Representing yourself Pro Se? I'd represent myself Pro Pane!
The Justice Factory: Second Appearance On Charge:
Harassment by Telephone
November 18, 1999. Chicago, Branch 46, Courtroom 501. Case no: 99329469
"...the law, [the man from the country] thinks, should be accessible to anyone at any time ..." Franz Kafka, The Trial.
An attorney's "first duty is to the courts and the public, not to the client, and wherever the duties to his client conflict with those he owes as an officer of the court in the administration of justice, the former must yield to the latter." Corpus Juris Secundum, Attorney Client, Vol. 7, Sec. 4.
I arrive to court about just in time, thanks to slow trains. There's a mad rush of people trying to get in past the security checkpoint. The women's line is of course slow in comparison to the men's because of women's purses needing to be searched. Maybe next time I'll dress as a man. The security people are testy and yelling at everyone. Once past this hurdle comes the overflowing elevators. I let one go by, packed full like a train or bus at rush hour.
I'm at least in time enough to get seating in the courtroom, front row is all that's left. The court quickly fills to capacity and many people have to wait out in the hall.
This is misdemeanor court, but "serious" misdemeanor court. And in the law, harassment by telephone is more serious than a businessman stealing (the law calls it "withholding") a worker's commissions, the former being a Class B misdemeanor and the latter a Class C. It's obvious who's writing the laws for whom. Class B: subject to up to 6 months in jail. Class C: 30 days.
There are four to five bailiffs wandering the courtroom. One calls out the names to the people in the hall that have to go before the judge. One, who looks alcoholic because of his big red nose, walks around telling people not to talk, to take their elbows off the pews among many other DO NOTS, like we're in kindergarten. Us, the unwashed rabble. Several bailiffs just stand around. One African-American man gets taken away in cuffs and that requires a sheriff. There's a person whom I'm guessing is a clerk to the judge who does nothing all day but call your case and hand your folder to the judge. Well, perhaps there IS more to his job, but I don't see it. There's the prosecutrix and the public defender. So, there are 8 to 10 people there in an official capacity. Your tax dollars at work feeding the gristmill of the prison-industrial system at the low levels.
Per form, most of the cases involve people who are black, Hispanic and poor. There are three other white defendants besides myself out of 20 to 30 cases. They are definitely the rabble, not the well-behaved yupps, of which I look like this day in comparison. These white defendants look to be what Bob, my first husband, used to call left-over hippie (and yippie) types.
I pull out my pad to take notes, keep tabs on cases, write down names .... a bailiff comes over and tells me I can't write in court. Any one who has any dealings with the court realizes that their first amendment right, among others, ends at the threshold of those sworn to uphold the constitution.
Adam Maclean, my imperialist ex-boss of Wrox Press and the complainant in this case, isn't there, but his lawyer is. Adam is due to be married the following Saturday in some church wedding, where he plans to celebrate his "Christian values". I don't expect to see Adam at any more of the prelim hearings, etc. Mr. Important will show up the day of the trial if this case gets that far before dismissal.
The judge has to process at least 30 cases this day and quickly gets through them all. I get called up the first time towards the end.
The judge is a handsome, white older gentleman. I would describe him as avuncular. Quite stern, but fair, with an underlying sense of compassion and humanity. The "perfect" judge archetype ... provided he's not bipolar and accepting bribes up those big black sleeves. I expect not, but from my past experience with "justice" one just never knows!
The prosecutrix is young, white and pregnant. She's a barking dog. She tries immediately to get bench warrants against defendants who aren't there, but the judge says to give them some time to arrive. Sure enough, several trickle in a half hour to an hour late with their excuses. At one point, she barks, "It's 9:30, for the record." I guess that was to mean that it's time to call in those bench warrants!
The public defender is a young, white soft-spoken man. He and the judge seem almost human. Looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to the law. The rapid, barking dog prosecutrix is about everything I despise in the modern day zippy woman. She and Adam's wife would make great friends. Prosecutrix is salivating at every opportunity to sink her teeth into the throats of the defendants. I liked the prosecutor out at branch 44 much better. Besides being kind of hunky, he was able to do his job without barking and foaming at the mouth.
It's finally my turn to go before the judge. He asks me if I can afford an attorney, and I say no, that I'm unemployed. He says he's going to appoint to me the public defender and he starts to write. I say no, I want to go pro se. Everyone's pop-eyed at this. The judge grills me about my education. He asks if I've ever represented myself in any cases. I say no and that I've been harmed by attorneys and am scared to get one. He says that may be but I'm likely to harm myself more without one, to take the public defender. That I'll be up against a fully trained and experienced prosecutor and held to the same standards. He points to a mistake I made in serving my 12 motions to the Illinois Attorney General instead of to the State's Attorney. I wonder how many motions if any would the public defender have filed in my case. I've filed 12 already and expect to file many more.
