Today was an in-office day — expecting no clients — so I wore jeans and sandals to work. At 2:45 one of the Federal Court Clerks called. A big murder trial looms and the District Court judge wanted me to come consult with a witness who might need to exercise her Fifth Amendment rights. I explained that I was wearing jeans and sandals, but could run home, change clothes and be there by 4:00. (Smart lawyers keep a court outfit in the office — I guess I could arrange that.) The clerk said okay. I ran out to the car, drove two blocks and my cell phone rang. Says the Clerk, “The judge says this is a come-as-you-are party — just get here!” I checked in with Court Security — raised eyebrows. I took the elevator up and rushed into the Courtroom. Ahh, famous California defense attorney, greeted me warmly, but I caught him looking at my attire out of the corner of his eye. The Assistant US attorneys said, “How come we can’t dress like that?” I told them it’s because they make more money than I do.
The judge came out on the bench; I apologized for my outfit. She said what she had to say, “Oh, no, you are fine. The Court is very grateful that you dropped everything and came over to help us.” Yup! That’s what I did. So then I was assigned a missing witness. Honest! The guy had not showed up for court. Now why was I there? Why was it an emergency? I picked up a fat envelope of documents produced under a protective order and was told that when they find the witness, they’ll call me. I say, “Thank you, your honor. May I be excused?” We talk like that in Federal Court even when we’re wearing jeans. She excused me and I left the building.
I paid for my parking, pulled out of the garage and my cell phone rang. It was the clerk, “The judge needs you to come back.” I did a U-turn back into the garage. I grabbed the envelope of secret documents, went back to the Court building, back to security, “How did you get by us? The judge is looking for you.” Geez! Back up the elevator. It turns out that one of the other emergency witness attorneys had been with the US Attorney’s Office when the case was being investigated and therefore had a conflict. The judge asked me to consult instead with the meth addict witness who was present, twisting in her seat, and chewing her nails. You bettcha’, judge. So I traded my secret document envelope for two secret document envelopes, talked with the witness for twenty minutes, set up an appointment with her for tomorrow. I went to my car and actually made it out of the garage and to the office without being called back.
I ceremoniously checked off item #427 on my list: “Appear in Federal Court in jeans and sandals.” What a great day’s work!