Denver Bar Association
November 2002
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The Kangaroo Court

by Judge Brian Campbell

 Sometimes the fines just don’t add up

Having been on the bench 22 years, I have thousands of vignettes, which I will share with you from time to time (so as not to hog the limelight), but my favorite happened to me when I first started out. I have thought of compiling these in a book entitled "May It Please the Court."

Early on in my career,a gentleman by the name of Mr. Barroner appeared in my traffic court to contest a ticket he received for having a load extend beyond the bed of his truck and not displaying a red flag at the end of the load.

He took the matter to jury trial (which he was entitled to do since the offense carried a remote possibility of jail), and after a day’s trial was found guilty. A month later, he was back in my courtroom, having received a parking ticket for parking in a "Press Only" space during the day-long first trial. Again, he wanted a jury trial where he planned on arguing to the jury that establishing "Press Only" spaces violated the Equal Protection laws. I told him that that was a question of law and not fact so that he could argue that only to the court as part of the jury instructions.

Expressing his disdain, he said that he knew how I was going to rule so he didn’t want a jury trial. For that matter, since he knew how I was going to rule in a trial to the court, he said he might as well plead guilty.

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After insuring that this was what he wanted to do, I said, "Mr. Barroner, I will take into consideration the arguments and statements you have made today and will reduce your fine from $10 to $5." He immediately became incensed and said, "I want to pay the entire $10! This is just a kangaroo court and I don’t want you doing anything for me!" At this point, I told him that I was getting a little tired of his antics and ended by saying, "If you keep this up, I am going to hold you in contempt of court and reduce the fine to $2.50."

Without further comment he took the payslip and left the courtroom.

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