I remain undaunted, since according to a lawyer with the Illinois Attorney General's who got my papers, many lawyers make the same mistake. I had sense enough to wonder at the time if I was at the right place, but figured that if I wasn't that the papers would get shuffled appropriately. I felt I had to hurry this process because the law is not clear about when you can present motions, not even attorneys can know. I guess they get a feel about which judges are open to what motions as they gain experience. I just wanted my motions "out there" before my court date, which was a couple of days away. It took me hours and hours at the law library just to learn how to write motions and where to file them and how to serve them.
Still, I say "no" again to a public defender and ask for one as co-counsel. The judge says no, it's either pro se or a defender. I say that I read that a judge has discretion to allow a defender as co-counsel. He says he's using his discretion and denying it. I say okay, I'll go pro se. He presses me again. I say I need to time to think about it. He says to discuss it with my representation, the public defender.
The judge picked quite the time to be lecturing me about taking a public defender. This entire week, the Chicago Tribune has been running a series of articles about people sent to death row thanks to a combination of overzealous prosecutors and incompetent public defenders. I consider jail and prison a death sentence because of what can happen to you while you're in there. My husband for instance who should have never been in jail in the first place but was for reasons of judicial corruption, never came out a whole man -- he was lobotomized by a prison doctor supposedly tending to a brain tumor and under "order" to do what was necessary. Thousands of others lose their lives or get attacked while in a dungeon.
Well, this public defender is busy with his "clients" and towards the end of the session, I get my few minutes with him. He's harried, to say the least -- it's been a hard morning for him and I feel bad for him and doubt that he's in the right job. I thank him for his time, assure him that I have nothing against him personally, it's just my preference not to have a lawyer. He's okay with it. He answers a few questions for me, tells me intent will be hard for the prosecutrix to prove. I see that he is needing to rush off so I thank him and tell him I'll let him get to his "paying" clients. He laughs and mumbles something about how he's hardly making anything.
Court's still in recess so I approach the barking dog with my envelope full of motions. She tries to whither me with her look, but being a 47-year-old who's been through quite a lot in life, that kind of intimidation can't work on me. She should save her evil eye for someone more susceptible. The judge is running through those cases that he didn't dispose of the first time around and my case is saved for last. Finally, it's just me and Adam's attorney sitting there, waiting for "justice".
The judge took care to save my case until last and was sure the courtroom was completely cleared out before hearing it. Several people had remained in a back pew, and he asked them who they were, what they were doing there. As if the courtroom's not open to the public and anybody can be there. He disposed of them before handling me. Can't have the rabble learning anything.
I go before the judge again. The public defender explains I want to go pro se and will seek legal advice from legal aid type of organizations. Now the judge goes through some of my 12 motions. He suggests I withdraw the one about an order of protection from the complainant, saying that's a civil matter. I do. He gets this hurt look on his face when he reads the one that says it's against my religion to stand in court. "You don't want to stand when I enter the room?" he asks. I say, it's against my religion. He says I don't have to, that he won't be prejudiced against me, but that it would make it "easier" for everyone and the system if I did.
Happily, I'm not a lawyer and hardly the one to agree to just go along for the ride on their well oiled machine. They've got me in their machinery but I did not take their oath to uphold their system over all. Better to be a voluntary clog to their system then just another involuntary cog of it.
The judge says if I don't wish to rise, just to inform the bailiffs about it. I told him I appreciated that. He grills me about the part where I can't swear, affirm or take oaths but because I agree to tell the truth under penalties of perjury, this seems to be sufficient. I had written all this up in a motion, because that seems to be about the only way to get to talk to the judge. In my "How to Defend Yourself" 101 book, the author mentions that the drivers of the machine don't like "surprises", so I'm doing my best not to surprise them with my break from their vending machine style of dispensing "justice" to the masses.
Many of my motions get put off. I'm allowed discovery and a bill of particulars. The prosecutrix is rolling her eyes and in a huff about actually having to do this work as opposed to just shuffling folders around, moving in rapid gunfire succession from one case to another. I guess she gets paid by the case or something. The prosecutrix objects to my asking for home addresses from Adam of his employees whom I'm calling as witnesses. She says, "There're 30 people here!"
Really, there are only 20, Miss Prosecutrix. She says it should be sufficient that I simply have their work addresses.
The judge says she can bring that up in a hearing, but that she would need ample proof why not. The judge says that I am by law allowed their home addresses so I can go around and talk to their neighbors, etc. This is something I had not known about. Thank you, judge. And I guess I need to watch more Perry Masons and Matlocks. He also tells me that it's compulsory (6th amendment) that I can get into Adam's (the complainant's) business records.
The judge asks how I wish to proceed -- do I want a hearing for counsel or for a motions hearing. I think there are probably other ways I can proceed, but at the moment am not knowledgeable about that. So I say that I want a motions hearing. He says, "You're bringing counsel, right?" I say, "No."
I'm smiling big on the inside at the judge's repeated insistence about counsel. I want to make a humorous comment here. About what a great salesman he'd make in the private sector. He's nodding his head with his pen in hand as he's trying to get me to agree to a public defender. He tries several times to overcome my objections to such, but I'm not buying.
