Denver Bar Association
October 2009
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The Road Worrier, Part One

by Greg Rawlings

Stressed suburbanites line the slender hallway outside the courtroom. They jockey for seats and air space, they chew gum and mumble inanities into cell phones. In the courtroom itself, the judge fidgets on the Bench, barking the occasional order to his long-time clerk, and maintaining an aura of boredom personified.

The Spanish interpreter, a rather beautiful woman with striking eyes, squeezes my arm as she follows the deputy district attorney out of the courtroom into his crowded office. I smile and nod for my client to make room for her. He sits upright, pulls his tennis shoes under his chair and cracks his knuckles.

"Does it always take this long?" he asks. "This is pathetic. I got things to do."

"Yes, it almost always takes this long," I eventually reply.

He bites and licks at his chapped lips, tension leaping from his body like fleas from an old dog. "You could have got here earlier and checked in earlier and we’d be, uh, done earlier."

I think, well, yes, I could’ve. I say, "Nope. There was a wreck near Belleview. I sat in one place for like 15 minutes."

"Oh."

A lawyer buddy races past me and rolls his eyes as he ducks upstairs, his headset bobbing as he walks. I smile. He’s a solo, has always been a solo, will always be a solo. Somehow, he remains both sane and collegial. A few years ago, I almost ran over him downtown in my car because he was talking so intently on his phone he didn’t notice the light had changed.

Nothing like a morning in county court in the web of courts that covers the metro from Boulder to Castle Rock. Nothing like trying to get from an arraignment in Adams County to a sentencing in Jeffco in, well — to get there on time — you’d have to violate the time/space continuum. Time is seldom your friend in this game, but you sure get to know every nook and cranny of the metro area — and of many other places you’d never visit if they didn’t have a courthouse.

I am starved. The young DDA is stuck with a half-dozen interpreter cases, which get priority. I try to count the cases that will go before me, attach a time to them and calculate when I can escape. If my upper time limit guess is right, I can grab some Thai at a place down the street; if the cases meet my low estimate, it’s the rather pleasant bakery at the strip mall next door. I prefer Thai to pastries, but I am seriously hungry. I stick my head in the DDA’s room and the interpreter smiles and whispers, "Almost done." I nod my thanks and go back to my client.

He’s getting surlier by the minute. The imp that forever sits on my bum left shoulder suggests that I recommend prayer to the young man. I’d do the crossword puzzle but some clients want you to act like they are your entire universe.

Whew, an elderly lady just waltzed by stinking of booze. Not the best way to show up at court in the morning – or, in the afternoon, for that matter, but it happens all the time. Just ask the security guys manning the metal detectors and the sheriff’s deputies lounging in the jury box. My client doesn’t notice, as he chews steadfastly on the inside of his mouth.

By this time, and I’ve only been around the guy for 45 minutes, I’m convinced he has a major league oral fixation. All defense lawyers are amateur psychologists. It comes with the territory. We’re around more pure unbridled madness than the average guy in the street is. Howling lunatics lurk at every turn.

At this point, I want to do the day’s New York Times crossword puzzle as much as I want to squelch the rumbling in my stomach. The waits really do seem endless. Eons pass in the space of a two-hour morning docket, the universe expands and your prospects shrink, but you move steadily on, preferably forward. Because that’s the life.

The prosecutor finally calls out my case. I tell the client to stay put. The offer stinks and we set the case for motions and trial. The judge calls me to the Bench and tells a ribald joke away from the mic. My client lights a smoke before he’s completely out of the courthouse. It’s dead on 11 a.m. — almost too early for lunch, almost too late for a snack. I opt for the early lunch and the crossword puzzle. Panang is the special of the day, the tea is soothing.

Hmm, what’s a seven letter word for barrister? Yeah, right.

Another day in paradise.


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