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Rudolph

All of you have heard the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and are familiar with its main character, Rudolph. Rudolph was created in 1939 by Robert May, an employee of Montgomery Ward. Although sources vary as to whether May created the story of Rudolph to promote sales at the Christmas season, or to give as a gift to his young daughter to bring her comfort, May was doing his best to keep his job and comfort his child because Ms. May was dying of cancer.

May was picked on and bullied as a child, and the story of Rudolph was based on those personal experiences. Rudolph was Santa’s ninth reindeer, mocked by the other reindeer because of his shiny red nose. Like May, Rudolph was mocked and bullied, but in the end, Rudolph became the hero when he was chosen to lead Santa’s sleigh on a foggy Christmas Eve.

Johnny Marks, Robert May’s brother-in-law, actually wrote the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” My friend Carol Erickson remembers Johnny Marks, who served as a captain in the Army during World War II. Carol’s dad served in the same unit as Johnny. After the war, Carol remembered Johnny coming to her house wearing a red suit and driving a new red Cadillac. Johnny tried to pitch the song to many popular singers, including Dinah Shore, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra, but none were interested. At the urging of his wife, my hero and family friend Gene Autry recorded the song in 1949. It was an immediate hit and became one of the top songs in music history, selling millions of copies.

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” has become a piece of modern folklore and a metaphor for overcoming obstacles, embracing our differences, and recognizing everyone’s unique potential. As you review the lives of your clients in an ethical manner, you may find a little or a lot of Rudolph in them. Your client may have come from a broken and dysfunctional home, or perhaps struggles with learning disabilities or mental issues. It is important to get your client’s full life history. The recommendation is that you go back three generations in your client’s life. No matter how bad and bleak the case looks, there may, and probably will, be some social redeeming qualities.

It is our job to zealously defend our clients in an ethical manner. If your client is a veteran, get all of his records, whether good or bad. Also get a copy of the school and medical records. Do not forget to have your client stop all social media, especially Facebook. Serious prosecutors will be checking to see what a defendant has posted. If your client is in jail, warn him to be aware letters can be read and may be used against him and to beware of phone calls from jail. Be mindful of conversations in the hallways at the courthouse. It has happened that bystanders including law enforcement have testified about what they heard.

Once your investigation is complete, you may find your “Rudolph” has a history that will help him guide the sleigh to a positive outcome, or produce mitigation of the punishment. Even the worst among us has done something right in life. The research done on the ancestors of your client may help explain and/or excuse his behavior. As my psychiatrist friend Geoff Grubb believes, only a very small percentage of humans are “Born to Be Wild.” The remaining commit crimes because of many factors: poverty, inferiority complex, peer pressure, opportunity, desperation, drugs, depression, mental disorders, overpopulation, politics, racism, TV violence, and regionalism.

Like Rudolph, your client’s life may be changed forever if given the chance. If your “Rudolph” has alcohol or drug problems, enroll them in AA or NA. Encourage them to get a job, go to school and church, and any other positive thing that will help get them back on the right track. Always remember: Santa Claus and the Grievance Committee are watching you.

In Texas, Santa has a longhorn named Rudolph that he uses to pull his sleigh. This sketch is courtesy of Sam Pelton.

 

Acceptance of Holiday Gifts by Judge and Staff

Opinion No. 194 (1996)

Question: Is it a violation of Canon 4(d)(4) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct for a judge, court coordinator, court reporter (and clerks and bailiffs) to:

1. accept holiday or seasonal gifts (assuming such to be commensurate with the occasion); or
2. attend holiday or seasonal law firm parties?

Answer 1: Yes. A judge may only accept a gift from a friend for a special occasion and then only if the gift is fairly commensurate with the occasion and the relationship. Canon 4D(4)(b). A Judge may accept any other gift only if the donor is not a party or person whose interests have come or are likely to come before the judge. Canon 4D(4)(c). Opinion No. 44. Texas Judicial Ethics Opinions Page 115 of 170.

The Committee concludes that a holiday or seasonal gift from a lawyer or law firm where a lawyer is not a friend is prohibited. Where a friendship exists, the gift must be commensurate with the occasion and the judge must be mindful of Canon.

2A and should act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. A judge should not convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. Canon 2B. Opinion No. 39.

Answer 2: No. A judge may attend holiday or seasonal law firm parties if the party is open to people other than judges and court personnel. Rule 4D(4)(b) and Opinion No. 39 permits a judge to accept ordinary social hospitality. The judge should act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary and should not convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. Canon 2(A) and (B).

