Clowning around in Court!

Clowning around in court

In May of 1990, I was mid-way through college, studying to be an electrical engineer. I was also a heavy metal guitar player with quite a head of hair. I had recently been informed, by one of Maryland’s finest, that my tags had expired, my registration had been revoked, and that I had over $300 in outstanding parking tickets from Ocean City, where I had lived during the summer of 1988. Ahhh…the summer of ’88. While it is commonly known that “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” it is less widely known that “what happens in Ocean City, typically follows you home, often requiring some form of legal or medical attention.” I decided to argue my case in court, and plea for leniency.

As if Traffic Court Judges aren’t cranky enough, I decided to show up for trial in shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt, my hair pulled back with a baseball cap, carrying a backpack full of books. I then proceeded to sprawl out on an unoccupied bench and study for finals while waiting for my turn to speak. Finally, my moment arrived. Not surprisingly, I was not able to finish my thought before the gavel dropped, bringing my case to an abrupt close. I was ordered to approach the bench, where it was suggested, in a manor in which only a man supremely impressed with himself could muster, that I never again enter his court “looking like I belong in a circus.” I was shocked. 😮 Surely, he hadn’t passed judgment based solely on my appearance, had he? I stewed about it on my way home. Over the next couple of days, I composed a letter to this misguided soul in which I elaborated on my opinion of his verdict and suggested a few minor improvements to his character that could, if properly implemented, greatly limit the damage that he could do before finally retiring to his drool cup. I admit, it was a bit dramatic for Traffic Court; but of what purpose is “youthful indiscretion” if not to add drama to otherwise ordinary lives? More than one responsible adult in my life expressed uncertainty in my decision to mail the letter, but you can bet your fanny I mailed it anyway.

But it doesn’t end there, my friends. Shortly after receiving my letter, His Honor, now sufficiently agitated, mailed to me a thank-you note in the form of a subpoena. Needless to say, I dressed appropriately for this next meeting with my arch-nemesis, where I received a most unpleasant lesson in courtroom etiquette and  the “care and feeding” of embittered old men with supreme power and little patience. The word “contemptuous” was used more than once. 🙂

May 25, 1990

Judge Vaughan,

By your statement, you have grossly exceeded the boundaries defined by your position. Such a statement from one whose employ is to decide the guilt or innocence of one accused of unlawful acts is infinitely more offensive and disruptive than my appearance could possibly have been. As a result, I find myself in a predicament in which I feel the need to explain myself, and my appearance, while at the same time being thoroughly offended by the thought of doing so. I am outraged by the notion that the decisions of a man in your position could be so easily swayed by a matter so inconsequential as appearance. Your remark, being extremely inappropriate and ill-timed, has robbed your judgment of its validity in my eyes. While it is not my intention to contest your decision, nor is it my wish to insult you, I am obligated to inform you that I have oh so little faith in your ability to adequately perform your duties without bias.

It is my firm belief that your distaste for my attire weighed heavily on your assessment of my fines. Whether such narrow-mindedness is inherent in your character or born of the authority you represent, it is an unfavorable trait at best. To be so blinded by personal prejudice must surely be both a tragedy and a hindrance in a position of such power, for prejudice and narrow-mindedness are truly flaws to be feared in a District Court Judge.

As for my appearance, sir, “looking like I belonged in a circus” (as you so eloquently phrased it) was certainly not my first choice as “theme du jour” when I arose on this glorious morning. If I was in costume at all, your Honor, surely I was clad in the uniform of an upper-level engineering student, thoroughly exhausted by the rigors of final exams. Such a sharp comment on my personal appearance was positively uncalled for and hurtful, at best. It showed an inability on your part to move beyond details which you find too personally displeasing to focus on fact alone, as well as a great lack of wisdom.

Your title requires wisdom, and I tell you now, Sir, so that you may know, Wisdom and Knowledge are not synonymous as you so obviously believe. I am more than confident that you posses much knowledge of the law, yet knowledge alone does not reward you with the ability to judge competently those who stand accused before you. Without compassion, patience, experience, limitless broadmindedness, an unbiased point of view, and the ability to listen you have nothing with which to make viable decisions. Wisdom, then, is a subtle combination of all of these. There lies the jewel which you have not attained.

Unduly Offended,

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2 Comments to “The Judge and the Circus Freak…”

  1. Mike says:

    Dude! You KNOW dressing differently didn’t even cross my mind! As for the shoe…I do believe that it was minus one radio at that point…DAMN 97 Underground!

  2. Stot says:

    Dude! I would have lent you something to wear!

    Oh… Those were the glory days, my friend. Did you drive to that appearance in a radio-less shoe?!

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