Cover image for Legal fiction
Legal fiction
Huffman, Bob.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley, Calif. : Creative Arts Book Co., [1999]

Physical Description:
114 pages ; 23 cm
Dismissed, with prejudice -- Contrary to the manifest tenor -- Acceptance of responsibility -- Some due process -- Zealous representation -- Bench trial -- Mutuality of interests -- Maintaining integrity -- Fair and impartial -- Initial consultation -- Arraignment -- Synthesis of community standard -- Judicial economy -- Yielding to science.
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"Legal Fiction" is a collection of short stories that expose the inner workings of the legal system-not a very pretty picture. These vignettes are narrated from various points of view, from judges, juries, cops, prosecutors, and defenders to defendants, some of whom are lawyers themselves. Hypocrisy, cynicism, and corruption are recurring themes in tales such as the lawyer fighting a DUI charge, jury members caving in to pressure, lawyers behind-the-scenes bargaining over clients' fates, the alcoholic judge deciding between justice and furthering his career, and the lawyer accused of faking evidence. A highlight is the futuristic story of a man on a spaceship tried for drug possession. Huffman's tales are carefully crafted with believable characters and subtle irony.

Author Notes

Bob Huffman, an attorney, lives with his wife and two daughters in Ohio.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

The way that this potent debut collection tears at the pompous facade that surrounds lawyers and the legal system would be humorous if it weren't so disturbing. In quick, sharp strokesÄthe 14 stories each run about five to eight pages longÄOhio attorney Huffman details, through spare, unflinching prose, how humans appointed as lawyers, judges and juries manifest the law, all too often with patent self-interest, absentmindedness and prejudice. Tales peek behind the scenes of the legal system to expose judges whose political status corrupts their rulings; lawyers who overcharge clients for dead-end 10-minute consultations, and who don't know the evidence of a case before entering the courtroom; jurors who vote with the majority just because they have to get home for dinner; and innocent victims who are abused by a system that doesn't recognize gray areas in the law. The power of these vignettes hinges on the author's precision in choosing which link in the legal chain of events to highlight in each story. In "Some Due Process," a lawyer speaks for a boy accused of violating vaguely worded rules banning "public displays of affection" on school campuses. Amid the legalese, it becomes clear why the boy was targeted and punished for kissing another 17-year-old in public. The use of multiple points of view often create realistic tension and texture in each story, as in the polyvocal eight-person jury in "Fair and Impartial." Some stories are written exclusively in courtroom dialogue, others as police reports; all make piercing, unsettling observations about the American system of justice. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Dismissed, with Prejudice "The girl will resist every sexual advance, even after the professor pressures six Moosehead into her stomach." She pauses to consider how weird she always feels talking into a machine.     That's when she notices the red and blue lights spinning in opposite directions. She has no idea how long he's been trying to stop her. She can't remember hearing the siren. She pulls twenty-five feet down the next farm lane. She checks each eye in the rearview mirror. A glance between the legs makes her blush at the sight of her exposed ego.     Click.     She opens the window. "Hello, Officer. Did I do something wrong?"     "First, state your name," says the officer. His black uniform is sharply creased, and his gray cowboy hat has a gold star.     "Joan Mitchell," she responds.     "You were exceeding the posted speed limit," he says. "I need to see your license, registration, and proof of insurance."     She quickly grabs the second and third request from the glove box and then fumbles through a purse for the license. "I know it's here," she says just as it comes into view between a Carefree pad and a pack of Marlboro Lights. She hands the officer the license with the left hand while putting the transcriber in the purse with the right.     "I'll process the paperwork and return in a moment," says the officer.     "Sir, how fast was I going?"     "Sixty in a fifty-five."     "Can I see your radar gun? I think my cruise control is set at fifty-six."     "You have no right to see the radar screen. Besides, I determined your speed by the pacing method."     "That means you followed behind me and guessed?" she asks.     "It is a method of determining speed that is accepted in every court in this state." He snarls the last five words through clenched teeth. She pulls back to avoid a dot of flying spittle. "What is your destination, young lady?"     "Right now, I'm on the way to my aunt's house."     