2 Major Judicial Pranks

There is often great camaraderie among judges, especially when they have worked side-by-side for decades. Judges sometimes become good friends and family members. But as with most families, there is sibling rivalry. Occasionally, judges like to tease and prank each other. (I can share these accounts because any statute of limitations expired decades ago.)

The Blah Chambers Paint Color

In our branch court, one of our judges constantly whined about the bland paint color of his chambers. It was some kind of an off-white or light beige. All of our chambers were the same color. No one else complained. 

Some people are not happy unless they are complaining.” This judge called his chambers’ paint color: “prison blah,” “kindergarten snot” and some more vulgar terms.

Some anonymous courthouse workers got tired of hearing the constant complaints. One Monday, when the complaining judge returned to work, he found his chambers walls had been painted a new color — tomato soup red

The paint job was professional. Everything had been carefully taped off. The outlets had been removed and replaced. It was a perfect paint job – except for the color. On the judge’s desk was a printed note, “STOP COMPLAINING!

(As Presiding Judge of the justice center, I was ultimately responsible for everything in the courthouse. I assigned our CEO to conduct an investigation. I never did learn who the culprits were. Finally, I suspected that two of our judges, plus our CEO, were responsible, but I had no proof. Since our CEO was in charge of the investigation, I was confident that I would never find any evidence.)

Prank Gone Wrong: The Dormitory Smoke Bomb

In the prehistoric days when I became a judge, new judges spent two weeks at Berkeley Law School for training. We stayed in the dorms in a seven-story building. We shared a room with another judge.  

When we signed up, we were asked whether we wanted “smoking or non-smoking.”  After the first night, the judges asked to be reassigned based on “snoring or non-snoring.”

One year, the story spread that one of the judges set off a smoke bomb in the stairwell in the middle of the night as a prank. It was rumored that an Orange County judge was responsible.  This judge had a reputation for being a prankster. 

The prank “hit the fan” really fast. The sleeping judges had to get out of bed and evacuate the building in their pajamas. This was the intent of the practical joke. 

Unexpectedly, the smoke bomb triggered major alarms at several fire stations. Since the building was a residential high rise dormitory, three fire stations responded. The streets were filled with fire trucks, police cars, and ambulancesOops!

When the first responders discovered the prank, they left. However, they announced there would be a criminal investigation

The rumored “guilty” judge clammed up and never said a word thereafter. He never tried to get credit for his prank.

Weeks later, as a “counter-prank” a sheriff’s deputy entered the chambers of the suspected judge in Orange County. A group of judges and court staff gathered in the hallway to listen.

The deputy timidly approached the judge, and said, “Your Honor, I don’t know how to handle this. But, I have a warrant for your arrest. It’s from Berkeley, California and has something to do with a criminal violation of the Uniform Fire Code at the law school dorms.” 

The judge went sheet white and started to sweat. After a pause, the crowd in the hallway entered chambers and yelled, “Gotch You!”  They pranked the prankster.

The “guilty” judge still kept mum about his possible involvement in the smoke bomb prank. Even though the statute of limitations has long past, he continues to exercise his right to remain silent, assuming, of course, that he is not innocent.

(londonedition.net – “Court Case Friday”)

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