Saturday, November 3, 2007

Contempt of Court


Maybe you remember the time I stopped to help after witnessing the Rollover accident, and then later got subpoenaed to court as a witness. I like to think of my self as a good citizen, which is why I stopped at the accident scene in the first place, and why I planned to attend the trial. That and the fact that the subpoena was an official document with a Seal of the Supreme Court on it and had this sentence in bold black print:


FAILURE TO OBEY THE COMMANDS OF THE SUBPOENA OR APPEAR AT THE STATED TIME AND PLACE MAY SUBJECT YOU TO PENALTY FOR CONTEMPT OF COURT.

This wouldn't have been too difficult except that the court date was for October 31. I happen to have other things to do that day, #1 being be at work, and I'm out of vacation days. But I asked and found out that there is a policy for this and I would be excused similar to jury duty. #2 is that it is a half-day at the elementary school. So I signed Jeffrey up for a field trip with the extended day program. It's expensive but I wanted to make sure he would be cared for. #3 is that I have always attended (and often organized) the class party and school parade, usually I use vacation time for this important day. This time I donated chips ahead of time and hoped that if my obligation at the court ended early there might be time for me to at least stop in. #4 is that Halloween is always a day with a huge traffic jam because all of the working husbands have been instructed to get home early enough for trick or treating. #5 is that at work they were having a week long international business meeting in my department, and the highlight was to be a department-wide luncheon that day with everyone in costume. On my very first day when I met the executive director he encouraged me to participate in this. Since I knew I couldn't be there, I offered to help organize my work group's costumes, there was a circus theme. I put together a spreadsheet of costume ideas, and my boss liked the "Lion Tamer" idea. He would say he needed to talk to me and I'd get the status of my project together only to find out it was about the costumes. I had to repeatedly explain why I would be absent that day, and did not pay for the lunch.


The subpoena came with a letter from the attorney that contained the line:


"It is always wise to call the court the day before, or the day of the scheduled hearing to verify that the case has not been rescheduled."


So I did that, and after finally getting through the recorded-menu maze I got a clerk on the line and asked about this case, by number. She looked it up and said: "Oh....it looks like that was rescheduled for October 23...but the defendant didn't show up." Incredulous, I asked: "So I shouldn't go anywhere? Why wasn't I informed of the change?" She assured me that there was nothing for me to attend, but suggested I call the lawyer's office for an explanation.


So I did, and got an assistant on the phone. I asked her if I would be in contempt of court for not showing up anywhere. She said no. But why wasn't I told of anything? She said: "Oh, well that's why we put that disclaimer on there, because we really don't keep track of who we sent subpoenas to."


I am flabbergasted.
I ended up working from home that day and taking an hour to go over to the school, and of course having a good Halloween. But still...just who was in contempt of whom in this case?


contempt (kən-těmpt') –noun
1.the feeling with which a person regards anything considered mean, or worthless; disdain; scorn.
2.the state of being despised; dishonor; disgrace.
3.Law.
a.willful disobedience to or open disrespect for the rules or orders of a court (contempt of court) or legislative body.
b.an act showing such disrespect.

4 comments:

MomForThree said...

I hope you cashed the check anyway.

Mindy said...

Check? What check? Was I supposed to get a check?

Anonymous said...

Mindy- I like to ask clerks like that one who told you they don't keep track of who gets subpoenaed if she would put something in writing for you so that you know not to keep calling to check on rescheduling, etc.. She would probably refuse, and deny ever saying anything like that to you. The whole thing made me uneasy. I have heard that traffic court matters are notorious for postponements. And I thought that you only get a check if you signed in at the courtroom as scheduled.
Aunt Chris ps- I once met someone who was repeatedly subpoenaed as a neighbor near a crime to say that she did NOT hear anything in the middle of the night. She would take off from work, and the court case would be postponed.

Anonymous said...

Mindy,
I thought you would like to know they took away our garbage cans at work last week. We now have "consolidated garbage areas" which makes dirty Kleenexes and the crumbs from your morning bagel challenging to dispose of, unless you carry it down the hall. Things that actually make sense are very refreshing these days.
Mary Beth