Jewish World Review Dec. 13, 2000 / 16 Kislev, 5761
Courtroom moments that never
make the front page
WE HAVE ALL seen so many court hearings in the
weeks since Election Day that it is going to be
jarring to turn on our television sets and find no
judges or lawyers.
But even after this election story ends, the
business of America's courtrooms will go on --
and one of the side benefits of the Bush-Gore controversy is that it has let
Americans take a close look at what happens in court.
Much of it has been historic -- but there have been small moments that are
reflective of quirky things that transpire every day in courtrooms -- things that
never make the news, but that are oddly instructive in their own way.
Two examples -- both of which took place last week, as the Bush-Gore
dispute found itself in the Florida Supreme Court once again:
There was a camera that was aimed not at the justices, but at the attorneys,
so viewers could watch the lawyers as they presented their cases.
In the row directly behind the lawyers' lectern were some men I assume were
on the Bush and Gore legal teams -- support staff for the lead attorneys.
And one of them -- a hefty fellow with a flowered tie -- kept shaking his head
and making faces while Gore attorney David Boies was presenting his case to
I have to think this man was a lawyer with the Bush team -- because every
time Boies would try to make a point, this guy would shake his head
dramatically, expressing not just disapproval, but contempt. Every facial
expression translated to: What a crock.
This is a scene you don't usually observe in a courtroom -- if you are facing
the judge, you don't see what judges see: You don't see the faces of the
spectators. But because of the TV camera, all of America was seeing what
the seven Florida justices were seeing -- this lawyer making faces.
Once I was covering a case in the Illinois Appellate Court, in which a
three-judge panel was presiding. At one point one of the justices, from the
bench, looked at a lawyer sitting in the courtroom and said: "Mr. [he named
the attorney], you don't need to be making faces to let us know what you
think of the argument. We are quite capable of making our own judgments on
The attorney immediately stopped. But as I watched the Florida hearing last
week, and saw the man in the flowered tie vigorously shaking his head,
soundlessly sighing, all but rolling his eyes toward the ceiling and sticking his
finger down his throat, it reminded me of what judges see every day: the
scenes the rest of us don't. We who cover court cases look toward the bench
and see the judges. The judges look out into the courtroom, and see. ...
Well, they undoubtedly see a lot. And seldom comment fully on it.
When Barry Richard, the lead attorney for Bush, got up to begin his
presentation to the Florida justices, Chief Justice Charles T. Wells almost
immediately addressed him as "Mr. Richards."
That's not his name; his last name is Richard, not Richards. And I found
myself trying to guess what he would do.
He did nothing; he did not correct the chief justice. It must have been an
instantaneous decision he made.
What an interesting world an attorney arguing a case lives in. Human nature
tells you that Richard might have been thinking:
"You idiot. You can't even get my name right. This is as high profile a case as
you're ever going to hear, you're on national TV, I have argued other cases
before you and my name is not only on the court filings, but in the newspaper
every day ... and you can't even get it right. How am I supposed to trust you
to get the important things right if you can't even get my name right?"
But Mr. Richard just began to present his case. Which was probably the
smart thing to do -- why show the judge up and risk alienating him? Better to
just swallow it, let it pass. And Chief Justice Wells turned out to be the
strongest courtroom ally in Florida for Richard's client, George W. Bush.
Justice Wells might not have taken the care to familiarize himself with Barry
Richard's name -- but he ruled for Barry Richard's client, which in the end
was undoubtedly more important.
Some other time I will tell you about how the late U.S. District Court Judge
Julius J. Hoffman virtually refused to correctly say the name of Leonard
Weinglass, an attorney for the Chicago 7 conspiracy defendants. "Mr.
Weinruss. ..." "Mr. Weingardner. ..." It was a daily putdown, and Hoffman
did it on purpose. He didn't like Weinglass, and he wasn't going to pronounce
his name accurately. Weinglass objected. His clients lost.
Anyway -- the most intriguing courtroom moments don't necessarily make the
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
12/07/00: Does Justice Scalia really believe Americans can't take the truth?
12/07/00: Al Gore slept here -- and there goes the neighborhood
12/06/00: In the midst of all the noise, the truth will be heard
12/05/00: If you think the election has been weird up until now ...
11/30/00: If two men applying for a job were treated like this ...
11/29/00: Will all of this turn people away from politics? Dream on
11/28/00: Send Bush and Gore to their rooms -- bring in the pros
11/23/00: Three little words-- and two strange weeks in Florida
11/22/00: Did you hear the one about the farmer's daughter in Florida?
11/21/00: The shocking saga of the incredible shrinking men
11/15/00: The glorious mess that has come our way
11/09/00: How do you cross the line when the line has vanished?
