Years ago, a rural lawyer – we will name him Bobby – had a client from Dallas who was charged with DWI in a small West Texas county. The case was unfortunately a true loser so he worked out an agreement with which the client could live. Time came to have the plea so Client X made the long drive the night before. Court was scheduled for 1:00. The County Judge was not a lawyer. She was someone Bobby knew well and liked, so he stuck his head in her office about 12:45. “Is the Judge here yet?” he asked. Answer: “No, her daughter had a baby this morning, she’s gone and won’t be back for a few days.” What the heck to do? Here Bobby’s client is, 7 hours from home after having taken off work, and never wants to set foot in West Texas again. Well, never fear, when it’s rural Texas there is ALWAYS a solution. When the County Attorney arrived, Bobby explained the problem and the County Attorney said, “No problem, let’s just go into the court. WE WILL DO IT WITHOUT THE JUDGE.” The client was in near shock. “Shut up, just play along!” Bobby said.
The County Attorney pulled out the plea papers and everyone signed, all the while with the client twitching nervously. The County Attorney approached the empty bench and said, “If the Judge were here, she would ask you if you are Client X who is charged with DWI, are you Client X ?” The client stared at Bobby in disbelief. “Dammit, play along I said,” Bobby whispered. “This whole thing is so messed up it can’t possibly be used against you in the future; it’s probably not valid for any purpose whatsoever.” Admittedly Bobby was guessing, but thought it was a pretty good guess (waive worries aside). So on they went. “Now if the Judge were here she would ask you if you are sane and competent…” The darn thing went like that all the way through! They concluded with, “She would tell you to be a good citizen and she would wish you luck. She would say we are adjourned.” Bizarre? No kidding! Luckily the client never got another DWI that Bobby knows of so he didn’t have to stand good on his commitment of “…don’t worry…” Bobby still shakes his head over it. Was he right? Professor Pat Metz will probably say Bobby was as nuts as the client and the County Attorney. But what can you do? Client says, “I ain’t comin’ back,” the prosecutor doesn’t care if the plea is any good, and appellant lawyers now can speculate and have fun with this one. Only in the Hooterville Courthouse!
Submitted by Tip Hargrove, San Angelo.