The answers above apply equally to the judge’s staff, court officials, and others subject to the judge’s direction and control. Canon 3C(2) provides a judge should require staff, court officials, and others subject to the judge’s direction and control to observe the standards of fidelity and diligence that apply to the judge. See Canon 3B(2) Code of Judicial Conduct, September 1, 1974, through December 31, 1993, and Opinions 110, 112, and 140 applying Code to court personnel.

Here is the main code provision that would apply to gifts:

Canon 4D:

(4) Neither a judge nor a family member residing in the judge’s household shall accept a gift, bequest, favor, or loan from anyone except as follows:

(a) a judge may accept a gift incident to a public testimonial to the judge; books and other resource materials supplied by publishers on a complimentary basis for official use; or an invitation to the judge and spouse to attend a bar-related function or activity devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice;

(b) a judge or a family member residing in the judge’s household may accept ordinary social hospitality; a gift, bequest, favor, or loan from a relative; a gift from a friend for a special occasion such as a wedding, engagement, anniversary, or birthday, if the gift is fairly commensurate with the occasion and the relationship; a loan from a lending institution in its regular course of business on the same terms generally available to persons who are not judges; or a scholarship or fellowship awarded on the same terms applied to other applicants;

(c) a judge or a family member residing in the judge’s household may accept any other gift, bequest, favor, or loan only if the donor is not a party or person whose interests have come or are likely to come before the judge;

(d) a gift, award or benefit incident to the business, profession or other separate activity of a spouse or other family member residing in the judge’s household, including gifts, awards and benefits for the use of both the spouse or other family member and the judge (as spouse or family member), provided the gift, award or benefit could not reasonably be perceived as intended to influence the judge in the performance of judicial duties.

Ancillary to that would be the requirement to report certain gifts (depending on the value) in annual personal financial statements. That reporting requirement is for those officeholders who file reports with the Texas Ethics Commission or with the local county clerk per the Election Code. It is also generally covered under Canon 4I:

I. Compensation, Reimbursement and Reporting.

(1) Compensation and Reimbursement. A judge may receive compensation and reimbursement of expenses for the extra- judicial activities permitted by this Code, if the source of such payments does not give the appearance of influencing the judge’s performance of judicial duties or otherwise give the appearance of impropriety.

(a) Compensation shall not exceed a reasonable amount nor shall it exceed what a person who is not a judge would receive for the same activity.

(b) Expense reimbursement shall be limited to the actual cost of travel, food, and lodging reasonably incurred by the judge and, where appropriate to the occasion, by the judge’s family. Any payment in excess of such an amount is compensation.

(2) Public Reports. A judge shall file financial and other reports as required by law.

Finally, as you know, some gifts are illegal and could result in criminal charges under Chapter 36 of the Penal Code.

Twas the Week Before Christmas

In the spirit of the Christmas season and to remind our members never to give up on any motion, we want to share this motion with you and discuss some points on Motions for Continuances in State court. In the case of this motion, three other motions had already been filed and denied. In an act of frustration and desperation, we filed this one below, which was granted. In the motion, only the defendant names and case number have been changed. This has been published previously, but for those who may have missed it, I hope it brings a smile to your face at the end of a hard fought year for your clients.

Click here to read the full article (PDF)

Ethics and the Law: ’Twas the Week Before Christmas

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In the spirit of the Christmas season and to remind our members never to give up on any motion, we want to share this motion with you and discuss some points on Motions for Continuances in State court. In the case of this motion, three other motions had already been filed and denied. In an act of frustration and desperation, we filed this one below, which was granted. In the motion, only the defendant names and case number have been changed. This has been published previously, but for those who may have missed it, I hope it brings a smile to your face at the end of a hard-fought year for your clients.

Epilogue: Once this motion was granted, it gave us sufficient time to complete our preparation of the case in a proper manner. Because we had additional time, we were able to adhere to our duty-bound ethical oath: to zealously defend our client. Facts helpful to the defense are always hidden at the bottom of the well. That digging takes time and tenacity.

Time is the most valuable commodity to lawyer. Abraham Lincoln said, “A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade.” If time is used wisely, our clients benefit. We all need time to work on our cases and explore all possible defenses or punishment options. We never have enough time.

On the flip side, judges and prosecutors want to move the docket. Prosecutors’ caseloads are huge and the statistics of open cases in their court are ever present on the mind of our judges. As defense counsel, we must be the gatekeepers to ensure our clients receive their right to effective assistance of counsel based on a thorough investigation of the facts. Without those facts our client cannot make his or her decision to move to trial or prepare for mitigation. This takes time. It is your job to get that time.

