Monday, August 4, 2014

Retired judges should stay retired

So at one point in time, Y County had quite a few retired judges helping out for the courtrooms/calendars that apparently the regular judges did not want.  The undesirable calendars tended to be small claims, traffic, and of course, evictions.

One day I had a trial before a retired judge.  The tenant hadn't paid rent.  I completed my main case.

Tenant:  "I already gave the keys back to the landlord."

I turned to my client, who shook his head.

Judge to Tenant:  "Who did you give the keys to?"

Tenant:  "Baby."

My client had no idea who "Baby" was.  The Judge asked the Tenant to call Baby and ask her to come to court.  Tenant went into the hallway and came back a few minutes later.  "Baby can't come today, but she can call if you want."  Clerk gave Tenant a phone number to call.  Tenant went back into the hallway and presumably passed that number along to Baby.  Court clerk then took a call.  "It's Baby."

Judge:  "Court will be in recess while I take this call in chambers."

The bailiff asked everyone to clear the courtroom.  I protested.  "I have the right to cross-examine this witness."

Judge:  "Your objection is noted and overruled."

The bailiff made me go out in the hallway with everyone else.  I called the office and vented.

My lead attorney:  "You noted our objection for the record.  Just do your best and remember our ultimate goal, which is that Plaintiff gains possession of the premises."

Judge came back out and called this case again.

Judge:  "Based on the information I was provided by Baby, I find that Plaintiff already has possession of the premises."

What?

Deep breaths.

Me:  "Does that mean that if my client goes to the property right now and re-keys it, he is not trespassing and not in violation of any laws?"

Judge:  "Yes, counsel, that's what it means."

Me:  "May I wait for a Minute Order with that ruling?"

Judge:  "Yes."

I gave my client a copy of the Minute Order and advised him to go re-key the property immediately.

Eviction calendar is an odd animal.  Judges don't always, or even usually, follow the law, but sometimes it does work in my client's favor.


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