A Day Off
More than one attorney has told me over the years that one of the good things about being a lawyer is that you can take time off whenever you want. You can control your own time. You know, you can leave early in the afternoon to catch one of your kids’ ball games. You can wander off late in the morning and get a haircut.
Except for being caught in the middle of court obligations, that’s pretty much true. And so you can go to out on a sunny afternoon and join a bunch of guys in ties watching little Johnny trying to take two and hit to right. Or wander into the Okeh Barber Shop at 11:00 am and wait for fifteen minutes while some other barrister gets his ears lowered. No, not bad. My father couldn’t leave his job on a weekday to do either. I can. So there really is something to it.
There are other kinds of days off, though, that have presented themselves recently which are troublesome. Products of the State’s budget crisis, these days off, “furloughs” if you will, are not volitional but imposed from on high. The goal-granted, a worthy one– is to save money for the State’s coffers. While the saving money is ok in principle, the manner in which these days off occurs causes, at least to some, a good bit of concern.
Now I was always taught that in our system of government there are three separate branches-Executive, Legislative and Judicial. And while all three are and must be inter-related, each is and must be independent. And so, when I see our Governor say there should be furloughs for prosecutors who work within the Executive Branch, and I commiserate with my hardworking, often-underpaid and minimally-raised adversaries, I acknowledge, as I must, the power of their employer, the Executive.
But Judges; now that’s another matter. When a “suggestion” comes from the Capitol that Judges should take one or more days as furloughs, I become concerned. When I see the Legislature enact a bill saying the Chief Justice may “order” judges, Constitutional Officers mind you, to take furloughs, my concern grows. And when I see Judges, especially those near time for reappointment, silently accept that “suggestion” I am uneasy. Certainly most judges, given the recent flexing of legislative muscle and the need for funding for the Judicial Department, don’t want to be pilloried by legislators at a confirmation hearing. And if I were a judge with a confirmation hearing on the horizon, I would certainly accept the Governor’s kind “suggestion”. After all, who wants to be eviscerated on C-TV by a freshman representative from East Bozrah and risk losing reappointment after 16 years of diligently trying to solve the legal problems of Connecticut’s litigants?
But, like the little boy in The Emperor’s New Clothes, somebody has to stand tall and say something. Call it for what it is: an intrusion by the Executive and the Legislature into the independence of the Judiciary. Somebody should tell both to stick it in their ears. Judges are and must be independent. If an individual judge, given the economy, believes it is beneficial, to donate one or more day’s pay to the Judicial Department or to Legal Aid or to some other worthwhile entity, he or she should feel free to do so. Voluntarily. But, Land o’Goshen, call that for what it is: a voluntary choice by an independent judicial officer.
Well, I got that off my chest. And, oh, by the way, if this applies, I don’t know about hair salons, but most barber shops are closed on Mondays or Wednesdays. And kids’ afternoon sporting events usually start at about 3:00 pm.