One Harris County judge who has since departed bragged that if a judge was still in court after 12 noon, he was not doing a good job. I was in court the day he made the statement to a local television reporter named Wayne Dolcefino. I told the judge to remain silent; but he like many let his alligator mouth override his hummingbird ass. It was on the 6 o’clock news. He told me the next day he would listen to me the next time. The next time never came because he was defeated in the next election and his comments made great propaganda for his opponent. An arbitrary “rocket-docket, move-it-along mentality” goes against the grain of our justice system to the detriment of the citizen accused.

All lawyers know that a continuance usually works in favor of a defendant, but it is routinely used by the defense as well as the state in accord with Article 29.03 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.1 By and large, most continuances are reached by agreement with the State. When necessary, a well-drafted Motion for Continuance should contain exhibits. If the exhibits involve personal or confidential information, request an in camera inspection by the judge in your motion. Never underestimate the power of demonstrative exhibits. A picture is worth a thousand words. Don’t be shy. In the event your motion is objected to, and a controverting motion is submitted by the state, pursuant to Article 29.09 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, your motion and your exhibits must stand alone to win the day. Do not rely on a stellar oral argument to get you by. Article 29.10 makes it clear the testimony shall be made by affidavit. If the continuance has become the 800-pound gorilla in the courtroom, use technology readily at hand. It is amazing how fast a motion for continuance will be granted when you have a photo of a swollen, bruised, battered or bleeding body part.

Happy holidays and best wishes for the new year.

HONORING OUR VETERANS

Anns Lee Pelton, 7 year old granddaughter of Robert Pelton, this week won 1st place at her school for her sketch honoring women veterans and and all women supporting veterans.  Anns Lee comes from a long line of veterans, including her dad, both granddads and great great granddads all the way back to the ones who fought in the Civil War.  Her great great granddad was named Robert E Lee Cox.  Her great great great great granddad Abraham George Washington Cox enlisted in the Confederate army at age 15 with his dad Abraham Cox, who was 51.

MEMORIAL DAY… A SALUTE TO OUR HEROES

            If you think that you are having a bad day because your TV or phone or computer is not working, then get in your car and go to the nearest VA hospital and see real problems.  People bitch and complain and gossip about bullshit all the time.  In the hospital you will see men and women of the “Greatest Generation” suffering and coping with things most people can not comprehend.  When my family members joined the army in WWII, they signed up for the duration of the war, not for two years or three years.  They went over the pond as my uncle used to say and did not come back for over four years.  When Lawyer Richard “Racehorse” Haynes was dodging bullets on Iwo Jima he was just trying to stay alive.  My Abilene friend William Ervin Sims, who recently died at age 92, carried a BAR, a browning automatic rifle, weighing 16 pounds up the hills of Iwo Jima.  Those two men and many others fought 35 days without rest and managed to survive. 

            Memorial Day has traditionally been a day of observance for the men and women who died in the sacrifice of the cause they were fighting for. This day is different from Veterans Day in that Veteran’s Day is set aside to honor all Veterans. Since many in the WWII and Korean War generation are growing older, I felt it incumbent on me to honor all Veterans by putting forth a short statement honoring those both living and dead who have served this great country.

            One good friend and veteran Victor Blaine went away several months ago and I know he would approve of me writing this article now.  John Saur is another Houston lawyer who froze for months when in Korea serving his country.  When I asked him about the article he was happy and said any one who was worried about the date could come see him and he would have a surprise for them that he brought back in his duffel bag from Korea.  John Saur was in the middle of the fighting and came back, finished college and law school and has been a lawyer almost 50 years. 

            Memorial Day is a federal holiday originally enacted to honor fallen Union soldiers after the Civil War.  It was originally known as Decoration Day.  Decorating the graves of their fallen soldiers was commonplace by Confederates even before the Civil War had ended, by southern ladies of Richmond and southern schoolchildren.  The catastrophic number of dead soldiers from North and South alike meant that burial and memorialization was very important after the war.  Townspeople, mostly the women, buried the dead and decorated graves during the war.  The oldest national cemetery was created in 1862.  After Abraham Lincoln’s death, many events to commemorate the war began.  The first such event was in Charleston, South Carolina on May 1, 1865.  Union soldiers who died there were buried in unmarked graves.  Freed slaves knew of this and decided to honor these soldiers.  They cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground.  On that day, nearly 10,000 people gathered to honor the dead and 3,000 schoolchildren and others brought flowers to lie on the burial field.  Historians said this was the first Memorial Day.  African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston.  Black Americans, freed from slavery brought flowers and sang songs about the war.  Speeches on Memorial Day were a time for veterans, politicians, and ministers to commemorate the war.  People of all religious beliefs joined together and the point was made that immigrant soldiers had become true Americans because they had shed so much blood in battle.  By 1870, much of the anger was gone and speeches praised the brave soldiers of blue and gray.  By 1950, the theme of Memorial Day was to uphold freedom in the world. Today, Memorial Day extends to honor all Americans who have died in all wars. 

