The Hanging Judgebywoodmanone©
As usual there are no descriptive sexual scenes in this story.
Please don't crucify me on the legal aspects I use here. I wrote this the way I think things should happen but perhaps, no it's definitely, not true to life. Damn shame but after all it's a fictional story.
Constructive comments, emails, and critiques are welcome and appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my work.
"But Your Honor," the attorney complained. He was representing the husband, John Elliott, in this divorce case
"But nothing counselor," Judge Lowell responded. "Your objection is overruled. Make another objection, present some evidence or sit down."
Bill Simpson looked back at his client, shrugged his shoulders, and sat down.
Mrs. Elliott's attorney, Dennis Johnson, stood. "Your Honor, we would like to submit....."
"Sit down Mr. Johnson. I believe I have the pertinent information." Judge Lowell looked at his notes. "Let's summarize shall we and cut to the chase. Mrs. Elliott has sued for this divorce and Mr. Elliott had filed a counter suit."
He leafed through a few pages on a legal pad. "It seems that Mr. Elliott and one Miss Jane Taylor were involved in a sexual affair. Mrs. Elliott, through her attorney, has submitted photos, video and audio discs as evidence. Miss Taylor also testified that she and Mr. Elliott were, shall we say, an item. Are we all together so far," he asked. The question was more rhetorical than an actual question.
"Yes Your Honor," Mr. Johnson answered.
"It was entrapment Your Honor," Mr. Simpson objected. "My client was out of town at a business conference. He was alone, missing his wife and drank too much. Miss Taylor met my client in the hotel lounge and seduced him." Simpson paused theatrically. "Mr. Elliott admits his fall from grace and has apologized and tried to explain to his wife that it was a onetime indiscretion."
"That is correct Mr. Simpson," Lowell said. The lawyer started to smile and the Judge continued. "That's right as far as it goes. However, this entrapment came after Mr. Elliott told Miss Taylor that he wasn't leaving his wife as he had promised her." He nodded at Mr. Johnson.
Johnson stood and put another large envelope on the bench in front of the Judge. "This additional report from the private investigator was done for a period of five weeks prior to the incident at the business conference," Johnson said. "It will prove that this was an ongoing affair and a single instance as stated by Mr. Elliott."
"So that'll put to rest the charge of entrapment, don't you think?" Lowell asked. He gave Simpson and his client an evil grin. Looking directly at the plaintiff the Judge said, "Mr. Elliott you broke your marriage vows, you broke your marriage contract, and you broke your wife's heart. You will pay sir."
Lowell reached down and picked up the proposed property settlement. "Did you agree to this settlement Mrs. Elliott?"
"Well....I don't have much choice sir."
"Why is that Mrs. Elliott?" Lowell asked. She hesitated, cleared her throat and hesitated some more. "Let me guess Mrs. Elliott. Your husband said that if you didn't agree he would draw this divorce action out forever and you can't afford to pay a year or more of legal fees."
Mrs. Elliott looked at her attorney. He was trying to hide a smile, nodded at her and nudged her to answer.
"Yes Your Honor," Mrs. Elliott replied. 'That's almost word for word what John told me."
"I thought so," Lowell said mostly to himself.
Turning back toward Elliott and Simpson Lowell ordered, "Stand up please gentlemen. I'll give my ruling now. Pay attention Mr. Elliott." He paused for several seconds. "Mr. Elliott you will continue to make the payments on the house that you shared with your wife until such time that she decides to move. When and if she does leave, the house will be sold and the proceeds divided equally or if you want the house you can pay her half the fair market value."
Elliott's face began to turn red and he looked at his attorney. Simpson put his hand on his client's arm and shook his head.
"In addition, you will continue to make the lease payments, pay the insurance, and maintenance on Mrs. Elliott's car; a 2009 Mercedes ML-350 I believe," Judge Lowell ordered. "The lease has three more years to run. At that time Mrs. Elliott will have to make other arrangements for transportation."
Elliott's face deepened in color and he sat back down. Simpson's face turned a little pale but he continued standing.
"Your savings, checking, money market and other investments will be split equally between you and your wife Mr. Elliott. Oh and Mr. Elliott, don't' try to empty those accounts, I froze them this morning." Lowell smiled grimly and added, "We didn't want something to mysteriously happen to those monies now did we?"
Elliott slumped down in his chair. For all appearances he was a broken man.
