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Commentary: Cutting deals in smoky courtroom chambers

Within the species known as Attornius Wisconsinis, there exists a subspecies referred to derisively by those outside of it as “the courthouse crowd.”

You can identify “the courthouse crowd” by their jadedness and cynicism; by their intimate familiarity with the taste of institutional coffee; by their chain-smoking; and by their innate ability to cut a shady backroom deal, manifesting mutual assent through a series of knowing winks and nods.

I love “the courthouse crowd.” I AM “the courthouse crowd”; and I love nothing so much as myself.

But it was not always so. With my working-class background and out-of-state law degree, for all intents and purposes I went into the legal business in Milwaukee without knowing another lawyer in the state.

So, I know all too well what it is to be an outsider in a world in which everyone else seems to be golfing buddies.

As a result, I consider it a duty (a pleasant one, but a duty nonetheless) to take outsiders by the hand and introduce them to everybody who’s anybody in the community.

Sometimes, you have to be assertive about it:

Newbie: Is that Judge X from the Y Court?

Ziemer: Yes, it is. Would you like to meet her?

Newbie: No. You don’t have to do that.

Ziemer: Poppycock. Newbie, this is Judge X from the Y Court; Judge X, this is Newbie.

Newbie might be a new unemployed lawyer, a law student, a new Westlaw or Nexis representative, or an attorney I met at a Federalist Society luncheon. I’m not particular.

I strongly encourage readers to do the same. It’s an enjoyable way to spend an evening, and it’s a nice thing to do.

Sometimes, the new guy is even a judge who managed to get appointed based on credentials that do not include backslapping and backscratching at the courthouse.

Which brings us to the following fable, complete with a moral at its conclusion.

The Fable

Some time back, I was introduced to Judge New by Judge Veteran. Judge New was not a member of “the courthouse crowd” subspecies prior to his appointment, so Judge Veteran was doing as I like to do, and showing him who’s who at the zoo.

The next time I ran into Judge New and was asked if I knew him, I said, “Of course.”

“I remember when you were first appointed, and facing your first election,” I reminded Judge New. “Judge Veteran was dragging you around introducing you to everybody.”

Judge New said, “I remember that. I didn’t even know Judge Veteran before that. But, he came up to me and said, ‘Anyone appointed by a governor who is a [member of political party A] must be all right.’”

The Moral: It sure is a good thing we don’t let judges belong to political parties in this state.

2 comments

  1. This article appears to be a satire on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Indeed, many who work there seem to have been trained by Sarah Palin.

  2. I write satire almost every week. This is definitely not satire.

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