Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Misdemeanors and felonies

Today’s blog was going to be Michael’s advice to new writers, but a couple of recent misdemeanors and another trip to 26th and Cal made the subject of crime seem more urgent.

First the misdemeanors: Certain vendors and delivery people regularly dump stacks of unsold papers in corner trash baskets in my neighborhood. Individually, it’s a minor theft of service but if you add up what goes down in a year, we’re talking truckloads of waste. The papers could be recycled. Animal shelters like The Anticruelty Society and Orphans of the Storm can use clean newsprint—you just have to deliver it during business hours. There are also recycling centers and We’ll-Pick-It-Up operations that take clean paper (and other recyclables). Usually, nobody notices these fly dumpers. Apparently no one ever calls them on it. But do you suppose the city workers who empty the trash work for nothing? Do other businesses get free trash pickups? Does the city get landfill space for free?

This weekend, a telephone book delivery guy (or guys) dumped enough brand new, still-in-their-plastic-six-packs of telephone directories to fill a two-yard container in my condo’s trash room. Who do you suppose is going to pay for their disposal? How many other places in the city are getting ripped off this way? What are the people doing who were supposed to get those directories? Aren’t the businesses that advertised in those unread directories getting ripped off as well?

The purpose of my trip to criminal court was to be a presence for the Court Advocate program—to let court officers know that someone in the neighborhood gives a damn. The two defendants had 23 felony counts between them. I showed up on time for the 9:30 AM court call. I guess the defendants were on time—they were in custody and were herded in by a Sheriff’s deputy when their case was finally called. (then herded right back out because one of their attorney’s was absent. The case was continued. Again.) The state’s attorneys were on time for the 9:30 call. The public defenders were present, as were two sheriff’s deputies, a court reporter, the clerk, six subpoenaed witnesses for two separate cases, several defendants who were not in custody, and a bench full of defendants’ family members. The judge finally showed up at 10:15. There was no prior announcement of or subsequent apology for the delay. Before he got to his own cases, the judge disposed of a number of cases for another judge who was absent. Before he recessed the court (around 11:00 AM), the judge told all the subpoenaed witnesses they would have to come back on other days. If they don’t, they might be arrested.

I don’t know what all those people get paid, but if you added it up, I’ll bet the theft of their time would be a felony amount.

16 comments:

JD Rhoades said...

A couple of things you learn very quickly as a criminal defense lawyer:
(1)You do not control your schedule. Men and women in black robes do. Sometimes, several of them want you at the same time. Since a law degree does not grant you the power to be in more than one place at the same instant, somebody's court (and witnesses and family members) gets burned. Believe me, we don't like it either. No one likes having this many people mad at you, especially when some of them can really ruin your whole day, week, month or year, depending on just how mad they are.
(2) The judge is never late. whatever time he or she shows up, that is the time appointed. When he or she decides that court is over, that is the time it's over. And no, we don't like that, either.

Michael Dymmoch said...

Here in Illinois, we elect our judges. So I guess we get what we deserve.

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