Here is another installment of my PD reminiscences for those of you wondering what life is like. This is a scrap I couldn’t really use in the book…
I have four different courtrooms left to visit and my pager is going wild. I am still getting used to the new courthouse, sizing up judges, meeting court clerks and court officers whose good graces are essential to being successful in the courtroom. An old colleague of mine once told me “make the entire room love you”. If you have the approval of the court staff you can get away with anything.
My first stop is on the fourth floor--to take a plea on a drunk driving case. It goes smoothly except for the part where I realize half way though the plea that the Spanish interpreter who is supposed to be translating is actually outside the courtroom. This becomes evident when my client, who is looking around absently fails to even respond to any of the judge’s questions. “you are giving up your right to remain silent…Do you understand” the judge demanded. My client smiled and nodded his eyes wide, his head nodding in a way that made it utterly clear that he didn’t have a clue what was going on. Oops, I thought to myself realizing that there was no interpreter up there with us. “does he need an interpreter”, the judge asked wearily? “Ahh. It looks like it” the ADA mutters. Just then, the interpreter wanders in and the plea proceeds. The ADA on the case then mistakenly tries to impose a fine greater than the maximum allowed by the statute. After fixing this little problem and saving the client 250 dollars, the plea gets entered and I head off to another courtroom.
Nothing was going right in the F part either, some kid was sentenced on two cases but neither clerk signed the papers to send him upstate. As a result, the kid bounced back and forth between courtrooms for the better part of a week, getting woken up at 4:00 am from Rikers, heading to court, only to be sent back with papers indicating to corrections that he needed to be brought to a different courtroom. The problem took about a half an hour to clear up by which time I was late for AP-3. My client there, a young kid charged with unlawful possession of a knife, was still patiently waiting for his case to be called. When I arrived, he was watching as Judge Recant yelled “ Sir: Either you are guilty or you’re not....WHICH IS IT” over and over at a frightened little man with darting eyes charged with patronizing a prostitute.
It takes 20 minutes to get the knife case called, but when it finally happens, I smoothly enter a plea getting the kid sentenced to two days of community service. The process takes less than a minute. My pager starts going crazy again, and I head down for the arraignment part to pick up yet another case. In the elevator an older black man glowers at me and says loudly “You’re all a bunch of Motherfuckers… Jesus commin down to smite you… He will have vengence....motherfucker”