A law-abiding life

Rhett Breedlove
Posted 4/17/24

If there is something to be learned from covering what now seems like hundreds of court cases over the past year, one can sincerely say from a stranger’s viewpoint being an attorney or a judge …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

A law-abiding life


If there is something to be learned from covering what now seems like hundreds of court cases over the past year, one can sincerely say from a stranger’s viewpoint being an attorney or a judge is much more challenging than it initially appears.

And for good reason.

The law for everyday people you think wouldn’t be incredibly difficult to understand. Once again, everybody makes mistakes and many of us probably had to pay at least one traffic ticket at some point. We have all been there.

For the most part, most of us have absolutely no desire to sit in a court room with a judge looking over why we are there, and a prosecutor whose sole task is to prove our guilt.

Understandably, a vast majority of everyday people do not have an extensive knowledge of state and federal statutes like these men and women do. We actually try to just stick with the basics, so we do not ever find ourselves on the wrong side of the law.

If we at least make an attempt to try and understand the whole concept of the law, we will actually find it reaches far beyond concrete rules in a book which are there to keep people safe. In all truth, it is a fascinating process which ensures the rights of a defendant and protects the innocent.

We should obviously know and understand if something feels wrong, then it probably is and it’s time to back off and go in a different direction. Moving forward however, once again it’s never going to be a perfect world and bad things happen every single day.

Judges, attorneys, paralegals and their staff understand this notion perhaps better than anyone. Despite the fact working in the field is very respected by modern societal standards, from an outsider’s perspective it seems to be a very challenging, mentally and emotionally exhausting career when we look closely and try to understand.

The rewards certainly are there we can imagine, but not without the immense personal sacrifice and professional strain to protect simple everyday people. 

Just recently a local individual was scheduled to be in court for an arraignment hearing. 

For those of you who are unaware, the film My Cousin Vinny gives a very humorous take on the legal process particularly when it reaches the point of an arraignment. It is a relatively simple procedure where the court is reminded of the charges the defendant is facing, and all they have to do is simply enter in a plea of guilty or not guilty.

Of course, in the film we all remember this does not go over well for Joe Pesci.

Moving on however, this particular individual was facing legal charges of various infractions, and was scheduled to be in the courtroom with their legal counsel to simply enter in a plea.

The clock ticked in the time this person was supposed to be there. With their defense attorney, the state prosecutor and district judge all waiting patiently, the defendant was nowhere to be seen.

They allegedly had violated a Wyoming law, had been summoned to court and had been provided with legal counsel they were Constitutionally entitled to. Everything was in order to begin the legal process.

And then they no showed.

The individual was given extra time and even the benefit of the doubt in hopes they would soon walk through the door. Maybe they had car trouble. Maybe they had a sick child. Maybe they got injured. It was not to be known as they wouldn’t pick up their phone.

Everyone sat in dead silence for a few moments in the courtroom.

One does not have to be a lawyer to understand what happens next when you do not show up for a scheduled court date.

There was no anger, no scoffing and no indication of retribution from all three parties.

Just painfully silent frustration and disappointment.  

The judge then calmly looked at the prosecutor and said with soft, even weary composure, “Okay. First thing tomorrow morning would you please draft a warrant for their arrest?”

In all actuality, it was a rhetorical request. The judge didn’t necessarily want to order the prosecutor to do this, but it wasn’t a matter of want at that point. It was a matter of the law.

“Yes, Your Honor,” the prosecutor replied.

There was no other answer than yes. There couldn’t be any other answer than yes. A legal document had to be drafted, and would be the responsibility of the prosecutor to get it done first thing the next morning. 

The court then stood in recess as the judge stepped down from the bench to return to his chambers. He then looked at the defense attorney who had driven two hours from another town ready to defend her client, and said with a bit of encouraging humor, “Well at least you had good weather.”

Everything was put into perspective with these people in that one moment. Despite judges and lawyers being very high in social status, are extremely educated and possess immense authority; they are people just the same who feel pain, exhaustion, and disappointment just like everyone else. 

Perhaps more than anyone judges and lawyers understand they can’t control everything. This was a prime example. Their days and workloads depend entirely on others choosing whether or not to follow simple rules. 

All three knew by this one person not showing up for a simple hearing that wouldn’t have taken more than twenty minutes at most, this person had just made the entire situation ten times harder than it needed to be.

Not just on themselves but also on their own lawyer, the prosecutor, the judge and of course their staffs who work vigorously every day to help manage the caseloads. They had just created far more work and headaches for everyone. The saddest part being it didn’t have to be this way had they simply showed up.

That’s all they had to do.

A sixth sense could feel the unsurprising presence of drugs and alcohol as the foundation to the whole scenario. A brutal reminder perhaps of the severe deception and manipulation these two things can have on people. They swindle a person into thinking they are friends, and then stab them in the back without mercy. This court hearing was but an extremely heartbreaking reminder of the principal, along with the devastating impact they can have on so many people.

Now other court hearings would have to be rescheduled, and tons of paperwork would probably now have to be done by everyone. It might be safe to say weeks of getting everything in order for so many things in the courthouse just went right out the window. 

As this eccentric reporter made his way towards the exit of the courthouse, he casually bumped into the prosecutor he had come to know quite well over the course of a year, and just couldn’t help but ask.

“Did this just create a whole lot more work for you?”

The veteran lawyer merely smiled, shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Yeah. But it’s okay. That’s just the way it goes.”

He then wished the reporter well and walked back to his office, presumably to write a lengthy arrest warrant which needed to be done by the very next day. Whatever personal plans he may have had with his family were now gone. God knows how bad this would affect other cases which required his attention.

Not because he wanted to, and not because the judge wanted to for that matter. More often than not these men prefer to give citizens a second chance, and would much rather see them succeed in life instead of having to be punished. Most of the time what they are really looking for is for their fellow human beings to simply own up to their mistakes. But because their positions require them to uphold the laws of Wyoming, one could sincerely see it was neither the judge’s or prosecutor’s decision to now have someone arrested.

It was the person who violated the law and chose to violate it even further.

The very sad truth: being a law-abiding citizen is easier said than done for some. And make no mistake any one of us can fall into that pattern, so don’t get too high and mighty. That is not a judgment, it is just a statement of the facts.

Witnessing something like that first-hand would make a person not even take one puff on a joint, or even sip a beer if this is where it can lead eventually.

As another local judge consistently and sincerely tells defendant’s, “All you have to do is live a law-abiding life.”