            Tennessee was a divided state during the Civil War.  Some of the families that served in the Union Army had family members joining the Confederates.  My maternal great-grandfather Abraham George Washington Cox and great-great-grandfather Abraham Cox enlisted with the Confederate Army on the same day.  Abraham George Washington Cox was 15 and his father Abraham was 51.  They served in the Tennessee Calvary.  After the war, Abraham George Washington Cox rode a mule from Tennessee to Cooke County, Texas, got married, and had 12 children and named them after Confederate heroes.  My grandfather was named Robert E. Lee Cox.  Abraham George Washington established the Mt. Zion School, Church, and Cemetery.  Each year in May, our family meets there to attend “Graveyard Working” like the old customs that started Memorial Day.  My paternal great-great-grandfather Joseph Washington Mathis fought with the 1st Alabama Infantry.  He was captured at Island Tennessee on 4/8/1862, escaped capture at Port Hudson, Louisiana on 7/9/1863 and was captured again in Nashville, Tennessee on 12/16/1864.  He was held prisoner until the end of war.  His children came to Jones County, Texas in 1899. 

            My son, who coincidentally was born on July 4, called me from the recruiting station when he turned 17.  He said the recruiter would not let him join without my permission and would not let him be a military police officer.  I got the recruiter on the phone and he laughed and said you will have to get permission from the Pentagon.  I was in Ted Poe’s court that morning and told him.  He, himself a Veteran, made some phone calls and at 4pm that day a major at the recruiting station said, “Please don’t make any more phone calls, meet me here at 5pm and your son will be sworn in.”  My son went to the US Army and was trained at Fort Anniston, Alabama as a military police officer.  He served there and got out but was recalled after 9/11.  He served again and left the Army as an E-5 with an Honorable Discharge. 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

                  – John McCrae

…We cherish too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies…

– Moina Michael

            We all complain about high taxes, traffic, bad government, bad judges, bad prosecutors, bad presidents, and bad everything.  The list is long on things we complain about.  In America we have the right to complain.  Try that in some foreign country and your life will be ended.  We live in a free country where opportunity exists for all people.  People from all over the world want to come to the United States of America.  Members of TCDLA and HCCLA and their family members who have served, or are serving, will be listed at the end of this article.  They all need to be recognized for their sacrifices, be it large or small.  Some of us were in the military reserve and some were in the middle of battle and saw their comrades dying around them.  Some were brave men who did extraordinary things in battle to fight for our country.  One member at a recent seminar in Plano said, “I was only in the Naval Reserve.”  I reminded him of the phrase by John Milton, “Those also serve who stand and wait.”  Even those who were, or are standing in wait, are serving.  As we have seen from recent history, many of those who were standing and waiting were called to active duty and sent to foreign lands to serve and fight if needed.  Many of those who were standing and waiting went overseas and never came back.

            The problems facing Veterans have gained some attention and in many counties there is now a Veteran’s Court.  They recognize that Veterans have special needs.  Too many times, when representing a Veteran, I try to point out to the prosecutor that this person served our country and may have suffered some disability or some change that affected the Veteran’s behavior.  Too often I have heard the prosecutor say, “Well, everybody has some kind of excuse.”  No, I point out everybody did not go through what the Veteran did.  This attitude prevails in every court room across the state.  Most of these people never served in anything, not even Cub Scouts. 

            As lawyers representing Veterans, we need to get the military records and prepare a mitigation motion or motion to dismiss the case.  We need to be vigilant in our fight for the Veteran client.  If there is a Veteran’s Court, try to get the case transferred there.  If there is no Veteran’s Court then try to get other Veterans to help you do your best for the client.  Get all the people from the VFW or American Legion to come to court and see what happens.  Even bring the members of the Veteran’s motorcycle clubs, the Patriot Guard, and Rolling Thunder.  Go to military.com to get a list of Veteran groups.  If the Veteran has alcohol or dug problem, bring the AA or NA group too.  It has proven to be very effective. 

Famous wartime quotes:

A good battle plan that you can act on today can be better than a perfect one tomorrow.
-General George Patton

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong.
-John Riefenbaker

Never trust a private with a loaded weapon, or an officer with a map and compass.
-A Murphy’s Law of Combat 

 You don’t win a war by dying for your country.  You win a war by making the other son-of-a-bitch die for his.
-General George Patton

Richard Grenier said, as George Orwell pointed out, “PEOPLE SLEEP PEACEABLY IN THEIR BEDS AT NIGHT ONLY BECAUSE ROUGH MEN STAND READY TO DO VIOLENCE ON THEIR BEHALF.”

The following members of TCDLA or HCCLA (or their family members or investigators) served in the military and we honor them all: 

  *Reiffert Riley Evans
  *Alan Schein
Richard Haynes
Robert Scardino, Sr.
John Saur
Andrew Lannie
Victor Blaine
G. Wesley Urquhart
John Urquhart
Lucio Martinez
Bobby Mims
Bernie Trichter
Herman “Hymie” Trichter
Lucille Trichter
Albert Fickman
Philip Fickman
Albert Schein
Allen Fickman
Ben Fickman
Max NewDelman
Jack Zimmermann
Terri Zimmermann
Kyle Sampson

Abraham Cox
Abraham George Washington Cox
Ernest L. Pelton
Wilmer M. Pelton
Joe L. Pelton
Robert C. Pelton
Robert O. Pelton
Joseph Washington Mathis

BF Harless
WD Harless
Cullen Harless
SL Hardcastle
Charles Hardcastle
Norman Harless

Robert W. Kelly
Jack Kelly
Marcel Kelly
Charles Dirnbauer
Mark Dirnbauer
Katie Dirnbauer

Rod Schuh
Rod Schuh, Jr.
Will Gray
John Morgan
Warren Burnett
Buck Files
Jim Brown
Rodney Williams
Pat Williams
Dr. Phillip Lewis
Maricia Brooks
Max Scott
Stan Weinberg
William Flynn
Mike McCollum
Charles Wetherbee
Terence Russell
Jesus Garza
Don Davidson
Charles Mabry
Richard Mabry
Zachary Curtis
Steven Green
Dorsie Ray Green
James Matthew Ratekin
Matthew Brent Ratekin
Donald Hoover
Don Bailey
John Hunter Smith
Eliseo Morin
Charles Easterling
Bill Torrey
Frederick Ullrich
Dale Ullrich
Louis Ullrich
Michael Finger
John David Leggington
Harry Belden
Louie Greco
Raymond Zimmerman
Charles W. Tessmer
George Miner Jr.
Bill Torrey
Louis Greco
Lorton  E. Trent
Oscar Trent
Olen Poole
Max Basket
Bill Baskett
Arthur Leslie Kagan
Harry Belden
Gerald Rogen
Jesse Pruett
Max Scott
James Story Sr.
James Story II
Santiago Salinas
Tom Berg
Tom Moran
Pat McCann
Bennie Ray
Mark Vinson
Tony Chavez
John Patrick Callahan
David Patrick Callahan
Donald Hoover
Don Bailey
John Hunter Smith
Eliseo Morin
George E. Renneburg
Jeffrey Brashear
Steven Green
Lanhon Odom
John M. Economidy
Byron G, Economidy
John “Bud” Ritenour
Larry Sauer
Forrest Penney
Frederick Forlano
Daniel Moreno
Abel Palomo
Michael Moreno
Joseph Moreno
Randi Ray
Steve Green
Jeusu JD Garza
Jerry Parr
Jefferson Moore
Leonard Martinez
Stephen Ferraro
John Convery
Julie Hasdorff
Benjamin Thomas Hudson Jr.
Ebb Mobley
Louis Akin
Sergio Tristan
John Youngblood
Charles Wetherbee
Dr. William Flynn
Alfred Dane
Alvie Dane
Charles Russell
Terence Russell
David Randall
Tanner Yeats
Herman “Hank” Lankford
Robert Harold Jackson
Arlan J Broussard
Richard Trevathan
Jim Skelton
George Parnham
James Barlow
David Black
J.C. Castillo
Logan Dietz
Ralph L. Gonzalez
Connie Williams
Hal Hudson
Guy Womack
Charles W. Lanehart
Matthew Daniel
Lonzo McDonald
Patrick McDonald
Warren McDonald
Ron McLaurin
Herbert Wolf
Theodore A. (Tip) Hargrove, III
Buddy Balagia
Travis E. Kitchens
Zachary A. Garcia
Jeff King
Patrick McLain
Cullen Elrod
DeSean Jones
Joe Varela
Bob Heath
Hank Johnson
David Zimmerman
Todd Lehn
Thomas Kelton Kennedy
David G. Ritchie, Jr.
Anne K. Ritchie

*Killed in Action

Chanel No. 9

I answer the phone. A young man asks me if I am who I am and if I do what I do. I say yes. He says he has a legal problem and asks to make an appointment with me. I say sure and give him a time to meet me at my office.

