This is not an April Fool’s joke. Although it is about a fool and I am writing about it in April.
I spend a lot of time in courtrooms and I see people doing a lot of foolish things. Here is one example of something I saw last week:
A woman was before a judge. Apparently, as part of her sentence she was ordered to perform a certain amount of community service, and she was to return to court with a letter from a non-profit organization documenting her service. This woman did not speak English, and there was a court interpreter translating for her.
The judge began to read the letter that this woman provided. This is what the judge read into the record, more or less, but not verbatim:
“Our church made multiple arrangements for Ms. ______ to perform her community service. We tried to accommodate her schedule, and arranged to have people here, during busy times, to supervise her and help her with her work. Instead, she failed to appear multiple times. She didn’t even have the common decency to call us in advance, which is the minimum I would expect. We have allowed other people to perform community service here at our church in the past, and we have not had any problems like we did with Ms. _____. We will be glad to accept community service from other people in the future, but not Ms. ______.”
The woman, through the interpreter, continued to insist that she performed her community service, and that the letter proved it. The exasperated judge replied that “you obviously cannot read English, and truly need the interpreter, because if you could read English, you would know what the priest wrote in his letter.” The judge passed the case and ordered this woman to contact her attorney. I did not hang around to see what happened when the case was re-called.
Are there any lessons that we can take from this? Of course there are:
1. If you are ordered to perform community service, then do it. It was given to you instead of jail. If you don’t complete it, you are forcing the judge’s hand.
2. Religious institutions and non-profits are doing you a favor by allowing you to perform community service at their facility. Treat them with respect.
3. Realize that the world does not revolve around you, so that if you can’t make it on a date when you were scheduled to perform community service, call ahead and make alternate plans.
4. Don’t lie to the judge. Don’t even try.
5. Don’t present documents in court without knowing what is written on them.