Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Flying Fish Don't Play

     It has been awhile since I have written about Judge Learned Foote and many of you have inquired about him.  He has diligently avoided controversy.  Intense scrutiny of public figures these days makes this a difficult task.  Up to now Judge Foote had succeeded in keeping out of the public eye.  But unwittingly he became embroiled in a matter over which I believe he had little control.  I leave it to you, dear reader, to judge for yourself. 

         It began with a settlement conference gone awry.  The underlying case grew out of an employment dispute involving defendant, a writer known as Kipling, and six struggling singers in search of a day job.  Kipling employed them as "serving men" and at first was impressed with them.  He wrote a poem celebrating his pleasure with their work:

"I keep six honest serving men.
They taught me all I knew;
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.”

         In their evening hours, Kipling's servants were able to get singing gigs at various venues, including the Los Angeles County Superior Court's annual dinner dance.  They also auditioned for the television show, America's Got Talent.  It did not go well.  Two of the group began singing "Where or When."  But, as you can imagine, the other members objected.  Then other members refused to sing "Who Can I Turn To?"  It turned into a melee when it came to "How High the Moon."

         Who, What and Where were tired of trying to break into show business.  They gave up singing and attended night law school.  How, Why and When were doing more work than before because Who, What, and Where were too tired from studying to do their share of work.  How, Why and When could not adequately cover for them.  A disenchanted Kipling fired all six of them.  They filed a wrongful termination suit.  The case settled for an undisclosed amount with an agreement that Kipling not publish a new poem about six deceitful serving men who taught him nothing. 
         Wouldn’t you know it, no sooner was the case over, the six began squabbling among themselves about how to divide the settlement proceeds.  How brought an action against Why and hired Who to represent him.  Why hired What to represent him and cross-complained against When.  Where, just having passed the bar, represented When.
         Judge Foote held a settlement conference.  I won't hold you in suspense.  It turned out to be a disaster.  Judge Foote wanted to bring his service cat to the court as a calming influence, but thought better of it.  Recent events served as a caution to judges bringing animals into the courtroom.  But he thought it would not be controversial to bring his pet flying fish to the settlement conference.  He reasoned the fish's graceful movement in the tank would be soothing to all the parties.  In case you are wondering, Judge Foote had never witnessed the fish actually fly.  And it did not occur to him that flying fish obviously would be a sore point for the parties.  The conference began inauspiciously. 

JUDGE FOOTE:  "Who represents the plaintiff?"
WHO:  "That’s correct, Your Honor."
WHAT:  "Yes, Your Honor."
JUDGE FOOTE:  "I beg your pardon." 
WHAT:  "I represent the defendant."  
JUDGE FOOTE:  "What’s your name?"
WHAT:  "That’s correct Your Honor." 
HOW:  (Sarcastically under his breath)  "He's got the names right, only he doesn't know it." 
JUDGE FOOTE:  "How's that?"
HOW:  "I'm the client.  Can we talk about the case?"
JUDGE FOOTE:  (To How)  "Who are you?"
WHO:  (Responding)  "That's me."
WHAT:  "Yes?"
WHAT:  "You just said my name."
WHERE:  "He's a cross-defendant and should be dismissed from the case."
WHY:  (Turning to his lawyer What)  "Should I answer?"
WHAT:  "I'll answer for you."  (To the judge)  "We would just like to settle Your Honor."
JUDGE FOOTE:  (Sarcastically)  "When?"
WHEN:  (To Where)  "He called me."
WHAT:  "Yes?"
JUDGE FOOTE:  "What is your name?"
WHAT:  "What."
JUDGE FOOTE:  (LOUDER)  "I said, what is your name?"
WHAT:  (Meekly)  "What."
JUDGE FOOTE:  (Exasperated, turning to Who)  "What is his name?" (pointing to What)
WHO:  "It is."
JUDGE FOOTE:  (Turning to What)  "O.K., what's his name?" (pointing to Who)
WHAT:  "Who."
JUDGE FOOTE:  "Him."  (No answer)  "Can anybody help me here?"
WHY:  "Judge, I thought you were supposed to help us." 
JUDGE FOOTE:  "I can't help you if I don't know your names."
WHY:  "We gave you our names."
JUDGE FOOTE:  (Sarcastically)  "Oh, I must have missed something.  Tell me your name."
WHY:  "Why."
JUDGE FOOTE:  "Because I'd like to know.  Each of you please give me your names so I can properly address the parties and counsel."
WHERE:  "Where."
WHEN:  "When."
JUDGE FOOTE:  "Now."  (Out of control)  "This is worse than an Abbott and Costello routine."
There was a stunned silence.
WHO:  "That remark was uncalled for."
JUDGE FOOTE:  "You're probably right.  Maybe the Marx Brothers would have been better."
WHO:  "You can't help us settle this case, Your Honor."
WHY:  "Don't ask me."
WHAT:  "I agree with my client."
WHAT:  "Yes?"
JUDGE FOOTE:  "You're right."

         It was at this point that an exasperated Judge Foote pounded the table with his fist.  This so startled the fish, that she flew out of her tank and began flying over the heads of the astonished parties and counsel.  Luckily she flew back into the tank. 
         To relieve the tension, the litigants and counsel could not help themselves and perversely began singing "On the Road to Mandalay."  They lodged a complaint with the Judicial Performance Commission.  The commission called a special session.  Judge Foote wisely left his flying fish at home. 
         The presiding member of the commission asked the prosecuting attorney the order in which the witnesses would testify.
         She answered, "Who's on first."
         The presiding commissioner said, "That is what I'm asking you."
         What then said, "You are asking me?"

         Judge Foote breathed a barely detectable sigh of relief. 

No comments: