by: Don Samuel
A response to Scott Key
Nobody would doubt that calendar calls are terribly inefficient. Traveling to Gwinnett County then waiting for an hour to announce, “Still waiting on Crime Lab report, please put on next calendar,” and then high-tailing it to Henry County to announce, “Need to schedule a discovery compliance hearing,” and then back to Fulton County – all of this is frustrating. And if a brief is due in the Court of Appeals, the quality of the brief will suffer because of the lost time driving on the downtown connector, to say nothing of standing in security lines and sitting in the jury box, watching other lawyers announce, “Still waiting on Crime Lab report.”
So, Scott Key is right: the courts need to learn from the covid-19 experience that we can be more efficient and accomplish a substantial amount of work in 5 minutes, rather than 5 hours (and possibly reduce the pollution that is caused by our endless driving, too).
But I will miss calendar calls. I will miss seeing friends, prosecutors and defense attorneys, the court’s staff, the deputies and bailiffs, the court reporters and the police officers that congregate at these cattle calls. I will miss sitting in the jury box and talking with another lawyer about her case (not just the missing crime lab report) and learning about a tactic she is using that would work in one of my cases, too. I will miss being able to talk to a younger lawyer who is about to announce, “Waiting for a Crime Lab report” and suggesting to him, “Why don’t you insist that the prosecution is the cause of the delay and should be barred from introducing the evidence?” and then watching the ensuing event unfold as the judge looks at the ADA disapprovingly and the evidence is then tossed.
I will miss sitting in the jury box and talking to a police officer about the case (not mine) that has led her to stumble into court after a ten-hour shift. We talk for a while and make fun of the ADA, the defense lawyer in her case, the judge – and a few months later, when I have a case in which that officer is the one who made the arrest, guess what? She remembers our ten minute “date” and we laugh again and then she tells me everything I need to know about my new case in which she is the adversary. She trusts me, I trust her. Never would have happened without that calendar call where we met.
I will miss seeing grumpy judges at the calendar calls. Though when the judge calls me up to the bench and asks, “How is your family?” or “I haven’t seen Ed in a while, how’s he doing?” I realize the judge is a human being who also needs the human interaction.
If I never have to appear on another Zoom call, it will be too soon. I want to see my colleagues and friends and adversaries. I want to stand in line and tell the same joke with the security guard at the metal detector I have been telling for five years. I want to eat some of the terrible food in the cafeteria and drink the coffee that is worse than the brew you get at the convenience store. I want to look around the courtroom when somebody’s phone starts ringing and remember the times it was my phone (“I am sure I turned it off; it must have turned itself back on when the ADA was pushing past me when we were standing in line outside” – that’s the lie I tell the judge). I want to hear a lawyer tell me a war story that is obviously embellished to the point of absurdity.
Ok, I agree that I am not looking forward to the downtown connector. You got me there.