August 25th, 2003

abstract butterfly

on being fair and reasonable

Today I drove down to the Collin County courthouse to report for jury duty. When I arrived, a few moments before I was due to arrive, hundreds of people were already there in the jury room. I was surprised, as my county, Collin, I still think of as "small town" and suburban, not a place of many jurors.

The TV had CNN on, which reported on Fox News' devastating defeat in its effort to seek an injunction against Al Franken's parody use of the term "fair and balanced" in his latest book. Fox News, it seems actually tried to trademark the generic term "fair and balanced". Fox News wanted to argue that only it could use the term "fair and balanced" The court quickly dispensed with this argument in the first preliminary stage. I grin to think that Fox News, whose commentators are apt to discuss things like "lawsuit abuse", would file such a silly lawsuit. There's a lesson in there somewhere, but I'll leave it to another day to draw it.

The court's computers are down today, so we had to answer a 480+ person role call. Then we waited, and we waited, and we waited. It was all quite comfortable, and we did have CNN. Finally, I got assigned to a courtroomm for 1:30, and sent off for an early lunch. I broke my usual "healthy eating" choices by having a brisket sandwich, fries and a shake at a soda fountain. I have a weakness for soda fountains.
Sadly, the shake was not quite hand-made, which defeats the whole purpose.

I will do my duty, but I doubt I will get picked for the jury. Lawyers rarely are. I would say "lawyers never are", but I once did get picked on a jury. It was in Los Angeles, a gangster "discipline" robbery case in which all the cast of characters had names like "Mouse" and "Li'l Kenny". The victim did not think it fit to report the taking of his car, his money or the minor battery to the police. But when they took his shoes, and made him walk home, in his words, "like a dog", that act of disrespect made him go the police. By trial, he was testifying from a wheel chair. I felt as though I were in a world from a cable television show, but all the places in that world were real places, places I've driven by. Places in stories sometimes are real. I remember when Rodney King was mercilessly beaten in Lake View Terrace. Lake View Terrace is neither wealthy nor Watts. It's just a place--a place where some fellow got hit after he as down, over and over. When one drives by the parking lot where it happened, there's nothing special there. The corner of Florence and Normandie is on the route I used to take to work from our apartment in Westchester. When a Simi Valley jury managed to acquit the cops who beat Mr. King, angry folks pulled a truck driver named Reginald Denny from his vehicle and nearly beat him to death. Brave, willing-to-get-involved folks pulled Mr. Denny from the melee, and saved his life. When you drive by Florence and Normandie, it's just a street. You don't think carnage. You think "red light, is it green or red?". They had jury trials for Mr. Denny's assaulters, winning mixed but generally fair verdicts, and they successfullly tried the cops as a federal case. Things re-sorted, and LA got more peaceful again.

Today on the radio some panelists were talking about new Texas laws to set "caps" on how much seriously injured people can recover when someone else causes them pain and suffering.

I hope I do not get picked for a jury, but if I do, I will be fair. We need a bit more fair and reasonable conduct in this world.
abstract butterfly

I'm on fire

When I was ten or so, the old hotel burned. People stood in their yards, and watched the flames from afar. When I was twelve, the hay barn down the street burned. The heat had a cooking intensity, rather like the "cook your own steaks" place which was the second place I ever saw the woman who became my wife. I remember, once, lighting a match to start a bunsen burner for a chemistry set experiment. The floor in my room had a sort of tile with little brick-like ridges on the floor. The flame jumped from the match, rolled along the floor, and went into my baby sister's (then 5 or 7 or so) pajama leg. It did not "catch flame", but instead made a smoke-black stain on the pajama leg, as I frantically smothered it. She was uninjured.

I wonder, sometimes, what inner flames I experience, and what they burn.

Collapse )