The officer walks back to the cruiser. She swallows down a thumping heart and looks into the rearview mirror while keeping her face forward. She contemplates the integrity of her adversary. It seems pointless, but she does it anyway. Click. She sees the officer heading back toward her car within sixty seconds.     "The computer is down," he says. "It will be just a few minutes before the dispatcher can clear your license and registration."     "Okay," she says without looking at the officer.     "That's a nice stereo and television in the back seat," he says.     She releases a steamy sigh through flared nostrils. She makes eye contact. The bulging triceps and the absence of any protruding belly do not escape her examining eyes. She even thinks he's cute and imagines for an instant some B-movie erotic encounter. The idea makes one corner of her mouth turn upward.     "I'm on my way to college," she says. "It's for my apartment."     "You previously stated that you are on the way to a relative's house," he says with a return to the authoritative tone.     "My aunt lives in Oxford," she says while sitting up straight. "I'm staying at her house tonight, and my uncle is helping me move in tomorrow."     "Do you have receipts for this electronic equipment?"     "No," she says while trying to force reverence into her voice. Every hair follicle on her scalp is electrified with anxiety. "My brother gave it to me when he graduated. It's at least five years old."     "Are you transporting any drugs, large sums of money, or guns?" he asks blandly, as if the phrase had already rolled off his tongue five times that day.     "No, sir," says Joan. She spreads both hands on her thighs to dry the sweat.     "I'd like to search your vehicle, with your consent," he says.     Her brain spins in neutral, searching without luck for the right words. "Do I have to let you?" she asks. "What have I done?"     "I have probable cause of criminal activity," he says while looking over her head. "If you do not consent, I could have your car towed into town, then a judge might issue a warrant in the morning."     "So no matter what happens, you get to search my car? What's the choice? Go ahead, I guess."     He escorts her behind the cruiser. He talks into the radio clipped to his shoulder. Within ten minutes, another cruiser arrives with a black Labrador slobbering against the back-seat window. The salty tears and snot mix on her upper lip. The vision of her mother screaming increases the sobbing. Her arms are crossed, and a warm drizzle moistens her clothes. She paces in place until mud is caked on both shoes.     Within several minutes, her suitcases are opened, and underwear and bras litter the light blue Dodge Neon. Muddy paw prints soil the seats. The dog eventually finds the three grams of marijuana stored in the empty birth control pill container.     The deputy walks over and shows Joan the dope. "I assume this belongs to you since it was next to your underclothes, in your suitcase, and in your car."     She nods without raising her head.     "I have no probable cause for a DUI," continues the officer. "I'm even going to give you a break and not ask for a urine sample. But I do have to cite you for possession." It is obvious to Joan that he relishes his vocation. She's cuffed and sees the yellow lights of the tow truck arrive just as the cruiser pulls out of the ditch en route to the station.     After giving her a citation and a court date, the officer allows her to post bond with a Visa card. It takes all her cash to get the car out of the storage lot. She arrives at her aunt's house at midnight and quietly goes to bed after a piece of peach pie without sharing the nightmare.     She's less freaked out the next morning when Uncle Frank helps with the move to the apartment. The two roommates are already zoned to the stereo when Joan arrives. Uncle Frank gives her two twenties and a kiss before leaving. Then Joan laughs and cries the story to Cheryl and Carla. Both agree she needs a lawyer.     Monday morning before class she searches the Yellow Pages for just the right representation. She schedules an appointment with the first lawyer who will talk with her. She is surprised it takes only six calls.     The lawyer agrees to see her that afternoon if she can bring five hundred dollars. She borrows the money from her friends and goes to hear what the lawyer will guarantee for all that cash. She tells the story, without deviation, as the attorney takes notes and asks questions. When she finishes, he puts down the pen and asks if she brought the money. After giving her a receipt, he is ready to part with an opinion.     "Let me start off by saying that you're charged with a first-degree misdemeanor," begins the lawyer. "It carries a maximum six months in the county jail and a thousand-dollar fine. For a first offender, neither are likely."     "Do you have any good news?" she asks.     "It does sound like you may have some Fourth Amendment issues. The officer did not have probable cause to search your vehicle, and your consent to search the vehicle was not voluntary. I may even try to suppress that nod. It's close on the interrogation issue, but you were clearly in custody."     "I'm not sure what you mean," she says.     "It doesn't matter," he says. "I'll file the appropriate motion and mail you a copy. I'll answer your questions after you've had a chance to read the argument."     "What happens if we win the motion?"     "If we win, the case gets dismissed," he says. "But don't get too excited. I'm sure the officer will have a slightly different version of the facts."     "What happens next?"     "I'll file my appearance. You won't have to attend the first court date. I'll also make arrangements to have your bond returned. I'll file the motion challenging the search and the validity of your consent and maybe your admission. The court will schedule a hearing, and I'll notify you by letter when you have to appear in court. Do you have any other questions?"     "I had a million before I got here," she says. "Now I can't think of one."     "That's usually the way it works," he says. "Try writing them down."     A handshake, a squeeze of the shoulder, and she is out the door. She looks at the clock in the Neon. She was in the office only twenty minutes, and he was five minutes late.     Within a week, she receives a letter from the lawyer. He encloses copies of the court papers. She only reads the first page. The letter says to be at the courthouse in two weeks for a hearing. She'll use it as an excuse to miss zoology lab.     She calls the lawyer four times the morning of the hearing. He never calls back. She arrives thirty minutes early for court. Her lawyer walks by three times without saying a word. He nods each time with a closed-lip smile. She knows he doesn't recognize his own client. A few minutes later, a bailiff calls her name. She waves a hand, and the bailiff returns to the office without saying a word. Her lawyer walks out the same door within a few seconds.     "I've just read the police reports," he says without the courtesy of a greeting. "The arresting officer is here to testify. He will claim that he had probable cause to search your vehicle and that you consented to the search."     "I didn't do anything wrong," she says. "And he made it sound like he could search the car even if I didn't consent. I only agreed because I didn't want to have the car towed and wait all night for a judge to show up in the morning."     "Don't expect the testimony from the officer to agree with that position," says the lawyer.     "What will he say?"     "The report states that you were nervous prior to the search, showed lack of coordination while looking for your license, and gave inconsistent answers about your destination. He doesn't remember saying anything about towing your car and getting a warrant."     "But that's a lie," she says in a loud whisper. "I want to testify."     "That's your right," says the lawyer. "But it probably won't do much good."     "Why not?" she asks while trying to remain cordial. She didn't pay for this much indifference.     "Judges are under tremendous pressure not to dismiss cases on technicalities. That principle is particularly true as it applies to drug cases."     "Technicality?" she says rhetorically. "A police officer lying is no technicality in my mind."     "Well, it's a technicality in the minds of most judges. In fact, it's high on the list. A judge doesn't win many votes by taking the word of a drug user rather than believing a police officer. No offense."     "That sucks. No offense." She suddenly doesn't care about being rude.     "I agree," he says. "But my opinion does little to alter the reality of your circumstances."     "Too bad that hearsay rule doesn't let me play the tape," she moans.     "What tape?" asks the lawyer.     "This tape," she says while taking the transcriber out of her purse. "I was dictating a short story when he pulled me over. It's silly. I don't have any talent, but it helps kill the day. I turned the transcriber back on when he went to the cruiser to run my license. It's all on the tape. Even that part about towing my car and getting a warrant."     "Why didn't you tell me about this evidence?" asks her attorney.     "You never asked."     The lawyer and his client listen to the tape. He grins with each passing sentence. He comments on the clarity of the tape. He takes the evidence back into the judge's chamber. Within five minutes, he comes back with the court file in hand. Without saying a word, he points to the blank on the file jacket marked "Disposition." She needs no explanation. She can even decipher the judge's handwriting.     She smiles and begins to walk down the steps. She wonders if he will refund any money. She reasons that she did the best work. She stops to write down the exact phrase. She wants to get it right when she crows to her friends. She can't find any paper in her purse. She takes a green pen and writes on the palm of her hand: "Dismissed, with prejudice." Copyright © 1999 Bob Huffman, Jr.. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Dismissed, With Prejudicep. 1
Contrary to the Manifest Tenorp. 9
Acceptance of Responsibilityp. 17
Some Due Processp. 26
Zealous Representationp. 32
Bench Trialp. 40
Mutuality of Interestsp. 47
Maintaining Integrityp. 53
Fair and Impartialp. 60
Initial Consultationp. 68
Arraignmentp. 75
Synthesis of Community Standardp. 88
Judicial Economyp. 96
Yielding to Sciencep. 101