Last week I gave you some moments from a retired local legal guy, moments prompted by my quest for a little light in otherwise serious matters. While my source felt more comfortable remaining anonymous, that isn’t the case this week, as well-known local attorney Brad Kelley steps out into the light to recall some humorous times.
In the midst of a long career just three years shy of four decades, Kelley recalls once defending a man who was accused by his sister of attempting to take sexual liberties with her. While Brad wasn’t sure what would have prompted such a scurrilous accusation, whether it be family spat or her desire to gain some leverage over her sibling, what he did believe in was in his client, who Brad described as a really decent sort.
With nary an eye witness, the alleged attempt had all the makings of the classic “he said-she said” case. As a defense lawyer, Kelley recalls putting the sister on the stand to question her as to why she’d waited two weeks to report the incident and why she only came forward after her brother’s wife saw her steal something from her parents’ house.
The more Brad got to know members of this large family, the more unsettling their actions seemed. The Good Counselor, now with shaved head that, I think, gives him a definite Telly Savalas look, firmly began to believe the accused and his wife were trying to distance themselves from the entire rest of the clan.
Kelley in his examination asked the accuser if she protested her brother’s alleged advances, to which she emphatically said she did. She then said, in rather matter of fact fashion, that she wouldn’t have considered the indecent proposal, in her words, “because he is married.”
Kelley recalls a visible reaction both by the judge and a gasp in the courtroom, no doubt, from those trying to put themselves in the mind of someone who seemed to be saying, “Incest, I can abide, but infidelity? Never!”
In another instance, Kelley recalls a judge actually throwing the book at someone, from the bench and at opposing counsel. Apparently, it was someone who the judge had grown increasingly frustrated before grabbing a procedural volume and letting fly. Recalls Kelley, “Needless to say, the judge was a bit unbalanced. It’s one thing for a judge to throw a few verbal frustrations, but I think you really need to stop short of actually throwing anything at us!”
In another encounter with the same judge, in a preliminary hearing, Kelley objected to the judge’s ruling that hearsay is admissible in this particular type of hearing and was overruled. Later in the hearing, under the same circumstances with another hearsay nugget to which opposing counsel objected, Kelley was amazed when the judge sustained the objection and disallowed the content. That prompted Kelley to say to the judge, “I thought hearsay was admissible in this type of hearing, Your Honor,” to which the robed one said succinctly, “Some is and some isn’t … and yours isn’t.”
Finally, Kelley explained that often in negotiating divorce cases, lawyers try to get details ironed out at the courthouse before going in for the actual hearing. Often, before some renovation in our city’s courthouse, there was a large fourth-floor law library, where those gatherings often took place.
According to Kelley, judges would often banish lawyers and clients to this floor to reduce the contentiousness in the courtroom that, at times, can ensue in divorce cases. In one such instance, there was apparently one final possession, an electronic device that probably cost less than $100, that neither party wanted to give up, in an act, no doubt, more symbolic than anything else.
Kelley’s client was clutching the device and wouldn’t let go, that is until Kelley insisted and rather forcefully pulled it out of the grasp. He then walked over to the window that overlooked the basketball court below that inmates used during their recreational time and tossed it, shattering the device into dozens of pieces on the asphalt below.
When opposing counsel with mouth agape said, “I can’t believe you just did that, Kelley looked at the soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. and said, “I just saved both of you over a hundred dollars’ worth of attorney fees, and with the savings, you can both go out and get new devices!”
And so, while the courthouse, and particularly the courtroom, is rife with both sobriety and solemnity, there will be times when the burlesque breaks out. My thanks to both my Deep Throat source and to Brad for their stories these past couple weeks.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.