Monday, December 8, 2014

No cell phones in the courtroom part 2

Back in the days when small claims cases and eviction cases were heard in the same courtroom, I had the pleasure of watching a small claims trial in front of my favorite judge.  This wasn't actually a trial, because the defendant didn't show up.  All plaintiff had to do was prove his case.  Sounds easy, right?

Well, approximately five minutes into plaintiff's presentation, just when he had almost finished and we all knew what his case was about, and despite the bailiff's previous warning about turning off your cell phone, the plaintiff's phone chimed.

Now if it was me [and trust me I've had my phone chime while I've been at counsel table and I immediately found it and shut it off faster than a greyhound leaves the starting gate], I would have whacked the 'off' button and apologized profusely to the judge and the bailiff and everyone else in the courtroom [which I've also done].

Not this plaintiff.

Plaintiff, checking his caller ID:  "Excuse me, judge, I really have to take this call."

Judge:  *silence*

The plaintiff spoke on the phone for about two minutes.  Right in the middle of his trial!  Everyone, including the judge, just sat and waited quietly.

Plaintiff, after ending the conversation:  "Sorry, but that was a really important call from my best client."

Judge:  "I could tell that call was very important to you.  Important enough to interrupt your trial.  So I'm about to find out just HOW important it was."  He nodded to the bailiff, who went and stood right next to the plaintiff.  "That call interrupted not only YOUR trial, but the trials of everyone else in the courtroom."  He nodded toward the gallery.  Plaintiff turned around to see how many people were there.  "Now normally when a cell phone makes noise while court is in session, the bailiff takes the phone and doesn't give it back until later in the afternoon.  Do you remember that part of the bailiff's speech this morning?"

Plaintiff:  "Yes, and I want to thank you, and him, for allowing me to take that call."

Judge:  "You're welcome.  But now I'm giving you a choice of which is more important to you -- your cell phone, or this trial.  If the trial is more important to you, then hand your phone to the bailiff so we can conclude it.  You can return to retrieve your phone after four o'clock this afternoon."  The plaintiff squirmed a bit and his hand closed firmly around his phone.  "But if the phone is more important to you, and it appears that it is, then you may keep your phone and I will render judgment in favor of the defendant."

Plaintiff:  "But the defendant isn't here."

Judge:  "Yes, but you are, and those are your two options.  Complete the trial and come back for your phone after four pm, or judgment in favor of the defendant."

Plaintiff squirmed quite a bit, hemmed and hawed, and eventually kept his phone.  Judgment in favor of the defendant.

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