Then the conversation becomes more interesting.

“I hear you collect stories,” says the young man.

“True,” I say.

“I hear if a client tells you a good enough story, that you sometimes give the client a reduced fee,” says the young man. I’m curious how he knows this, but don’t bother to inquire.

“I’ve sometimes represented people for free if their story is good enough,” I say. “But I get to use their story in my stories. That’s part of it. Also, the work to be done on their case has to be within tolerable limits. No big felonies for free, for instance, no matter how good the story is. I work for a living. Stories are one of my passions.”

The young man says, “Well sir, I’m charged with theft, I’m innocent, I’ve been set up, and I’ve got one heck of a story to tell you. If my story is good enough, will you give me a discount?”

“I might,” I say. “Depends on whether you impress me.” The young man says he’s on the way.

An hour later, I’m on the phone with a super intelligent young lady who is telling me how she, a 17 y.o. high school drop-out with an IQ of 185, is paid secret money by yuppie men’s fraternities at the biggest, most expensive, prestigious colleges in a major metropolitan area and at A&M. She writes “Guaranteed Grade A” (her words) undergrad and master’s level essays and research papers on any topic, which “the lazy frat boys” then submit as their own work. The young lady describes the secret (very healthy) payments, the triple box dead-drop system, her “Zero Personal Contact” rule, and more. She wants to know if she’s doing anything illegal. She offers to send me a sample “Master’s program A+ paper on the behavior of certain sub-atomic particles” and a picture of herself.

Although I would dearly love to read the paper, I quickly tell the young lady not to send me anything. I remind her that no conventional email system and no conventional computer or laptop is secure. The young lady then tells me about the “unbreakable, not in a million years” encryption program she has written and installed in her computers, which also (handily) conceals the origin and destination points of anything she sends or receives from anywhere on the planet. She says she can do the same thing to any phone anywhere—“a modern phone is just a little computer,” she says–and explains enough of the science and methodology that I believe her.

I am impressed. Very.

I tell the young lady she ought to consider working for one of several three-letter U.S. government agencies, including “No Such Agency, or Not Really [a government] Office.” I offer to put her in touch with someone from my reconnaissance pilot days whom I strongly suspect has never left the game, but is now playing it on a far higher strategic level, a man who now wears a suit and tie to work rather than the Marine Corps flight suit we both used to wear.

The young lady says she’ll think about it. Says she prefers to work alone, and be alone, much of the time “because others just can’t keep up.” The girl is an Einstein. She can leave me in the dust anytime.

I’m deep in analysis and discussion with the young lady when the office front door opens and I hear cowboy boots and also an “other” sound straight from my childhood family farm. I struggle with multi-tasking–the young lady on the phone who is working my brain like an engine at redline, the cowboy boots-wearing young man, and the “other” sound–and what it means, which my mind refuses to accept–in my front office. I feel stressed.

I finally get off the phone with the young lady, who promises to contact me again. I type up a few notes, gulp some caffeine, create a file on the young lady and holler to the reception area for the young man to come into my personal office.

I hear boots on the wooden floor. I also hear the “other” sound.

I’m shoving notes in the file when I look up to see the young man come round the corner into my office. He’s maybe 21, a handsome kid wearing pressed blue jeans, polished boots, a pressed white shirt.

I appreciate it when people dress up to come to my office. I stand to greet him and see he’s holding a leather leash in one hand. A moment later, the far end of the leash also comes around the corner.

A gigantic pig. At least five hundred pounds.

My jaw drops open. My lips move but nothing comes out.

“Five hundred thirty-two pounds,” the young man says. “Have to use a commercial scale. Everybody always wants to know how much she weighs.”

The pig is pale, slightly tan, nearly hairless, with black and white spots all over her immense body. The leash is attached to a leather harness strapped around her chest. Like a gigantic dog.

The young man says, “She’s smarter than any dog. I swear she can almost read and write. She’s smarter than some people I know.”

He beams at his pig and pets her. She grunts and leans against him. He nearly falls over.

“That’s some pig,” I mumble. I’ve gained the ability to speak in monosyllables.

The young man enters my private office, followed by his pig. “Suzy B,” he says. “My 4-H project in high school. We went to State together. Won.” He pets her again. She grunts again. They seem a happy couple.

