POST #6–April 23, 2016: “BACK SHE GOES”
Oftentimes in this profession, very funny things occur. In this day and age, where it seems like most attorneys I meet suffer from the “tight sphincter” syndrome, everyone is humorless and always too damn serious and on edge. That’s why on this weekend, I wanted to tell you a very funny story about my Granddaddy, John Armstrong, whom you have already met on the pages of this site.
Way back when, either before, during, or just after World War II, Granddaddy was waiting to try a case in our small claims court. Back then, they were called “Magistrate’s Courts,” because, at least in rural counties like Greene County, the elected members of what was then called the “County Court” (now the “County Commission” or the county legislative body) could hold court in their particular precinct, and could try cases involving small civil claims, and even misdemeanors where jail was a possibility. In fact, until the 1990s, judges of the General Sessions Courts, the successors to the Magistrate Courts, did not have to have a law license.
The particular Magistrate Court before which Granddaddy was that day was the one having jurisdiction over the Town of Greeneville itself. It was presided over by a judge whose name has never been disclosed to me. This judge, taking his judicial duties seriously, would sign anything that was put in front of him.
So, Granddaddy, being the joke-player that he was, waited until the Noon recess and came up to the judge. He said, “Judge, I have this order that I’d like you to sign.” The judge said, “Fine, Mr. Armstrong, I’ll sign it,” and he did.
Court resumed in the afternoon. Grandaddy’s case was the first case to be heard. When the judge called the case, my grandfather rose and said, “Your honor, you cannot hear this case today.”
The judge, somewhat perplexed asked, “Why do you say this, Mr. Armstrong?”
Granddaddy then reached into his briefcase, pulled out the document the judge had signed, and said, “Do you remember that order you signed at the break? It was your order resigning from the bench, so since you have resigned from the bench, you can’t try this case.”
Now, back in the day, it was a lot different.
Instead of the judge threatening to report him, finding him in contempt, etc., the judge reached underneath his bench, pulled out a pistol, pointed it at Granddaddy, and said, “You sonofabitch, give me back that order!”
At that point, my grandfather uttered three immortal words which we use in situations today in this office where we have screwed up royally:
“Back she goes!”
A different time and date in this sometimes wacky profession, indeed.