"Mrs. Elliott I understand from Mr. Elliott's petition that he demanded the return of your engagement ring. He said it belonged to his grandmother; you will have to return the ring to him." Turning back Lowell said, "Last item Mr. Elliott. You will pay alimony of $5000 a month to Mrs. Elliott for a period of ten years or until such time as she remarries. You will also pay the attorney fees for Mrs. Elliott and the court costs. Do you have any questions gentlemen?"
John Elliott stood and looked daggers at the Judge. He was a cocky, arrogant man and no one had ever treated him the way Lowell had. Before he could say anything his attorney whispered in his ear.
"After splitting the assets you'll still have nearly a million dollars," Simpson whispered. "Don't piss this Judge off. He'll take the rest of it from you too."
Elliott looked at his attorney and then at Lowell. He nodded and said sarcastically, "No sir, no questions. I understand."
"Don't take an attitude with me Mr. Elliott," Lowell admonished. "You're the one who broke the vows you made before your family, friends and before God. You are the guilty party here. Mr. Simpson I will expect a signed property settlement as I've outlined on my desk by end of business tomorrow."
Turning to the court reporter he asked, "Betty will you type up the transcript of these proceedings and messenger a copy over to Mr. Simpson's office this afternoon please? Add the cost of the messenger service to the court costs for Mr. Elliott. That's it, we're adjourned."
Johnson and Mrs. Elliott smiled at Judge Lowell. "Thank you sir," Mrs. Elliott said.
"You're welcome Mrs. Elliott. Mr. Johnson let me know if you have a problem getting that property settlement decree."
"All rise," the bailiff ordered as Lowell left the courtroom.
"Jesus Christ," Elliott complained. "Lowell was brutal."
"I told you that we would have a hard time when I saw he was presiding on the case," Simpson replied. "We didn't stand a chance when that report hit his desk. If it had been the one time liked you claimed you still would have taken a hit but not this big. Face it John, you screwed up big time and now you're going to pay for it"
Judge Randal Talbert Lowell entered his chambers. He took off his judicial robe and hung it on a wooden clothes tree. Almost falling down into his chair he ran his hand over his face. Maybe I should resign, he thought. I could go back to being a working attorney or I could teach maybe. There's got to be a better way, he said to himself.
Randal was too young to retire, he was only 52. His once dark hair was streaked with silver in places. The neatly trimmed beard and mustache were salt and pepper in color. At 5' 10 and 175 pounds he actually weighed less than he did when he graduated from college. This was the result of his wife of 28 years putting him on a healthy diet and forcing him to exercise.
The bailiff stepped into the Judge's chambers. "You okay Judge?" He asked with a concerned tone. He'd noticed the sad, tired look on Lowell's face as he left the courtroom.
"Yeah Percy. Just feeling sorry for myself," Lowell answered.
Percy Jacobs was well over 6 ½ feet tall and his body was very large. At first glance he appeared fat but if you bumped up against him you quickly changed your mind. He was as hard as a granite boulder. Everyone called him P J except for Lowell. No one else was close enough or had the nerve to call the big man Percy.
"Mrs. Elliott was sure happy," Percy offered with a big smile trying to cheer the Judge up. "She came in thinkin she was gonna get next to nothin. Instead it was her husband got the shaft and she got the mine. I thought Mr. Elliott was gonna have a heart attack." Percy chuckled and when Lowell grinned back it changed into a full belly laugh.
"What's botherin you Judge? I think you did good today."
"I thought when I became a Arizona State Superior Court Judge* I'd be presiding over felony criminal cases or major lawsuits. Instead all I get are divorce petitions." Lowell sighed and then gave Percy a small smile. "I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to do something worthwhile."
"Judge you do make a difference and I think keeping families together or protecting people is worthwhile," Percy said. "Course I'm just a bailiff but that's what I think."
He looked at Lowell for a few seconds. "I was in the attorney lounge last week and heard two of them talkin. One said that if he saw you were the judge on his case and his client had been cheatin on the marriage he advised them to reconcile with their spouse. He said that a cheatin spouse didn't stand a snow ball's chance in hell if you were the judge."
Percy laughed and asked, "You know what they call you don't you?" Lowell shook his head. "They call you the Hanging Judge," Percy said with a big smile. "They say you hang a cheatin spouse out to dry. They say if you could give jail time to em you'd lock em up and throw away the key."
