The Great Un-Quashed

 

The old Hall of Justice on Kearney Street: the stuff of childhood fantasies.
The old Hall of Justice on Kearney Street: the stuff of childhood fantasies.

My Motion has been denied. We did not achieve Quash.

I spoke to my attorney on Friday and Judge Ronald Quidachy ruled against us on all of our issues. Some of them have been raised in other cases that are still being appealed. So things could change if the Appellate Division reverses one of them. And we will be filing our own appeal as well. The battle is lost, the war goes on.

In the 1950’s there was a television show called Line-Up that was the San Francisco answer to LA’s Dragnet. The reruns were recycled in the 60’s as San Francisco Beat. I don’t remember too much about the shows other than the semicircular windows. They served as the back drop for the office full of gum shoes hammering away on Royal typewriters in a Pall Mall haze.

Those arched windows made an indelible impression on me. They were huge and looked like they went to the floor. How cool to work in such a dramatic setting. I was hoping for such an office when I went to work for the San Francisco District Attorney in the 1970’s. Alas, all the new Hall of Justice could offer was an interior closet with no natural light.

My job as clerk was to accompany the Assistant DA to Municipal Court every morning. In the afternoons I would wait for delivery of the next morning’s docket, tractor-fed printouts two feet wide and weighing about five pounds. I would pull the files for the few cases that had them. Most only had the original police report which wasn’t of much use .

There could be 200 or more cases called every morning and we went through them at a blistering pace. 90% were answered with “continuance” “so stipulated” or “no objection.” A handful required an appearance by the defendant that could last a couple of minutes. When I saw them coming on the list I would slide the file over to the DA for her to quickly review–probably for the first time.

My moment to shine came when someone failed to appear. If they were on probation I would point to the far right column. The DA would rise to say “Bench Warrant.” I felt so empowered. I wasn’t exactly an Officer of the Court because I’m not an attorney but I was probably functioning on the Meter Maid level. Despite this power surge, I really hated putting people in jail.

I thought the proceedings were intentionally abstruse to keep the Court bureaucracy humming. Sometimes I just wanted to tell the defendant to fill out Form 5A-j and they’d be in the clear. The judge could have easily said the same thing. Instead he would hound the defendant about not having proper representation and not to come back without it. I guess if a dine and dash goes horribly wrong you need someone well versed in 5A-j law to keep you out of the electric chair.

This employment mill feeling existed amongst the attorneys as well. They all attended the same law schools and were intimately familiar with each others’ firms. And the firm the judge came from. They depended on each other for their livelihood. To have an adversarial system you need two sides so, although the money side almost always wins, occasionally the plebeians prevail to keep the game going.

I also think it’s why so much legislation is vaguely or poorly written. It gives the attorneys something to argue about.

In the pursuit of justice and keeping the legal profession afloat I hope the courts throw a little of that nuance juju my way.

***

The Eviction Story

Contact: ellistoellis@gmail.com

 

Office Parties

I'm a huge believer in natural poses
Cocktails on the corporate dime

My road to corporate America began in the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. I got a job as a clerk there and after a few months was transferred to their law library.

The librarian was a wiry little leather queen named Bob. He lived his sex life 24/7 and made no attempt to filter private affairs out of workplace conversation. He could just as easily say “the 27 Bryant was 15 minutes late this morning” as “I had a fist up my ass last night.”

The library was a big, open room lined with books where the attorneys sat and read. While I’d be shelving or checking in periodicals, Bob would be on the phone at his desk gossiping about his latest orgy or making arrangements for the next one.  For everyone to hear.

One time he was talking to a friend about how he’d blacked out the night before. He’d failed to wear the proper protective equipment as he mixed up a batch of homemade poppers in the bathtub.

Bob took me under his wing and wanted me to succeed. He told me the only way I’d make any money was to get into the corporate sector. I started going to the monthly law librarian lunches with him. There I made connections.

Cocktails on the corporate dime
I’m a huge believer in natural poses

I ended up at a prestigious international law firm where I worked for 30 years. It was like being part of a family, a family who retained the services of Dr. Kervorkian when elderly overhead got in the way of partner profits.

Before the bean counters took over, the office Christmas Parties were truly exercises in 1980’s corporate excess. Tons of food and liquor, live music, great venues and everyone in their finest.

Of course “finest” was a relative term when it came to the secretaries from the outlying suburbs. They made such a production of their Dynasty dresses, Flock of Seagulls hair do’s and heels they could barely balance in. It was painful to watch their discomfort.

They seemed to think if they dressed in this special way there was a way they had to act too. And they weren’t sure what that was. It’s a feeling I got over the first time I was in drag: it’s a look, it’s not who you are.

I actually felt sorry for them being so self-conscious. Thankfully, their unease was only temporary and natural instincts soon prevailed. You’d hear the urgent rustle of puffed qiana as they spotted the mounds of cocktail shrimp and made a beeline for Seafood Island.

The midnight rambler; everybody got to go
The midnight rambler; everybody got to go

Not many of my friends were interested in attending office parties with me but I could always get David to go. One of the many things I loved about partying with him was he knew how to make an exit. He’d just say “let’s go” and we’d vanish. No seeking out the host for thank you’s or long good-byes to friends. We were there and then we were gone.

One year at the Christmas Party we made a swift exit and decided to head to the Castro. We’d had cocktails and qualudes so trying to recall the drive over in the rain was a blur of disparate images: cement mixers, white-hot lights, piles of sand bags, windshield wipers working overtime, City Hall golden dome, and a thud.

Miraculously, we found parking right in front of the Midnight Sun (or at least we thought it was a spot). We got out of the pink and white Nash Rambler and noticed it was covered with sand. Except for the path of the wipers, it was completely coated in a layer of silt.

David and I stood there not knowing what had happened. So we just laughed and went into the Sun for a nightcap.

Next: Happy Christmas Y’all
Previous: Life of the Egg Nog Party
The complete saga, From the Beginning