The Judge’s Daughter: Sequestered!
Written by Pamela Buchmeyer
Sequestered! Forced to self-isolate due to COVID-19, I soon realized how sequestered jurors must feel—lonely, unmoored, and disheartened. Plus, the current pandemic adds a great big dose of fear. If my father taught me just one lesson it would be this: contact with friends and colleagues is a balm for the mind and soul. That’s one of the reasons my father, the late Judge Jerry L. Buchmeyer, wrote a humor column for the Texas Bar Journal for 28 years. Dad believed that sharing a moment of connection and lightheartedness eased the stress and made us better people and better legal professionals too. That was his goal when writing and now that I’ve inherited his column, it’s my goal too.
Maybe you’ve also been sequestered. And during this time of quarantine, to what tasks do we bend our hand? Sorting through old paperwork, of course, and stacks of dusty books.
Among my mother’s papers, I found a check made out to her from an insurance company for two cents. That’s right: $0.02. I can’t wait to see the expression on the bank teller’s face when one day, post pandemic, I present that baby and accept two pennies as payment. For now, it will have to wait.
Among my late father’s magazines and books, I found a series of 1988 humor columns penned by the legendary sportswriter Dan Jenkins, of Fort Worth—still funny after all these years. Not so amusing was The Art of Cross-Examination, written by Francis L. Wellman, one of the nation’s great trial lawyers during the ’80s and ’90s in New York. That would be the 1880s and 1890s. The book was first published in 1903 and sadly, reprinted continuously through 1969. I say “sadly” because the author glorifies cross-examinations, which, although headline news in the day, contained so much racism and misogyny that it could make one weep for entire generations of lawyers. How I wish I could ask my father if Wellman’s text was assigned to him in law school. Hopefully, even then, he threw it against the wall.
The items below were all plucked from my father’s “estate” of yellowed manila folders, moldy book bindings and faded documents held together by rusty paperclips. They were compiled in the spirit of heartfelt camaraderie, first by Dad and later by me.
Thank you for your patience. Your many kind and amusing emails may have received a delayed response. Keep them coming. I’m almost caught up. Pambuchmeyer@gmail.com.
Quotes: Outlaws & Despots
Criminals say the darndest things! From Criminal Quotes: The 1,001 Most Bizarre Things Ever Said by History’s Outlaws, Gangsters, Despots and Other Evil-doers, edited by Andrew Chesler and H. Amanda Robb:
“I like to read.”
Joseph Feldman, whose apartment held 15,000 books stolen from the New York Public Library.
“I’ve been in jail all my life.”
Mobster Giacomo “Fat Jack” DiNorscio, representing himself, when asked if he had any prior legal experience.
Tom McCarty: Excuse me, sir, but I just overheard a plot to rob this bank.
Bank president: Lord! How did you learn of this plot?
Tom McCarty: I planned it. Put up your hands.
Tom McCarty, member of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch when robbing the First National Bank of Denver.
“I shall not consent to be tried under a law in which my sex had no voice in making.
Pearl Hart, suffragist and stagecoach robber believed to be the last stagecoach robber prosecuted plus the only female.
Message left on a Council Bluffs, Iowa, jail cell wall by the Reno Gang—believed to be the first gang to rob a train—as they escaped on April 1, 1868.
“We’re bigger than U.S. Steel.”
Meyer Lansky, underworld financial whiz, on the size of the mafia.
Hazards of Walking
“When in doubt, mumble.” This is one of the fundamental principles of bureaucracy, according to Charles Peters in his introduction to The Hazards of Walking and Other Memos from Your Bureaucrats. Examples include a two-page memo from the Illinois Department of Labor titled “Hazardous Use of Coffee Pot” and a U.S. Army memo titled “Removal of Silver Tip from Retractable Ball-Point Pins.” As you will see, some court filings and memorandums can also be mumbling in print.
Memo To: The Staff
Final timesheets for the month of March are due by noon Monday, March 24th.
U.S. Postal Service Memo
…no one is to travel by air unless it is absolutely essential! … If necessary, resort to conference calls and the mails to communicate.
Notice to All Parties Before the Postal Rate Commission
On April 9…the Postal Service filed its Brief on Reconsideration…We discovered on April 14 that because of a back-up in the mail room, no copies of our Brief had as yet been mailed out. We regret this failure very much.
United States Postal Service
Department of Energy Memo To: All … Employees
Re: TRIPPING HAZARDS
One of the ways to guard against it is to always put your best foot forward…. We should also advise … employee associates regarding the use of … vehicles in lieu of walking … This practice also is somewhat hazardous.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Chief of Staff Memo
To: Associate Administrators & Assistant Administrators
We have had some confusion as to the designations A/O and O/A. To avoid further conflicts, A/O will mean the Office of the Administrator and O/A will be the Office of Administration. Thank you.
Memo From: School Services
To: The Teacher
Due to unforeseeable labor problems … One of the pamphlets that was scheduled for this school year, “Work: The American Ethic,” will not be printed….
Memo Dep. Of Health, Education and Welfare
Subject: Highlight Report for the Week Ending January 4th
ITEMS FOR THE ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER
ITEMS FOR THE ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER
IV. Continuing activities: Negative
Letterhead: White House
Memo To: Colonel Hughes
The President would like to have the bowling ball man come in and fit Mrs. Nixon and Tricia for balls as soon as possible. Could arrangements be made for this immediately, please. Signed: H.R. Haldeman
A Skulk of Thieves
In 1978, my mother gifted my father a copy of the runaway bestseller An Exaltation of Larks, by James Lipman, a book that contains a whimsical collection of collective nouns. I was a teenager then and the subtitle Or, The Veneral Game, had me quite confused. I suspected it referred to a sexually transmitted disease but no, “veneral” is a proper grammatical name for a group of people or beasts.
It thrills me no end to see my mother’s handwritten inscription to my father and the many entries my father marked with a yellow highlighter pen. After chuckling over “an unkindness of ravens” and “a pratfall of clowns,” I saw that quite a few of these witty and charming terms of venery refer to the law. The author claims historical antecedents for most entries:
A Skulk of Thieves
A Murder of Crows
A Sentence of Judges
A Parliament of Owls
A Smirk of Couriers
An Escheat of Lawyers
A Curse of Creditors
An Odium of Politicians
A Ho Ho! Of Loopholes
Mr. Lipman says that he was puzzled by the veneral “a subtlety of sergeants” until a further “brood of researchers” revealed that “sergeant” was a historical term for lawyers. Until next time, I wish you all “a promise of tomorrows.” TBJ
is an attorney and award-winning writer who lives in Dallas and Jupiter, Florida. Her work-in-progress is a humorous murder mystery, The Judge’s Daughter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.