If they could bore holes in my back with their eyes, I’d be a dead man.
The noise level in this little country courtroom is a bit hard to take, but at least the crowd keeps my opposing counsel form trying to make chit-chat. I hate chatting with lawyers when I am trying to get ready for a hearing. The bailiff looks nervous.
To me, it’s an annoyance. For the judge, this is a disaster. The easy thing to do, which also happens to be the legally correct thing, is politically suicidal.
This should be a simple, quiet little appeal hearing, two lawyers, maybe their clients. It’s an appeal, so it’s all argument, no witnesses, and the issues are pretty cut-and-dried. Nine times out of ten, she just rubber stamps these, which is as it should be. The mere threat of judicial review keeps people honest: the review itself need not be onerous.
Instead, it’s a total zoo: a raft of lawyers for the county, half the county commission behind the bar, all the local media, and as many angry citizens as can fit into t he courtroom, and plenty more angry citizens outside in the hall that can’t fit, making a ruckus in the hall that washes into the courtroom every time someone opens the doors. Thank goodness the E2 people listened to me when I told them to stay away.
I can see this in her eyes as she tells everyone to sit down, scopes out the lawyers she knows --the guys from the county-- and then fastens on me, the stranger. Judges, of course, are elected officials and this little case is going to make getting re-elected a lot harder if she rules for the internet cultists. Her district encompasses several rural counties, and we barely control one of them.
Fortunately for the E2K community, we’re on the winning side here. In the early days it was easy to get all these zone changes rammed through the county. There was so little going on here in rural America, nothing to keep the kids from moving away to the Big City looking for jobs, looking for a life. When it was just grundie and a few professional-looking noders who clean up real nice, when we swept in talking “planned community” and “internet” and “sustainable investment”, they loved it. At worst we’d generate a few construction jobs, at best we’d give the local kids a reason to stay. They bought it hook, line and sinker.
Now, of course, they’ve seen the guns, the drugs, the drunken mobs from Boston and London, now that we’ve mocked their fundamentalist Christianity, now that they think we’re a cult, now that we’ve got the numbers to control the politics of the Village, and more than enough cash to control county politics ... now they have to explain why it was a mistake to let us in. Closin’ the barn door after the horses run off: always a tough argument
As I suspected, the county lawyers are unimpressive. The crowd seems to think they are wonderful, but judge starts looking increasingly agitated. When my turn comes around, she’s ready to snap.
“May it please the Court, my name is ...”
As I introduce myself and state who I represent --which for the first time in my life happens to be a governmental entity, the incorporated Village-- the crowd starts hissing and murmuring, and the judge has had enough. She threatens them all with contempt, and then glares at me. I allow myself the faintest hint of amusement as I launch into my argument: short, sweet. She’s read the briefs: she knows I’m right. We are now the status quo.
"We'll be in recess"
She takes it under advisement. That means we won. If she was going to rule the way the crowd wants her to, she’d announce it. Once the judge has fled, robes flying (nice shoes, I think) the room is quiet for the moment while the spectators try to figure out whether their side won or not, and then into angry buzz when they all realize they probably lost.
Now the reporters. I explain for the umpteenth time that a zoning appeal is not the appropriate way to resolve political issues, that no matter who wins the lawsuit the political issues will remain unresolved, and that the Everything community is here to stay. Only the last bite makes it on the news, of course.
I keep my serious face on until I drive away. Sometimes it’s nice to be a cog in the machine.