparently didn’t make it through the mail so a bench warrant was issued for failure to correct. Typical.
Anyway, I stood in line for about an hour. I watched fellow tax-payers explode at the service windows where after a long wait they were told to go somewhere else to wait in another long line or some other thing. I’m keeping my cool reading my book, thinking “it’ll all work out fine”. A sign said, “expect delays due to government cutbacks.” Finally they have the decency to post a reason why we’ve always been treated like cattle.
I finally get in to see the judge and he arrogantly hits me with a barrage of questions that splits my tightly woven chronology into a million disjointed and fragmented bits that make no sense on the whole. I tried to interject to bring some sense to the matter but he cuts me off — “I’M talking“, he says. He acted as though I was so stupid that I couldn’t explain myself without his help. He continued to ask questions that only served his purpose of establishing his foregone conclusions. He had no idea what I was trying to say, he was simply fulfilling his superficial notions of “due process” before he would decide as he was prejudicially inclined. Maddening.
His staff was equally rude — I felt the palpable sting of being presumed “guilty”. I could feel it from the look on their faces as they arrogantly whispered bits of information from the computer screen to the judge. I was beginning to feel violated. Angry. Frustrated.
Finally, after a few screw-ups on their part and my responses to the judge’s nonsensical questions (that I wasn’t allowed to qualify), he points to the door and mutters half incomprehensible and equally dispassionate, “blah blah blah, civil fine of blah imposed blah blah”. I stood there for a fraction of a second as if to say, “what the hell!” before my feet began walking to the door with my mind kicking and screaming at every step.
As I’m turning the knob of the “loser door”, I turn briskly and say, “may I be heard again your honor?!” At this point I’m feeling like the Red-Rider BB gun kid (“Ralphie”) in A Christmas Story. The judge says, “what do you want?” Standing at the door I explain, “your honor, what I was trying to convey came out very disjointed because I wasn’t allowed a chance to cohesively explain the situation and if given a chance in that regard I’m sure it would all make more sense.” (Or something equally out of place for such a subjugated environment). I might have stuttered in there somewhere too. That utterance of mine was probably the MOST unusual and rogue thing to ever happen in that court room. How DARE I! Thoughts of disbarment ran through my head — not that I did anything wrong at all … it was just how they were making me feel. (They were probably thinking, “who is this poser acting all lawyer-like!?”).
I began to explain my story to an obviously angry judge and incredulous staff. They printed a few documents, tried to correct me, I corrected them, it went back and forth, etc. The disrespect got worse. I was boiling on the inside. The judge was a little more permissive in what he let me say but made a face like “ok hotshot, I’ll just let you make no sense so that I can show you why I wasn’t letting you talk.” (Me on the inside: “I am a lawyer damnit, if you’d only listen it’ll make sense you arrogant jerk”).
When it’s done he again mutters something unintelligible and points to the door. I’m fuming and want to … (we’ll leave it at that). So I go through the loser door and see another long line. My blood pressure is up, I’m angry, I feel abused, disrespected, etc., etc. Finally, I get to the window to pay my fine that I was anticipating being about $500 (they don’t mess around with perceived failure to cure traffic infractions). “Twenty-Five dollars” she says. What, twenty-five dollars? “Yup,” she says.
HA! The judge finally heard me. But, boy, did he make me pay. I felt like I paid the equivalent of $1,000 in damage to my psyche and self worth after only one brief encounter with him. (What must the average citizen feel like!!??). The judge hadn’t even shown me the respect of indicating that he heard me and that I’d “won” – like he was doing me a favor because I wouldn’t understand anyway. I had to fight for the right to speak and I only BARELY mustered the wherewithal because I am familiar with courts and talking to judges. I can only imagine how the average Joe feels … that sting must stick with them for months, years, a lifetime. No wonder courts have metal detectors … I felt why! A little civility and respect will go a long way. P.S., Next time I’m wearing a suit!