Fortunately for lawyers, the
boredom of our professional lives is broken up by the myriad odd, and often amusing, “did that just happen” moments in the legal system. Sometimes, they allow us to revel in the cringeworthy mistakes of others, such as the August hearing when attorney Jose Baez (best known for defending Casey Anthony) referred to his murder defendant client (and former New England Patriot) Aaron Hernandez as “Aaron Rodriguez.” Guess he’s more of a baseball fan than a football fan. Then there are the two bumbling, would-be robbers of a Perth, Australia, pharmacy. The pair couldn’t do anything right during the July holdup attempt; one accidentally squirted himself in the face with pepper spray, while the other cut himself with the very knife he was using to threaten pharmacy employees. Blinded and bleeding, the inept pair grabbed the only items within reach, which turned out to be sleep apnea masks. The surveillance camera footage could very well be the next “Dumb and Dumber” movie.
Maybe they’ll have the luck to be brought before a judge who’s not actually a judge. That happened recently in suburban Chicago when a veteran Cook County Circuit Court judge allowed a lawyer who is running for judicial election to wear her robes and hear some of her cases. Judge Valerie Turner, who’s been a municipal court judge in Markham, Illinois, since 2002, allegedly let lawyer Rhonda Crawford take her place during her morning docket and “preside” over at least two cases. Turner has been removed from the bench while the state’s Judicial Inquiry Board investigates the “take my bench for a test drive” incident, and Crawford (who is currently a law clerk/staff attorney for another judge) has been suspended from her job pending an internal investigation.
Maybe if you accept the argument that you don’t have to be a judge to do “judge-y” things, you’ll be comfortable with one litigant’s argument that you don’t actually have to speak Spanish in order to be a Spanish teacher. Tracy Rosner filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of Florida in July, claiming employment discrimination against the Miami-Dade County School Board. Rosner says she wasn’t hired for a job teaching Spanish, due to the “unfair” and “discriminatory” policy of requiring foreign language teachers to actually speak the language they are teaching. ¿En serio, Rosner? Perhaps we shouldn’t require driver’s ed instructors to actually know how to drive, either. That won’t lead to too many accidents, will it?
Perhaps Rosner should be teaching history instead, so she can explain how Europe could have defended itself from Viking raids by involving the tactics of U.S. bureaucracy. It seems that a meticulously recreated Viking ship, the Draken Harald Harfagre, and its crew have been thwarted from their goal of visiting U.S. ship festivals along the Great Lakes last summer. What stopped the modern-day Viking re-enactors? Why, U.S. Coast Guard regulations, of course. After making a series of stops at Canadian ports, the Draken’s crew was told by Coast Guard officials that if it wanted to sail through the Great Lakes, it would have to first navigate the impenetrable maze of sailing regulations, including a 1960 law requiring that all foreign vessels have a pilot while on the Great Lakes, at hourly rates set by the Coast Guard that would cost the re-enactors about $400,000 by their trip’s end. Vikings—they may have conquered Europe back in the day, but even swords and battle axes can’t cut through red tape.
And where would we be without stupidity in the criminal justice system? Take Mack Yearwood of Florida. The 42-year-old man was wanted on outstanding warrants for an alleged battery in Citrus County, Florida. Members of the Stuart Police Department stumbled across Yearwood’s Facebook profile photo, which happened to be Yearwood’s “Wanted” poster! Yes, a fugitive from justice used his own “Wanted” poster as his Facebook profile photo—it doesn’t get much better than that. Not surprisingly, law enforcement soon caught up with Yearwood, and later the police department posted the statement on its Facebook page, “Facebook is a great way to communicate and connect with old friends and family. If you are wanted by the police, it’s probably not a good idea to use the ‘Wanted of the Week’ poster of yourself as your profile pic. Mack Yearwood must have thought differently.”
Then again, a good photo is a good photo.