There's a sign in the courtroom: No hats, no sunglasses, no chewing gum. There's an unwritten sign: No sense of humor, no spine.
I did check my sense of humor because I know that's considered sacrilege in a courtroom, like so many other things. So I withhold this comment. Only those of the system can make "jokes" or light-hearted comments if any are to be made. Those millions upon millions of us on the receiving "justice" end of the stick must wear a serious demeanor at all times or suffer from it in added measures of "justice".
I however did not check my spine at the courtroom door. As intimidating as their processes are, I know for a fact how dangerous it is to lie at their feet to be run over by their high speed train. As much as I've been through and seen in this system, the judge nearly got me to capitulate on the public defender issue. I was able to stand my ground and was glad I did. On the elevator going down on my way out of that torture chamber, there are two African-American men in it. The look on their faces is complex, like a fine wine or cheese: one of terror, anger and frustration all in one. They're venting about how the public defenders they had on their cases did nothing for them, don't know their names, how their case goes from one to another defender, about how they're getting railroaded and fear jail. One is righteously adamant about his innocence. I butt into their conversation about how the judge tried to force a public defender on me. And as I leave today's torture session, my heart is breaking for the men in the elevator and the millions just like them.
I think about what a judge my judge would be were he to ever climb down off his throne, they call it a bench, and mingle as an ordinary person with the masses of people he has coming in to tremble before him.
As much as the judge and the public defender seem okay especially in relation to the barking dog, I don't trust any of them as far as I can throw them. Why should I? Their job is to first uphold their system, a system not worthy of upholding, and then second to dispense justice -- justice on others, that is, seldom if ever on themselves. Dispensing justice on themselves would involve a terrible conflict, so it just doesn't happen except in very rare instances. It's nothing personal, I just happen to know that most decisions are made behind the scenes. I do know many public officials' real first order of business is bribery. I do know that Adam Maclean is a very wealthy man with the means and motive to attempt bribery. I do know I am a disliked agitator who criticizes the very system that has me in its claws. And I do know that if any lawyer, judge or other court functionary "goes bad", there's very little recourse for me as they all, including the best of them, huddle to protect "the system" and cover for each other, just like the police do.
Too much, our rights stop at the court room door and short of a class war, it's going to take acts of resistance to get change. To demand to be treated as an individual and not a piece of meat or wheat for the systems' grist mill. I believe this from the bottom of my heart and this is why I was able to resist the judge's very skillful and powerful ways to get me to agree to counsel.
It's with shame that I think about my near capitulation. Mine! A critic of the system for 15 years and activist against it for as long. What chance does someone NOT educated by the school of hard knocks against this system possibly have? My heart is breaking as I think of it and if you could see me now, you would see the tears in my eyes.
Later, I talk with a friend about the case who knows a little about the law. He says there are at least three other ways to represent yourself, one being to go pro socio (spelling?), which I've never heard of and can't find in my law dictionary. He says that representing yourself this way, you are not held to the same standards as lawyers. So, I have much more research ahead of me. The law does a very good job at hiding things from us, its targets, that work in our favor. Another important instance: jurors have the right and obligation to jury nullification. To ignore and change bad law. To ignore judge's instructions. But they are not supposed to know it, judges can make mentioning it at trial illegal and can bring on charges of contempt and jury tampering if any one tries to educate the jurors about it. People are dismissed from serving as jurors if they know about it.
I want to represent myself in the most favorable way possible, yet the only way I've easily found information on is pro se, and I get bombarded by the judge because I want it. Part of his insistence is to protect himself against possible later appeals. The other part is so that he has his well oiled machine to deal with and not some loose cannon clanking around, so ... let's clear those courtrooms when we have a stubborn pro se defendant.
Six million American citizens in the claws of the system as: 2 million in jail or prison. 4 million under parole, probation or court supervision. 3 out of very 100 adults. How many millions pushed through the system who have been found innocent or whose cases have been dismissed? Are there 6 out of very 100 adults facing the system? 9 of 100? 30 of 100? How many millions who are innocent, yet are doing time? How many innocents sit on Death Row? In Illinois, they've proven: half of all Death Row cases.
The best justice system in the world? Sure, if you're proud to be a citizen of Nanny State and enjoy torturing and killing innocent people. What the heck, why not? Most of them are black and Hispanic anyway.
Do I blame the system entirely? Absolutely not. There is no question it's totally out of control and has deep, systemic problems that are only growing. But what about we the people, people like Adam Maclean who refuses to fight his own battles with me? People who turn in their neighbor for throwing a chair over a balcony? We the people, who listen to pandering politicians scaring us with the "crime rate". Who because we can't seem to think for ourselves, have become so afraid of our own shadows, we're ready to turn them in for stalking. We the people, who think a lawyer's going to do us more good than harm.
"...the law, [the man from the country] thinks, should be accessible to anyone at any time ..." Franz Kafka, The Trial.
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