Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Leelanau County Court in The Snow

I've been offline the past couple days while across the state to go to court.

On Monday afternoon, I traveled up to Traverse City to prepare for a court appearance in the morning on Tuesday in Leelanau County to argue a motion for a client. That's a 4 hour drive away from home.

It was a rather grey overcast day as I drove up, but we arrived there safely.

After sleeping over at the hotel in Traverse City, I awoke to complete the trip to Sutton's Bay where the court is located, a good half hour farther north.

I had this to greet me Tuesday morning:

Why is it every time I go up to Leelanau it has to snow the morning of the motion day? It's a shame I can't get to handle a motion up there in June.

It kept snowing and then snowed harder as I approached Sutton's Bay, the location for the court. The half hour distance by map turned into a solid 50 minutes in the snow. Good thing I had planned accordingly and left early. It was snowing so bad that if it hadn't been for the stakes marking the road I wouldn't have been able to see it to turn on to it or stay on it through a few curves.

The trip takes you along the bay with a nice picturesque view of the lake. It must be awesomely beautiful in good weather.

I arrived at the courthouse, and of course it was still snowing and it continued to do so.

On the upside, the Court tends to be a very friendly and collegial place up there, and the Judge is quite exceptionally good. The court staff are all friendly and not surly.

First the court handled the criminal motion call which was pretty much all sentencing.

One particular case was rather enlightening to watch.

An 18-year old, slightly-built male had been transferred from jail to the courthouse and was being sentenced for a drunken home invasion. He also had a prior conviction for some drunken domestic violence with his girlfriend and has a 2 year old daughter at this point. Definitely winner material there.

The attorney for the defendant pointed out an issue with the pre-sentencing report that while the defendant's Facebook account had references to him being a gang-banger and drug dealer, he was actually neither of those things and it was his friends hacking his acccount and putting those posts there. Yes, what you post on Facebook can indeed be held against you in a court of law folks.

So the judge gives him a good long talking to, and advises him that while the county jail is a relatively nice place, state prison is not and that's where he'll be headed if the doesn't shape up fast.

The judge looks him up and down and says, to paraphrase: "You may be trying to become an urban legend, but son, you just don't have the build to be an Alpha in prison, you're gonna spend most of your sentence as a toy for some big dude on a long sentence who works out all day in jail and you're not going to have a fun time of it."

Yep, that just took the glamor of prison right out of the defendant and you could tell he hadn't quite figured it might go down that way.

The judge notes that he needs to get back to school, quit hanging out with his current bunch of associates, and stop drinking alcohol as every single one of his crimes happens after he drinks.

The judge then gives him time served and three years probation with lots of restrictions including obviously no possessing or drinking alcohol, no going to bars, and that he must either get a job or be in school, or preferably both so he can help support his kid.

The judge did an A1 example of the whole "Put the fear of me rather than God in 'em in them 'cause while God might be busy and not follow up I sure will". With luck, the kid takes this chance and straightens his life out.

In breaks between sentences I get a chance to converse with one of the attorneys there. He's an older gentleman and it turns out he's not only been a lawyer but has also been a probate judge and had a very varied legal life. A real decent and interesting guy, and we had a great if short conversation. The lawyers up there all tend to know each other and generally work together pretty well for an adversary system.

In another break we chat with one of the prosecutors who note that most crimes up there are by basically ok people who are making bad choices. He then pauses and says, but that guy (mentioning another fellow up on sentencing who had his hearing was adjourned due to some pending charges by another County out of the same violation - think drugs and violence), that guy's bad and making evil choices.

It's almost the afternoon when I get called at just about the end of the civil docket. The judge carefully goes over the motion, and my motion is granted and I'm all set.

Then the four and a half hour drive home in the snow commences.

But I'm back safe and sound and was even busy in Wayne County Probate Court this morning on some motions. Quite a different environment indeed from Leelanau County.


eiaftinfo said...

Beautiful area up there. We've had family that owned property there in years gone by. My wife completed Pharmacy school in Big Rapids and I completed and Industrial Engineering/Broadcasting degree there as well as computer systems engineering at Western. Been away a long time but thinking of a a trip back to visit some remaining family. I miss the lake and trees, both are missing here in Iowa.

Safe travels!

Scott said...

You were glad for the snow tires, I'll bet!

Northern Michigan is indeed a wonderful place no matter what time of year you are there.

Did you scout out the water park and other scenic bits for future family getaways?

Aaron said...

Yep, the Leelanau is truly a beautiful place with a lot of nice people.

Scott: The snow tires were life savers, and I did indeed scout out the water park and other attractions around Traverse City.

Sadly, I was working and had to do a lot of driving so I had to pass on the lovely Leelanau wineries with their tasting rooms this trip.

I really need to get a case with a motion scheduled there in late spring/summer sometime.