11/08/00: The wave of the future
11/06/00: The crime that hides behind a wall of silence
11/02/00: If you have been asking yourself what you can do ...
11/01/00: 'He will never know what it is like to ride a bicycle'
10/31/00: 'It makes you feel that you are absolutely powerless'
10/30/00: THE KILLER LEARNS 'ANGER MANAGEMENT' AND IS FREED
10/26/00: `I'm not going to go up there and yell and scream'
10/25/00: With prosecutors silent, the other killer is released
10/24/00: The boy's killer: 'I've served my time, and I'm out'
10/23/00: Blaming the boy for bringing on his own killing
10/20/00: The child's killer is released -- to care for other children
10/19/00: Words that the judge would not allow to be spoken
10/18/00: A courthouse game in which the boy was not included
10/17/00: The killers get 7 to 25 years ... with a wink
10/13/00: While the killers maneuver, the boy goes unburied
10/13/00: The killers demand a concession -- and they get it
10/12/00: The prosecutors decide it doesn't qualify as murder
10/11/00: 'He wouldn't eat his eggs, and we put him to bed'
10/10/00: The autopsy leaves no questions: 'It was a homicide'
10/06/00: 'Had they shot him in the head, he would have suffered less'
10/05/00: 'I remember the moment that I first saw the human bite marks'
10/04/00: They killed a 3-year-old boy -- and they are free
09/29/00: This just in, sort of: How the news can make you calm
09/27/00: Like being with old
friends in places you
09/21/00: If the Olympics banished television . . .
09/19/00: As summer ends, have the executives learned any lessons?
09/14/00: The new stardom that doesn't require paying any dues
09/12/00: Leave a light on for us children of the pioneers
09/09/00: River banks? How to turn water into an endless cash flow
09/06/00:Oh, give me a home, where the megabytes roam . . .
09/01/00: If this works, it can literally change young lives
08/30/00: From inside all those screen porches, one more cheer
08/24/00: Who will make your life better by August of 2004?
08/24/00: Four men running -- Why do we have to throw out two?
08/16/00:The certain way to measure the Lieberman factor
08/10/00: Can a library be a library without books?
08/08/00: Can't they spare eight nights every four years?
08/04/00: Cheney, Abe Lincoln and Ricky Martin -- do they add up?
08/02/00: Convention aside, you might want to tune in
07/27/00: How to make a killing
07/25/00: 'If we didn't do it, no one else would'
07/24/00: The executioners who walk among us
07/20/00: On Main Street, signs of the times tell two stories
07/18/00: Have the choices changed, or have we?
07/14/00: Gable, Hepburn, Zanuck--you wouldn't find them at HOJO's
07/13/00: The Great Lie about political conventions
07/06/00: If this is victory, what would defeat feel like?
06/29/00: A bright moon and a missing person on Orange Ave.
06/26/00: They're not singing our song
06/22/00: The name game
06/07/00: It's like knocking on a revolving door
06/06/00: Steven who? A close encounter of mistaken identity
06/02/00: Of summer days, summer nights and pebbles in a jar
05/31/00: The best laughter, the truest voices, will never fade
05/25/00: Of distant visions, close views, and Bobby Knight
05/24/00: 'The luckiest thing that ever happened to me'
05/23/00: 'It's funny how you remember the little things'
05/22/00: 'The whisper of a generation saying goodbye to its children'
05/19/00: The place to find life is not a keyboard
05/18/00: A problem of suds but no duds
05/17/00: Are those lazy, hazy dot-com days fading?
05/16/00: The truest things in life require not a single word
05/15/00: 'Evidently he didn't like the way she dusted the house'
05/12/00: Why news executives are hoping this 'woman' is a hit
05/11/00: Ted Koppel, Hitler, Mellencamp . . . and words of love
05/10/00: Maybe it's time for the right people to hear our cheers
05/09/00: The lesson that they always learn late
05/05/00: 'Excuse me, but there seems to be something in my water'
05/05/00: When your first dream turns out to be your best dream
05/04/00: Even baseball couldn't make light of this superstition
05/03/00: The ringmaster who looks back from your mirror
05/02/00: There they go, just a-yappin' down the street . . .
05/01/00: You must remember this (Unless you don't)
04/24/00: Now that casino ads are allowed to tell the truth . . .
04/13/00: The man in the seat across the airplane aisle
04/11/00: A star is born, but do you know where it's @?
