Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I had just passed the Bar and been sworn in. Because of a military commitment (in those days), my practice window was limited to six months. Thereafter, I would enter the Air Force for three years. Accordingly, I was lucky to get a "bridge" job for a weekly gross of fifty bucks.

On my starting day, as I was taking off my coat, my boss thrust a file at me.

"This is our Motion to File Interrogatories Late. Tell 'em our secretary was out sick and we missed the date. Now, run to Court, you're late."

As far as I was concerned, this was an encounter with an extra-terrestrial alien. What the hell was he screaming about? What are "interrogatories"? With whom do I discuss the secretary's health? What's my name and how did I survive birth? I had to pee.

I sat in the courtroom, waiting for the judge to appear. A yell of "all rise" and he walked out of his lobby. Oh, Lord! If I had a face like his, I'd let it come to a boil and have it lanced. Compassion? He was obviously in the crucial stages of constipation. I searched for the causal connection between my sins and this scenario from hell.

I watched the other lawyers as they addressed the Court. Everyone so smooth, so confident. Bad luck was my destiny. If I bought a suit with two pair of pants, I'd rip the coat. I'd awakened this a.m. with a huge zits on my nose. My file bore the sweaty imprint of my palm.

My case was called. I stood before the judge as he read the motion. He re-read it. His eyebrows arched. Four minutes had passed. Had he smoked a joint before taking the bench? Would he offer me a toke? Non-frivolous questions, these. Finally, he spoke.

"Counsel, you represent two plaintiffs. Interrogatories have already been timely filed on behalf of one of them. Now, you seek leave of court to file another set, albeit late, on behalf of the other plaintiff, to the same defendant, posing the same questions the answers to which you already have. Explain, why do you need them?"

"Beats the sh-t out of me" was my immediate mental reaction. For, this man addressing me was surely mad. Speaking in some sort of code. And he couldn't be talking to me, since I was successfully effectuating a self-induced coma. I simply stared at him with the unfocused eyes of a castrated cat. And he stared right back at me. Silence, save for the ticking of the antique Roman numeral clock on the wall. Were we falling in love?

"Answer me, counsel!" That was a sober-upper. But what this boob obviously couldn't comprehend was:  how could I answer a question which I would never understand if I became a monk and took the oath of silence so as to enhance my powers of concentration?

My gaze upon him did not waiver.
"Motion denied!"
He had been given the one-way gift of the ability to hypnotize me, but had not a clue as to how to un-trance me.
"Next case!"
My traumatization had obviated my power to move, hear or further speak. My mission in this life was the obsession to just look at this man.
"I direct the court officer to escort this young man from the courtroom. Now!"
The bailiff put his hand on my elbow and whispered,"Better come with me, Son."
Now, picture this scene: as I was ushered out, I, in the ultimate act of defiance, refused to relinquish control of my pupils. It nearly broke my neck, but I didn't allow any interruption of my visual contact with His Honor. My body was removed but my eyeballs remained.

Legend has it that the old guy suffered something akin to a nervous breakdown and was heard to be muttering, "Those eyes, close those eyes, god-damn-it, close'em," as he was wheeled into the ambulance.

The basics of the story are true, a lesson in the pitfalls of non-preparation. It solidified my professional ambition. Let the tort lawyers make the millions. I'll opt for the gorgeous highs and the dreadful lows of criminal defense work. There's no juice like it.

Just keep your eyes open.

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