An Appeal For Good Judgment

I apologize for the double pun in the title to this post, but as Bill Campbell says in True Blood,

“You have to remember that most vampires are very old. Puns used to be the highest form of humor.”

While this is no doubt true, I’m not entirely sure what vampires have to do with the subject at hand except that I’ve clearly been watching too much True Blood, so… segue segue segue segue.

[Slight spoiler alert] I’ve just finished John Grisham’s The Appeal, one of his most recent books and only the second book of his that I’ve read: a bit surprising considering my interest in law and fiction, and a fact that will soon have to be rectified. The book, as well written as it is depressing, tells the story of Big Business essentially buying a Mississippi Supreme Court seat in order to overturn a giant liability settlement. Long story short, the bad guys use a series of disgusting and reprehensible tactics in the campaign, not the least of which is portraying “their guy” as essentially a politician, going so far as to say “if you elect me, I’ll vote this way and that way,” which is exactly what a judge is not supposed to do.

And while the book made my blood boil from time to time, particularly knowing that such shenanigans and mindlessness most certainly are going on in our own system, it reminded me of something that happened several years ago.

In high school I became very involved in a program called Youth & Government, a state-wide political group run through the YMCA. Y&G was dedicated to introducing young’uns to politics while allowing them to experience it from a variety of different angles including Legislature, Press, and Judiciary, where I ended up.

I worked as a lawyer in a mock appellate court, where I quickly discovered that I had something of a knack for doing a vast amount of research and recalling it on cue to make the opposing lawyer look like a fool: proof again that memory is selective, when you compare the accolades I received there with the two C-minuses I got in AP Biology.

I moved on to Trial Court the following year, where I “defended” a “police officer” for shooting a suspect at a crime scene when the suspect reached into his belt for a gun; what turned out later to be a toy gun with its characteristic orange fake tip hidden in his pants. The next year I moved to Advanced Trial Court, with another “case,” as well as acting as a witness for a friend’s trial and acting as a judge for other cases.

At that point I decided I wanted to run for the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a title that had almost no power other than being emcee for the gubernatorial election, but one that I badly wanted. The field was wide open: something like 10 different candidates were running and we gave about 12 speeches in during one of our two-day conferences.

The speeches varied and each candidate’s delegation supported them fiercely. Several candidates (including one who ended up later being my date to senior prom) spoke about the wonders of the Golden State and, presumably, their quality by comparison. One candidate came out as gay in one speech, leading to a standing ovation and several people coming up afterward and applauding his courage afterward, though the rest of us grumbled under our breath using the words “duh” and “cheap shot.”

Personally, I spoke about the role of the judge in the changing world, how Chief Justice Earl Warren had been a pioneer who could see the writing on the wall and knew that the Constitution was meant as a guideline, not a restriction, on progress. The Founding Fathers were brilliant men who got most things right, but they were not infallible, as we’ve decided before, and it’s time to BLAH BLAH BLAH. That was my speech, and it was received to modest support.

The biggest stand-out of the bunch was a guy named Edward… something, a loud-mouthed corpulent little shit that seemed to take every speech as an opportunity to blow out a new seat of speakers and seemed to lack any discernible ideas or intelligence in any of his speeches. He ended each speech with the rousing call of “JOIN ME,” and the raising of his gavel (which he brought from home) to the sky, bowing like the leader of a megachurch before a thunderous audience.

They loved him. We hated him.

The final vote came down to two candidates, Ed Something and a kid named John, who gave soft-spoken speeches and was well-liked among the candidates. Ed had dominated in the first round but fell just short of the 50-percent mark, leaving him and John in a runoff that Ed was sure to win.

Unless we could do something about it. The final vote came down and each delegation, assigned a number of electoral votes, went one-at-a-time to the microphone to cast its votes for either John or Ed in front of a packed warehouse full of at least 2,000 hyper teenagers.

Our delegation came first, and I stepped forward. “The Albany delegation proudly casts its votes for John __,” I said, to thunderous applause from that side of the auditorium.

Another hour passed as each representative came forward, announcing their votes to a roar from one side of the room or another. Finally, we had the final vote, and everyone looked to the big screen at the front of the room for the result.

John had won, by a nose, and not a single delegation that had its own candidate in the first round had voted for Ed.

And that, my friends, is how a group of young, bitter candidates from all around the country came together once again to defeat the bad guys.

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