Norm Pattis: Chilly Winter Generates Plenty Of Aggravation
I'm from Michigan, so forgive my crabbiness: It is supposed to snow in the winter, and it is supposed to be cold. Why, then, the almost constant drumbeat about snowmageddons, with weathermen and weatherwomen stoking panic at the prospect of a few inches of snow?
It takes months sometimes to get a court date for the simplest thing. But along comes the weatherfolk, and suddenly all bets are off, and court dates are in jeopardy. Clients start calling a day or two in advance: "Will court be canceled?' "What will happen if the courts are closed?" "Do I have to be there if it snows?"
I spent an afternoon last week responding to a series of phone calls such as these, my staff having left early, you guessed it, because a few flakes were falling.
The next day was cold, but hardly a blizzard's aftermath.
One client called to report the family was at the courthouse waiting for a sentencing proceeding to begin. They must not have listened to their answering machine. The judge in that case canceled the hearing late in the afternoon the day before, when the snow first started to fall. He too seemingly was sick of the uncertainty of it all; better to just cancel the date than to make a dozen calls on judgment day.
Another judge decided he had to go forward. The client was traveling into Connecticut from New York, which evidently was hit harder than was Connecticut with snow. The client reported an inability to get out of his driveway. The judge was hearing none of it, by golly; if he could hit the roads on a frigid, post-snowmageddon morning, so too could the client. He ordered the client to appear, apparently intimating there might be a re-arrest if the client were a no-show. The client took a cab from New York City rather than risk the judge's wrath.
Chalk up another victory for the Judicial Branch's public relations campaign.
Other courts juggled dockets suddenly closed with school delays, closings, and the collateral chaos caused in the lives of clients with kids.
Snow days are a mess.
By mid-day, things had calmed down some. Everyone was running late, and, so far as I know, no one had been fined, held in contempt, or otherwise incarcerated as a result of the snow. And I was generating enough heat spawned of the aggravation of dealing with all the scheduling issues to make my sweater unnecessary.
Truth be told, this has not been a bad winter. Sure, it's been colder than a bail bondsman's heart, but there hasn't been much snow. And there have been few power outages. You have me to thank for that, Connecticut.
During the past few years, we've had so many power outages in my neck of the woods that I finally bought a generator. We're now prepared for weeks off the grid. We've got one of those high-fallutin' machines that turns itself on each week for a check up. I even get a report sent to me via text message telling me the machine is in fighting form.
Since installation of the generator this past summer, we've not needed it once.
I am not a climate-change denier. I believe it perfectly possible that the human race has fouled its nest. Close familiarity with the criminal law taught me long ago that there is nothing rational about human behavior. Of course, we can destroy ourselves; it's in our genes.
But causation is a difficult thing to discern. Cynics point to a cold snap, and chortle: "What about global warming?" I can't account for a day's weather; I simply note the trends, and fret about a planet become angry and inhospitable.
So forgive me the superstitious belief that my generator keep the power on for all of New England thus far this winter. Why not indulge me the fantasy? It's not as though I am asking the impossible: I never asked—did I?—for control over use of judicial discretion. It's perfectly reasonable for judges to order snowbound clients to take a cab in from New York City, right?
Snowmageddon, be damned.•