I say, “Is your pig potty trained? She makes a mess, you’re cleaning it up. She breaks anything, you’re paying for it. You better have a really good story to tell me, or both you and your pig are gone. I like animals, but this is one hell of a stretch.”

The young man is polite. Courteous. Respectful. Says, “Sir, please don’t be biased against my pig. If she were a dog, you’d be petting her right now. Isn’t true that you had an office dog for many years? Suzy is completely potty trained and won’t break or damage anything. She’s a good pig, I promise.” He pets her again and rubs her ears.

Suzy B grunts in agreement. She seems to understand what her master is saying. She lowers her one hundred and fifty pound head and snout and starts sniffing around my office. Zeros in on my desk. There’s a McDonald’s biscuit in a drawer. She knows.

I reluctantly acknowledge I might be biased. I tell the young man we are not going to discuss my office dog, who I buried a few years ago and wrote a story about entitled Love and Loyalty. I wonder how he knows about my dog but don’t bother to inquire.

Suzy B comes up to me. Puts her snout directly against the desk drawer containing the McDonald’s biscuit. Looks at me and grunts. From my seated position, she is taller than I am and outweighs me three to one. The floor creaks with her weight.

I open the drawer and tentatively offer Suzy B the biscuit. I’m concerned about losing a limb here.

Suzy B sniffs delicately, then, to my surprise, instead of removing my hand and wrist and leaving me with a stump of mangled flesh, gently grasps the biscuit in her Great White Shark “JAWS” mouth. I release. Suzy B shakes her head up and down, once. The biscuit is gone.

She leans against me. I am crushed. Can barely breath. The floor groans. I pet her and rub her belly. Suzy B grunts happily. She closes her eyes in ecstasy.

“Sit, Suzy,” says the young man. The pig promptly sits on its ass just like a dog.

“Nice pig,” I admit. I keep petting her.

The young man says, “You haven’t seen anything yet. You’ll see.”

He tells me about his case. Turns out he is deeply in love with a young beauty named Jenny, who attends college and is the daughter of a Feed & Fuel store owner in their local town. The young man explains that he and Jenny plan on getting married, but her father is an insecure control freak A-hole who refuses to think that any young man is good enough for his daughter, and constantly seeks to destroy their friendship, their relationship.

“I know all about insecure control freak A-holes who destroy friendships and relationships,” I tell the young man. “And I know all about people who won’t stand up to them, which is nearly as bad. But what does this have to do with you being charged with a crime?”

The young man explains that he went to the Feed & Fuel to buy feed for Suzy. He carried five 80 lb. bags to the counter and paid for them with cash and was given a receipt. Store policy, however, holds that a customer is not permitted to haul heavy bags or supplies from the store to his or her vehicle; this has to be done by muscle boy employees. So after the young man paid for the bags, he walked to his pickup and got in. Muscle boy employees placed the bags in the back of his truck while he was on the phone with Jenny. After the young man finished his call, he started his truck and began to pull out of the parking lot when Jenny’s father and one of the muscle boys rushed out of the Feed & Fuel and forced him to stop. Jenny’s father accused him of being a thief and held up a sixth feed bag in the back of the young man’s pickup. A local deputy constable who happens to be best friends with Jenny’s father pulled into the parking lot. Moments later, the young man was arrested and hauled off to jail while Jenny’s father gloated. The father was heard to say, “Got you. You’re screwed. She’ll never marry you now.” The father laughed.

As the young man was explaining his story to me, showing me his receipt, Suzy B sniffed around my office. I tried to ignore her. It is difficult to remain focused while a five hundred thirty-two pound pig roots around in one’s office.

The young man explained to me that the Feed & Fuel has a video system which will show he didn’t carry any feed bags from the store to his truck. He said that one of the muscle boys had secretly confided to Jenny that her father had set the young man up and he was innocent.

While the young man talked, Suzy B stuck her head beneath the confessional bench–where my clients sit and tell me their stories–in my office. She sniffed. Grunted. Seemed excited. I said, “What’s she doing?”

The young man looked at Suzy. Smiled. Looked at me and said, “You’ve got mice. Suzy hunts them. Snakes too.”

At that exact moment, a mouse leapt from some hidden place beneath the confessional bench and streaked across the floor, out my office and down the hallway. Suzy B shrieked in excitement–this was not a pleasant sound for me–and bolted after the mouse, grunting wildly while she galloped after it.

I had never seen anything like this, and I have seen some strange shit in my life.

The young man jumped to his feet and hollered, “Get the mouse, get the mouse! Get the mouse, Suzy!” He raced down the hallway after his pig.

I joined the chase.

