Another Time I had to Eat My Words in Court

“Court Case Friday”

There are a few times during my 33-year judicial career when I violated the rule: “Think before your speak.” Occasionally, I had to apologize for my comments and eat my words. Here is one such episode:

One morning, a very well-dressed middle-age woman appeared in front of me during my misdemeanor arraignment calendar. I felt pressured because I had 150 cases scheduled. (Usually, only 50% of the criminal defendants show up. I issue bench warrants for the arrest of the other 50%.)

This woman was charged with shoplifting.  I noticed that she had a dozen arrests, and at two prior convictions for shoplifting.

When I called her case, she immediately went on a tirade, shrieking:

Everybody’s treating me like a criminal!

The store employees treated me like a criminal!

The police treated me like a criminal!

The District Attorney treated me like a criminal!”

“Now, I’m in court!”

Everybody’s treating me like a criminal!

When she paused long enough to catch her breath, I interjected, That’s because you ARE a criminal!

Big Oops!

She was standing in front of a supposedly fair and impartial judge.  I didn’t know anything about her case. I hadn’t heard any evidence. And yet, I already judged her “guilty.”

The “PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE” kept flashing in my mind.  

I had “stepped in it” big time. I immediately apologized, recused myself, and I transferred her case to a another, fair and impartial, judge.

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