04/06/00: Through the eyes of Norman Rockwell
03/21/00: 10 good reasons to avoid making this list
03/21/00: 'I tell myself that they've gone on vacation'
03/21/00: Monday Night Football memories
03/02/00: This report card deserves an 'A' in every subject
02/29/00: What really happened on New Year's eve
02/23/00: Of paste pots, Denver sandwiches and finding Dr. Sam
02/17/00: What would you like to stay exactly the same?
02/04/00: Politics: When did the stagehands step onto the stage?
02/01/00: An awesome idea to make you sound better
01/26/00: Y3K already? We haven't yet recovered from Y2K
01/21/00: Watching the pot that always boils
01/19/00:The story behind the men on the museum steps
01/13/00: Here's to the students who never hear a cheer
01/11/00: The oh-so-sweet sound of modems in the morning
01/04/00: The person in your mirror just got wiser
12/31/99: A lesson -- and a memory -- to last a millennium
12/29/99: Racing the clock, even when it's running backwards
12/13/99: The right to bear coffee
12/08/99: From teen idol to ink-stained wretch: Can you Dig it?
12/02/99: Human 'search engines'
11/30/99: Here's looking at you -- now hand over the cash
11/23/99: Who'll say 'I'm sorry' to the other Decatur students?
11/18/99: "From bad things, good can come"
11/16/99: The man who didn't know the meaning of 'whatever'
11/12/99: Is this progress? We have made the weekend obsolete
11/09/99: Today he would probably be called Kyle Kramden
11/04/99: And you thought the IRS was heartless
11/02/99: When it's free, what will the real price be?
10/29/99: The tissue-thin decisions that define who we are
10/26/99: One way to cut road rage down to size
10/22/99: Asking all the right questions takes a special pitch
10/18/99: The signs are talking to you; Are you listening?
10/12/99: Even Capone would be disgusted
10/08/99: Don't ever look your neighborhood bear in the eye
10/06/99: Land of the free and marketplace of the brave
10/04/99: German warplanes in
09/30/99: While you fret, something is sneaking up on you
09/28/99: In these busy times, why not bring back a certain buzz?
09/24/99: The storms whose paths no one can track
09/21/99: Who's minding the store? Oh . . . never mind
09/17/99:Here's another place where you can't smoke
09/14/99: As certainly as `lovely Rita' follows `when I'm 64' . . .
09/09/99: Why is patience no longer a virtue?
09/07/99: Once upon a time, in an airport close to you . . .
09/03/99: The answers? They are right in front of us
09/01/99: Up the creek with a paddle--and cussing up a storm
08/30/99: $1 Million Question: How'd we get to be so stup-d?
08/27/99: Fun and games at Camp Umbilical Cord
08/25/99: How life has been changed by the woodpecker effect
08/23/99: If you don't like this story, blame the robot who wrote it
08/20/99: A four-letter word that has helped both Bob and Rhonda
08/18/99: They have picked the wrong country
08/16/99: From paperboy to stalker--how the news has changed
08/12/99: Why wasn't anyone watching his brothers?
08/10/99: Come to think of it, stars seldom are the retiring type
08/05/99: The national gaper's block is always jammed
07/29/99: 'Can you imagine the gift you gave me?'
07/27/99: A view to a kill -- but is this really necessary?
07/23/99: Some cream and sugar with your turbulence?
07/21/99: When your name is JFK jr., how do you choose to use it?
07/19/99: The real world is declared not real enough
07/15/99: The real victims of cruel and unusual punishment
07/13/99: A 21st Century idea for schools: log off and learn
07/09/99: Are life's sweetest mysteries still around the bend?
07/07/99: Of great minds, cream cheese and Freddy Cannon
07/02/99: The perfect spokesman for the American way
06/30/99: 'He's 9 years old . . . he trusts people'
06/28/99: A $581 million jackpot in the courthouse casino
06/25/99: A nighttime walk to a House that feels like a cage
06/23/99: At least give men credit for being more morose
06/18/99: On Father's Day, a few words about mothers
06/16/99: If work is a dance, how's
your partner doing?
06/14/99: Should a dictionary ever tell you to keep quiet?
06/10/99: A story of Sex, the SuperBowl and your wife
06/07/99: Take a guess where "California Sun" is from
06/03/99: Of summer days, summer nights and pebbles in a jar
06/01/99: Putting your money where their mouths are
05/27/99: Pressed between wooden covers, the summer of her life
05/25/99:The lingering song of a certain summer
05/24/99:We could all use a return to the Buddy system
05/20/99: Now, this is enough to make James Bond double-0 depressed
05/17/99: It's midnight -- do you know where your parents are?
05/13/99: And now even saying "thank you" creates a problem
05/11/99: The answer was standing at the front door
©1999, Tribune Media Services