You will all remember that I was served a summons a while back for not getting the county property tax sticker put on my car. So, I go, pay the car tax (which our politicians told us would be gone years ago), and put the new sticker on my Jeep. I even call the officer who served the summons and left him a voice mail telling him it is now squared away. In theory, having done all of this I am released from my obligation to go to court. In theory.
The court date rolls around on a day I’m supposed to drive to a juvenile detention facility where a couple of my clients have been transferred (a 3 hour drive each way). Out of an abundance of caution (or paranoia) I decide that the prudent thing to do before I’m 3 hours down the road would be to check to see if I’m still on the docket; I’ve had too many clients faced with failure to appear charges who have sworn they thought everything was squared away and they didn’t have to come to court. So, I swing by the courthouse to check before I head over the horizon. Yep, you guessed it, there’s my name on the 1 p.m. docket.
Great. Now I’ve got to figure out how to be in two places a couple hundred miles away from each other at the same time; this is the last date I have available to travel out to the detention center before the trial date and I’ve made the appointment. Hmmm . . . What to do? I could skip court and let the judge find me guilty in my absence. Somehow, I don’t thing that’s the optimal solution. I don’t so much mind the fine and costs but I just don’t want a judge before whom I sometimes appear to think I blew off his court. I go and talk to the prosecutor who’s going to be in that courtroom and, after he has a little bit of a laugh he tells me not to worry about it, he’ll just move dismiss it as complied with law (like any other complied case) without me having to be in court. Then I head out and drive 3 hours to Culpeper, spend a hour visiting my clients, and then drive back 3 hours. By the time it’s all done it’s already pretty late and I head home.
The next day when I check my messages there’s a message from the prosecutor telling me to call him. I jump online and check to see what happened. My court date was carried over until the next week. What!?! The info online doesn’t say why. I go back to the courthouse for some other cases and then go talk to the prosecutor. I ask him if the reason it was carried to a new date was because the judge was upset that I wasn’t there. No, it was because it was me and the judge didn’t want any appearance of impropriety; he rescheduled the case to be in front of a substitute judge.1
So the case carries over to the next week. I get to court late from other obligations and they can’t find the paperwork. My case is the last one called (there were only two left when I got to court). The substitute judge before whom I am standing is someone before whom I’ve tried more cases than the judge who recused himself (rumor has it that this sub owns 90% of the county and sits per noblis oblige). The prosecutor explains what’s going on and the clerk tells him they can’t find the paperwork. He waves his hand and looks at us like this is all silly, says “That’s going to be dismissed”, and sends me on my way.
Later that day I check with the clerk and the paperwork still hasn’t shown up. I joke with the clerk that Judge Smith is going to frame it and present it to me. The next morning I check again and it’s still not found (yes, I’m paranoid). Then, around the time of an 11 a.m. bond hearing I’m in court for the clerk finds me and tells me they found the papers and they bring them in and get the judge to sign them. And thus ends the Great Ken Criminal Caper of 2005.
If it ever happens again I think I’ll just pay the dang fine.
1 This is my current “bad luck” judge. If I have something to do in his courtroom and something can go wrong - it will. For the longest time there was a judge in the cicuit court who had this distinction. My car broke down on at least 3 days I was supposed to be in his court, every difficult client went before his court, and if I made a mistake in scheduling it was always his court. A while back this seemed to stop and I thought the curse was lifted; now I realize it was just shifting to a different judge.