The mouse trapped itself in a corner beneath the water cooler in my office hallway. Suzy B skidded to a halt—leaving dents in the wooden floor–and closed in, maw gaping. There was a Hoover vacuum cleaner sound.

No more mouse.

Suzy B grunted happily. Seemed proud of her accomplishment. The young man petted her and told her she was a good pig. She seemed to nod her head in agreement.

We returned to my office. I tried to accept the alternative reality I was now living in.

I picked up the phone and called the DA in the county where the young man had been arrested. This DA is a good man who, oddly, appeared unsurprised by my call, almost as if he had been expecting it. (I didn’t bother to inquire.) I explained the circumstances, the video, the receipt, the love relationship, everything.

The DA told me I had just verified what he already suspected. He said his investigator had interviewed two of the young muscle boys, who had exposed Jenny’s father’s evil acts toward the young man. The investigator was on his way to recover the Feed & Fuel video. The DA said the deputy constable and Jenny’s father would be arrested for their actions against the young man.

“Small town bullshit,” he said. “Closed ignorant minds. They cause harm.”

While I was talking with the DA, agreeing with him, I imagined I smelled a wonderful scent in my office. By the time I got off the phone, I was sure of it.

I said to the young man, “I’m a guy and I’m not wearing perfume. You’re a guy and you’d better not be wearing perfume. My legal assistant isn’t here and she isn’t wearing perfume. So where’s the perfume smell coming from?”

The young man, though desperate to hear what had transpired between the DA and myself, controlled himself–I gave him high marks for this–and said, “Suzy B, of course. Chanel No. 9.”

I said, “You’re shitting me.”

The young man was defensive. He said, “My pig is cleaner and more tidy than most people. I want her to smell nice and make a good impression on people. Jenny bought the perfume for her. Dabbed it on her this morning after Suzy took her shower.”

Once again I was rendered silent.

A showered perfumed pig.

Chanel No. 9.

Five hundred thirty-two pounds of sweet-smelling bacon.

“I gather Miss Suzy B has permanent immunity from becoming a deli item?” I said.

The young man was offended. “Of course she does,” he said. “Jenny and I love her like she’s a member of the family. Suzy B even sleeps in her own bed in the house.”

I shook my head. God. The shit I hear.

I eventually explained the case situation to the young man. Told him his case would likely be dismissed within the week. Explained what would likely happen to the deputy constable and to Jenny’s father. Told he would have to testify against the father and deputy constable, if it came down to it.

The young man was very relieved. Asked me how much his case would cost. I told him he was charged with a Class B theft misdemeanor and that normally I would charge $1000-1500 to resolve such a case without a trial and around $2500 or more for a trial.

The young man grew pale. I could tell he was a starving college student.

The young man said, “I don’t have much money, and no assets, but you’ve saved me, and you’ve saved my relationship with my girl.”

The young man looked down at his pig and petted her and then, to add yet another surprise to my already freaky day, knelt and hugged her. (Suzy B grunted and nuzzled him affectionately.)

“I’ll have to pay you with my pig,” he said, sadly. He choked up, began to weep. Held his pig in his arms and cried over her.

Suzy B nuzzled him and made cooing sounds. She was concerned about her master. If she could have hugged him, she would have.

This was a love relationship. Man and pig. Pig and man. And their girl.

A love triangle.

“No,” I said. “You’re not paying me a penny. Keep the pig. Marry your girl. Ignore the insecure control freak A-hole father. You and your girl, and your pig, go have a great life.”

I felt myself getting soft and sentimental, which I constantly fight against, since I am a Tin Man who has no heart. “Now you and Suzy B get on out of here before I change my mind.”

Man and pig headed for the door. Pig and human thanked me for helping him and saving her from becoming bacon. As the happy couple walked down the office steps, the young man turned to me and said, “I’ve got one last thing to show you. Come watch this.”

So, unable to stop myself, I followed man and pig down the sidewalk. Cars honked. People waved. I heard laughter. I’m glad I was twenty feet to the rear.

Man and pig reached the young man’s pickup, a dual cab. The young man opened the front passenger door and lowered a wooden ladder to the pavement.

“Get in, Suzy,” the young man ordered.

And the pig stepped up the ladder, into the pickup and sat down–just like a human–on the front seat. She propped her front feet on the dash.

The young man reached into the truck and strapped in his pig. I heard the click of the seatbelt. He rolled the window down and shut the door.

A massive porcine head and snout emerged from the truck. Suzy B grunted happily. Sniffed and raised her snout in the air. A content pig.

The happy pair drove away. Cars honked. People laughed in the distance. I eventually turned toward my office.

Chanel No. 9.