In a move to defend against school shootings, a Michigan college is distributing hockey pucks to its faculty. Hockey pucks, or biscuits, as they’re known to the cognoscenti, are “easy to carry, heavy and tend to cause a distraction when thrown,” explained Oakland University’s Chief of Police. We didn’t make this up.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Brooklynites have to stand in line for hours waiting to get into the courthouse because the guards insist that it’s not safe to let the public in unless 350 more guards are hired.
“We don’t want to see anybody, a judge, an attorney, or any other staff, or worse, a juror or any other member of the public leaving in an ambulance or, god forbid, a body bag!” a court official solemnly intoned.
We’re not going to diss courthouse guards wholesale, since we know at least one who’s friendly and helpful and even accurately explained Batson v. Kentucky to an inquiring member of the public. But we seldom enter a courtroom without thinking of Melville’s creepy short story Benito Cereno where, (spoiler alert!) it turns out that the apparently suave captain of the ship is actually the prisoner of his murderous servant. Similarly, the eminent-looking trial judge is surrounded by black-leather-gloved, bulletproof-vested, armed heavies who tell him-or-her what to do. Can you have your client un-handcuffed and given a chair for his SORA hearing? Not if the guards don’t feel like it. Can you have your client, who’s sitting in the pens two flights down, brought up to the courtroom in less that 3 hours? Ditto.
So now, the guards are not only slowing down security clearance in the courthouse lobby while the public freezes outside, they’ve instructed the judges to close their courtrooms “without proper staffing.” “Proper staffing,” needless to say, as determined by the guards. And all but a handful of judges have meekly complied. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Let’s take a tip from the Michiganders.
Scene: The Judicial Training Institute
Chief Judge: Now listen up, everybody. Due to the shortage of court officers, you’re all in danger of being taken out in a body bag. Therefore, each of you has been issued a hockey puck because they’re easy to carry, heavy, and tend to cause a distraction when thrown. Ow!
Traffic Court Judge: Sorry, Chief, just testing.
Chief Judge: I sentence you to 200 hours of target practice.
Appellate Judge: Chief, surely you’re aware that we appellate judges have such extraordinarily crushing, overwhelming caseloads, one puck isn’t nearly enough.
Chief Judge: Of course. At oral argument, the court officers will periodically come out of that little door in the back to supply you with stacks of hockey pucks.
Appellate Judge: You mean, along with the stacks of briefs?
Chief Judge: No, instead of the briefs. Hockey pucks are much more efficient.