Lowell had to smile at Percy's statement. "Guess I do come down hard on the cheaters. Well hell, they deserve it. Okay Percy you did your job. I'll be here tomorrow ready to go." He stood and touched Percy's shoulder. "Thanks," he said.
Percy smiled, nodded and left the chambers.
Randal Lowell came by his dislike of wayward spouses honestly. His own son, Robert, had cheated multiple times on his wife, Sandy, until she couldn't take it anymore and filed for divorce. Sandy had moved across the country to live with her parents and took her two children with her.
Lowell and his wife, Mary, had helped raise the kids while Robert worked and Sandy went back to school to finish her degree. Now they seldom saw their grandchildren and only got to talk to them once a month or so. It was a pain in his heart that he couldn't watch them grow up and be part of their lives. Robert left town shortly after Sandy moved. Lowell and his wife hadn't seen their son for close to three years. Randal and Mary had several discussions about how they went wrong raising their son. They never came up with an answer to that question.
"All rise," Percy said in a loud voice. "The honorable Randal T. Lowell presiding." After Lowell sat down behind the bench Percy said, "You may be seated."
Bill Simpson and his client, a Mr. Jerry Williams sat at one table and Thomas Schilling and his client, Mrs. Marci Williams, sat at the other. Lowell listened to the accusations and counter accusations of both parties for several minutes. In his mind Schilling made a tactical error when he put Mrs. Williams on the stand.
"To reiterate Mrs. Williams, you deny that you are having or had a sexual affair of any kind," Schillings asked.
"Yes I do. I love my husband but he's been listening to gossip and rumors spread by people that don't like me," she answered. "They're trying to destroy our marriage because they're jealous of our happiness."
Lowell looked over his notes, the paperwork, and evidence filed by the attorneys. "Excuse me Mr. Schilling," he said. Turning toward Mrs. Williams he asked, "Are you aware of the penalties for perjury Mrs. Williams?"
She looked in confusion at her attorney. "Your Honor, I object to the question sir," Schilling said.
"It's a simple question counselor." Turning back to Mrs. Williams he said, "If you lie under oath to this court you can be punished; even sent to jail. How long depends on how mad I am. Now, do you wish to change any part of your testimony?
"Certainly not," Mrs. Williams replied before her attorney could stop her. "I've told the truth."
"Do you know a Jeremy Stewart Mrs. Williams?" Lowell saw the shocked look on the woman's face. "You may step down Mrs. William," Lowell ordered.
"But Your Honor, I haven't finished my questions," Schilling said.
"Yes you have Mr Schilling. Mr. Simpson call your witness please," Lowell ordered. "Let's get this farce over with."
"The plaintiff calls Mr. Jeremy Stewart to the stand Your Honor."
Mrs. Williams' face turned almost white when the witness made his way to the stand. She quickly started talking in whispers to her attorney.
"I told you not to lie about the affair on the stand," Schilling whispered back. "I tried to warn you about Judge Lowell but you wouldn't listen. Now you'll see what I was talking about."
Jeremy Stewart testified that he and Mrs. Williams had an ongoing affair for six months until a month ago. He said they would get together once a week when Mrs. Williams was supposed to be having a drink with her friends after work. Stewart also said that he had overnight visits at her home when her husband was out of town. He offered some photos he'd taken on a couple of different occasions.
The more Stewart talked the further down in her seat Mrs. Williams sank.
"Do you wish to see the pictures? Should I enter them into evidence?" Simpson asked Schilling and Mrs. Williams. Both shook their heads. "Your witness," Simpson said and sat down with a smile on his face.
Schilling sighed and replied, "No questions Your Honor."
"Jerry it didn't mean anything. I love you. You were gone and I was weak and lonely," Mrs. Williams protested looking across to the table where her husband sat.
"Jesus Christ Marci," Jerry responded. "My trips are just overnight. How lonely can you get in one night?"
"Quiet in my court," Lowell ordered and banged his gavel. "Let's finish this mess up shall we?"
Lowell finally looked up after rifling through his notes again. "I find for the plaintiff and grant a divorce to Mr. Williams on the grounds of Irreconcilable Differences. Personally sir, I would have used adultery as the reason for filing but you're a bigger man than I."
