All rise: Here come da judge


By Mel Grossman



Regardless of the outpouring of support that I know would surround my appointment, I have decided not to allow the President (any President, for those of you who don’t like the current one) to nominate me for the next vacant Supreme Court lazy boy recliner. Even surrounded by a cadre of brilliant young law clerks, I could never hack it.

I am not into black robes nor heavy reading. More importantly, my high school capers would immediately be smoked out during the multiple FBI background checks demanded by the minority judiciary posse. And that in itself could be a disaster, long before we got around to the fitting for my new black robe and Amazon’s delivery of my case law library.

In my senior year of high school, our community (as I’m sure many do) held a Student Industry Day during which individual high school seniors were assigned to shadow area business and civic leaders for the day to learn first hand about the real world beyond our red brick walls of learning. I would have loved to shadow the local newspaper publisher, or the radio station manager, but for some inexplicable reason I was assigned to our municipal court and specifically to the City Prosecutor’s office, next to the jail house.

I shudder even now as I think of that day.

For a guy whose closest experience with the law or court room proceedings was the night my best friend (a genius with impeccable credentials who went on to no one’s surprise to become a nuclear scientist) and I found ourselves caught in the harsh beam of a local police cruiser spotlight while measuring high school windows one night for a mechanical drawing class project due the following morning.

Fortunately a quick call to Mr. Whitaker, our teacher, tucked warmly in his bed at home, exonerated us on the spot. In a small town teachers and police officers, you know, all know one another. They bowl, play soft ball and drink beer together regularly. So a quick call from his cruiser by officer Ed to “Whit” was not unusual, though perhaps annoying at that hour of the night.

“No, Mel and Richard are not burglars (no terrorists in those days),” groused good old Whit. “But they may wish otherwise when I see them in class in the morning.” Our last-minute overnight drawing session produced a grade of “B” (though we felt it deserved an A+). And Mr.Whitaker, as predicted, delivered a stern lecture before penalizing us one grade level for having awakened him from the middle of whatever mechanical drawing teachers dream about.

I hasten to add that I truly learned a valuable lesson from that night, and further acknowledge that at no time in my life thereafter have I stood precariously on a high school window ledge in the middle of the night … no matter how many beers I’ve had … hoping against hope that it would never be dredged up in a future confirmation hearing. Actually I never had a sip of beer in high school. Never drank any until college, and even then never to “black out” levels. I really prefer a nice glass of sauvignon blanc before dinner with a small plate of cheese and crackers. But I tarry… back to industry day.

When the city prosecutor told me I would be handling a “mock” trial that afternoon I was filled with dread. Terrified! After 68 years I still remember it like it was yesterday, even though my best friend , and fellow “burglar,” does not remember it at all because he passed away a few years back from cancer acquired during many years of chemical lab experiments. Also, there are no other corroborators.

Whit and Ed departed this world many years ago. So I am left totally with my own shaky memory about what happened that afternoon in the court- room where, with a new white shirt, sweat-soaked and sticking to my back under a hot wool suit purchased for Easter at Robert’s Men’s shop a few blocks away, I mumbled those first shaky prosecutorial words: “Your ladies, honor and jury, of the gentlemen …”

The rest is blurred (no, gratefully erased) from memory, and fortunately there is no reference to it in my high school yearbook. Perhaps I fainted. Blacked out. Or the defense attorney called for a mistrial. Or maybe it was a real trial, and I was brilliant, and the accused is still rotting in county jail. Hardly.

So, mister President, while I am deeply touched by the thought of your very generous consideration of me for the ninth seat on the highest court in the land, thanks, but no thanks. Not really my cuppa tea. Actually I prefer to work alone. And quite frankly, I have an aversion to Senate Judiciary committees after watching one at play recently. Meantime, sir, I promise return the robe and law books to Amazon as soon as I finish this column … “Hello, Fedex?”

By Mel Grossman

Mel Grossman is a local resident and guest columnist.

Mel Grossman is a local resident and guest columnist.