By Mark David Blum, Esq.
I was appearing in the Town of Dewitt Court last night in front of the masterful and Honorable David Gideon; a great man in his own right.
It was night court and the whole town had come out to play. The DA was there, about a half dozen lawyers were plopped in the front row, half asleep, playing with their electronic doodads. I would have joined them but I had already burned out my phone battery. A few of the lawyers were Assigned Counsel costing taxpayers at least $60.00 an hour to sit. Me, I along with a couple others were being paid retail by clients. There were also two taxpayer funded prosecutors languishing; one of them over 12 feet tall.
Judge Gideon was doing Judge Gideon business in his normal Judge Gideon way while the rest of us quietly (under glare from armed deputies telling us constantly to shut up or get thrown out). He spent nearly an hour on one case. He then started calling unrepresented people for traffic offenses for another hour. By now, I had been sitting, standing, pacing, smacking my forehead, and really losing it for some reason for more than two hours.
(You have to forgive me, but it is tradition in the local courts at night to call lawyer represented cases first because of the costs heaped on taxpayers and citizens by having to sit around all night doing nothing. It makes life easy since our cases tend to move smoother knowing as we do all the right moves. A judge can clear a big piece of his calendar by calling the lawyers first. After more than 20 years of this, you could say I am spoiled. You could also say I agree that it is in the taxpayer and clientís best interest to keep costs down).
Judge Gideon wouldnít hear it last night. He plodded through his calendar in an order even one of his own clerks failed to understand Ė or at least so they said.
I then noticed that in the rows behind me began to grow a gathering of old people. By the deliberate way they dressed (a tribute to long since dead sixties styles and very age inappropriate) and acted, I immediately recognized what I tagged as being more of those Hancock Air Base protesters. One very lonely woman insisted on interjected herself repeatedly into my conversations with other lawyers any me endless complaining about court. Within a 20 minute span, about 25 of these good folks showed up and gathered with hugs and kisses, nuts and berries.
Now am I all for free speech and am a big defender of liberty and civil rights. It has been the locus of my 20 something year career. If these people want to lay down in the street to complain about the use of drones, fine with me. I personally think the cops (and the media) should have just ignored the bodies in the road and if the vultures didnít get them, a passing truck would. If not, eventually they would grow bored and go home. It is the response that they keep getting which is their goal and which Dewitt and other PDs gladly oblige. To what end, say I?
I studied this group of superannuated retired rich white folks playing dress-up and in an apparent search for relevance in the modern world. They had all these writings and books by authors whose knowledge of the world is a mixed bag of momís basement living, excerpted Marxism, Hegelian mindsets, and Cheetos. I wouldnít hesitate to quickly brand them all pot smokers except I doubt any of them would smoke any substance. In fact, they probably only ingest items naturally grown and which have never drawn a breath. (No, aborted fetuses donít count; I am sure there is no opposition there). Ed Kinane was among the present.
So this mumbling gathering of old attention seekers is annoying the Deputy and given what I heard were past disturbances in court, Judge Gideon, bless his heart, decided to change up the order of cases called and deal with the protesters' cases so he could dispose of them and hustle these lonely people from the court room so they can get back to their Grey's Anatomy.
One by one, the defendants were called to the Bench. None but the last one had lawyers, Every one of them had served or was going to serve Discovery Demands and Motions. Each has filed some kind of joinder motion about which I could hear the specifics. Apparently there is another group of these protestors who have cases pending before the other Dewitt Town Justice. To each and every one of the 25, Judge Gideon patiently listened, explained why he was doing what he was, and put everybody off until April. Pro se defendants whose knowledge of the law is limited to what they read in bazooka joe comics and television shows, are time sponges. Nobody has to have a lawyer and everybody has the right to defend themselves. I am all for that. But if you do go that route, get out of the fast lane and let speeders go by. Thatís me Ė zoom zoom zoom.
After Judge Gideon cleared the calendar of the rah rah gang, they en masse, gathered up their yoga mats and cats and began to leave, hugging and backslapping as they left. Of course, my luck the obnoxious one behind me decided to get in my face. Now recall I am an alumnus of UC Berkeley; home of the free speech movement. I was here at the birth of Occupy Syracuse and sat on that wall defending them. Over the course of my life, I have been to student riots, witnessed police riots, been on the front lines against police and the public. I know the tricks and games you can play. So, this catlady suddenly sticks out her hand to shake mine. Protesters do that to cops. I was insulted because I was being sarcastically referred to as the opposition. My hands remained in my pockets and I wished her a good evening. Her hand remained perpendicular to her body and mine searched for change. We exchanged fake and socially appropriate pleasantries and she then left.
All night, I was very angry at that group (as if you couldnít tell by my word choice above). First, they had completely screwed up my night and put more than an extra hour of court time at the end of a very long day. Second, the money being wasted really offended me given what it must have cost just to get them to their current status Ė police, jails, courts, and the costs for lawyers to sit around a court room and prosecutors to answer motions. This money is coming from taxpayers; not the retirees. We are funding their little crusade and I donít like being compelled to fund anotherís politics. This is the United States, and the right to free speech includes the right to not support the speech of another. Third, given the choice between my grandsons fighting in combat and some video jock sitting half a planet away who can zap a missile into the enemy commanderís bathroom, I am all for the latter every time. When a nation is at war, then all is fair. Killing the enemy and forcing a surrender is the ultimate and only goal. If you donít want drones, donít have wars. I can dig that.
Finally, and where this whole episode is really stupid is that these protestors are getting their charges because they block the entrance to an airbase from where it is alleged the US military is flying its drones. Again, having lived in real hippie America and comparing that to the Syracuse version, what I see is a bunch of bored old people trying to be relevant and taking their battle to the soldiers. The protesters want a change in national policy. Interfering with traffic at the entrance of an airbase is simply the stupidest approach to the problem.
God bless the United States and our system of laws. The right of people to be able to protest and redress their grievances to the government is a beautiful thing. Having a court system to settle disputes and keep the peace is a good thing. Lawyers are always a good thing when you are in court Ė and even not Ė and it doesnít cost THAT much to have one in your pocket and on your side. Everything that happened last night was a wonderful thing and proof positive that we are beyond the chaos and misery of a lot of the rest of humanity.
Just one favor, please: Protest somewhere else. Get out of my way. I want to go home. Of course the irony of it all is that those tofu sniffing grumpy old men and women had no idea that I am the very guy they want defending them as theirs is the kind of case upon which I built my career. Ha ha. Neener neener. For the right amount of trail mix, I could have probably been bought. But instead, she stuck out her hand. For that, they all get this essay and the finger.