He nodded at Williams. "This property settlement is a joke," Lowell said and ripped the document in half. "Mr. Williams will get the house and furnishings. He's the one that worked and paid for it all anyway. He may decide to live there or sell it. If you sell it you will give 30% of any profit to your ex-wife. You both earn about the same amount so there will be no alimony. Mr. Williams gets the savings, checking, and all investment accounts."
Lowell watched and smiled inside at Mrs. Williams' reaction. "Unfortunately I can't get you out from under everything Mr. Williams. You will pay Mrs. Williams $1000 for each year that you were married; I believe that's $5000. You have six months to make that payment sir."
Turning toward Mrs. Williams Lowell asked, "You remember I asked you about perjury Mrs. Williams? I should sentence you to some time in our county jail." He paused for several seconds. "But I don't want the citizens of this city to have to spend their tax dollars on someone like you. You're free to go. Court's adjourned."
"Mr. Williams, a word please," Lowell said. Williams walked over to the bench. "This suggestion isn't from a judge but from another man. You're upside down in that house. Let it go back to the bank and get out from under it. "Unless of course you want to live there. Just a suggestion son."
"No, I didn't want that monstrosity to begin with," Williams replied. "There was just Marci and me in that six bedroom house. My wife just had to keep up with her friends so we bought it and I've regretted it ever since." Williams smiled, "Now I can get rid of it. Thank you Judge Lowell."
Lowell nodded and as he left the courtroom he heard Schilling say to Mrs. Williams, "I tried to warn you about the Hanging Judge."
Randal must have looked extra pensive or serious or down in the dumps when he got home. His wife greeted him when he joined her in the kitchen with the one drink a day he allowed himself.
"Hi Tally, how was your day?" Mary asked teasing him. "Tally" was a nickname based on his middle name of Talbert which he hated. Mary used it sometimes when he got too serious.
Randal chuckled. He knew what Mary was trying to do and he couldn't help but respond. "Another day, another divorce with a cheating spouse. Doesn't anyone keep their marriage vows anymore?" He smiled and asked, "Do you know what the attorneys call me?"
"The Hanging Judge, isn't it?" Mary asked. At his surprised look she added, "Percy told me the last time I came down to meet you for lunch. He said that most of them dread coming before you."
"Hell of a thing to be known as," Randal said. "Wouldn't mind the nickname if I was working criminal cases."
"Well, have your drink and if you're a good boy you can have a cigar after dinner plus some desert later if you want," Mary said with certain look and kissed him. "Now go wash up, dinners almost ready."
"Julie Thomas vs. James Thomas for dissolution of their marriage. Mr. Thomas has filed a counter suit for divorce. Come forward and be heard," Percy called out.
A young woman and her attorney sat to Lowell's left; a young man and his representative sat to his right. Lowell read some pre trial notes, making the four people wait for him.
"Your Honor, I'm Theodore Stamos representing the plaintive Mrs. Julie Thomas."
"Just a minute young man. I'll let you know when I want you to talk," Lowell responded.
Stamos sat down embarrassed at Lowell's rebuked. The other attorney, Sam Collins, smiled but kept his mouth shut. He'd been before Judge Lowell before. Collins knew not to try any grandstanding or legal shenanigans with this judge.
Finally Lowell looked up. "Counselors just sit there and be quiet. I will talk to and question Mr. and Mrs. Thomas and I don't want you interfering. I should really recuse myself from this case but I'm not going to do so." He saw the puzzled look on the young people's faces.
"That means I should disqualify myself and not preside over your case for personal reasons which might lead to a conflict of interest," Lowell explained. "I know people in both your families and some will say I can't or won't give you an honest ruling. I'm going to ask you both some questions. After I'm done if either of you think I haven't been fair, I'll see that you get another judge to hear your case."
Looking at the two attorneys he added, "That goes for you Mr. Stamos and Mr. Collins. If you think I've overstepped my bounds you may request a different judge. Understood?"
The two attorneys said, "Yes Your Honor."
The Thomas's just nodded.
"Mr. and Mrs. Thomas please step in front of the bench," Lowell requested. The two young people did as he asked. "Now, I'm not going to swear you in," Lowell said. "But please tell the truth. We can't get anywhere if you lie. Okay?"
They both nodded surprised at the informal way their divorce hearing was going.
"May I call you by your given names?" They both nodded. "How old are you?" Lowell asked. He knew from the documents but he was trying to put the young couple at ease.