This will be my third and hopefully last posting on that traffic accident (see my posts of 12/31/05 & 1/30/06). Today was our court date with the man who ran the stop sign. Let me lay out a bit of the groundwork for you, so you’ll understand what we were walking into today:
CC’s insurance company has already settled up with her as far as the value of the car goes. We could have blown off this court date today; in that case, all that the Perp, as I’ll call him, would have had to do was show up and contest the ticket. With no witnesses appearing against him, his case would then have been dismissed. Well that just didn’t sit right with us. We wanted him held legally and formally accountable for his actions. And there was a bit of a financial incentive for us as well – if he pled (or was found) guilty, we could recoup our $500 deductible from his insurance company. So we both took time off from our respective day jobs to attend today’s festivities.
We found ourselves in the courtroom of the Honorable Judge Dennis Michael McGuire, a man of substance in both the literal and spiritual senses. His no-nonsense, to-the-point efficiency and take-no-bullshit attitude quickly made one imagine that he might be an old-line South Side Irishman, a Richard J. Daley man from way back, and a man whom you would consider carefully before you raised your voice. One of the cases before ours was presented. As the accused, a man ticketed for driving without a license, stood before the judge, the court clerk revealed that the man had two prior tickets for that same offense within the past year. The judge frowned at the man and asked, in his very clipped manner, “Why you driving around without a license?” The man’s response was inaudible to me, but he was clearly intimidated. Hell, it wasn’t even my case and I was intimidated!
As we sat there waiting for our case to come up, the Perp tried repeatedly to make eye contact with us. We steadfastly resisted his every attempt; I feel no need to look upon him ever again, and today seemed like a good day to start getting into the habit. Our case was the last of the session, so the courtroom was almost empty by the time we got going. I would speculate that they purposely saved ours till the end so there wouldn’t be a lot of witnesses to the fact that the Perp’s last name was unpronounceable; it was a polysyllabic Slavic name suspiciously lacking in vowels. Based on his apparent level of character, I would further speculate that these missing vowels were probably traded away on the black market for a bottle of Stoli.
When it came time to enter a plea, the Perp initially indicated that he would contest the ticket. The court clerk then took CC aside and advised her that she had two options for pursuing the case – she could either just go after having her deductible covered, or she could go all the way and have a trial held for the Perp. She did not hesitate before telling him that we would go for the trial option. The clerk seemed a little surprised at that; in his experience, most people want their money and don’t really care about the rest of it, but believe me when I tell you that the money was a secondary concern for us today. We were there to see that the Perp was held accountable, and that he would carry something on his record to reflect his negligence in this matter. When the clerk went back to him and advised him that we were ready to go forward with a trial, he apparently decided that he didn’t have the stomach for a fight. Maybe he wasn’t counting on us being there; maybe he was intimidated by the judge. I hope I never know the truth, because I’d probably have to talk to him to find it out. The bottom line was this – he admitted guilt, paid an $80 fine, and we are now free to pursue reimbursement through his insurance company.
I want to close with one little observation about today’s proceedings: A lot of us are pretty cynical about our government these days. I don’t need to go into details about that here and now, but in both the big and little political pictures, most of us nowadays seem to have both personal frustrations with government in general and specific horror stories about run-ins the we or our friends have had with The System. So today is a feel-good story from where I sit. The System worked today. It worked efficiently and it protected the rights of the innocent while punishing the guilty. My other political frustrations will still be there when I want them, but today, I’ve got nothing bad to say about the government!