I was seated in a small, crowded, Somerset County municipal courtroom, located above the town’s police headquarters, surrounded by attorneys and the band of unfortunates summoned to appear that night. Having just waited in a narrow hallway to speak with the prosecutor, who sat at a conference room table surrounded by this town’s “finest,” I was back in the courtroom to report the status of my client’s case to the judge.
I had never appeared before this judge before. He spoke in a calm, conversational, almost friendly manner to defendants and attorneys appearing before him. There was an ease and a grace about him. He looked professorial in his robes. Most surprisingly, when addressed by a defendant in Spanish, he continued the dialogue replying in Spanish, not missing a beat. I don’t know who was surprised more that night by the exchange, me or the defendant. It would not be the last time I appeared before the Honorable William Kelleher.