You should never call a woman a bitch.
Particularly if she’s wearing a long black robe and has the power to throw you in jail for anything deemed to be contempt of court. Her Court, that is.
Worse yet, however, is not to be truthful with the tribunal. I learned this the hard way. Call it a lesson from the School of Hard Knocks.
I had been assigned to the courtroom of the Honorable Genece E. Brinkley for about a month when I found myself defending a defendant on her probation. During the violation hearing, the probation officer told the judge my client had not paid any money towards his restitution and failed to come to the probation office as required.
I cross-examined the officer, an attractive African-American woman, and got placed onto the record the facts that the defendant had recently gotten a job in a county outside of Philadelphia and that he took public transportation to the workplace each day. He had not completed his 90 day probationary period with the job, and felt he couldn’t take time off to see his probation officer in person.
In addition, the court officer had to admit that the defendant had made payments to the court system, but that all moneys initially went toward court costs and not to restitution.That could be hundreds of dollars, in some cases
The judge wanted to revoke his bail and send him back to jail, but she relented, placing him on house arrest with permission to go to work from his residence.
“You gotta be truthful when you’re dealing with a goddam bitch like this judge” I scolded the probation officer when we had left the courtroom and stood in the crowded hallway of Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center. I told her that she should have told the judge the good things my client had done along with what she considered to be the bad.
The next thing I knew, I was being called into the judge’s chambers about a half hour later. The judge had her law clerk contact my office and I learned one of my supervisor’s was enroute to see the judge. Along with me.
“I heard you called me a bitch” Judge Brinkley said looking me dead in the eyes as we convened in the jurist’s “robing room.”
I blinked once or twice, looking at the probation officer who I later learned had sought out the judge and told her about my discussion outside of court. The probation officer had been sitting next to a prosecutor who I never got along with, one I never could trust, if you know what I mean.
“No your honor,” I said, looking the judge in the eyes.” I called you a‘godam’ bitch.”
My supervisor- Rich DiMaio, who was chief of the Defender Associatiion of Philadelphia jury trial division – nearly fell out of his chair saying nothing as he continually shook his head in what looked like a total denial.
“I think you are sexist, Mr. Contos. If I were a male judge, you never would have used that term,” Judge Brinkley said, her eyes once again never leaving mine as if she could see into my very soul.
“You’re right, you honor,” I addressed her with her title once again.
“If you were a male judge,” I said, once again using her honorific title. “I’d probably call you a prick!”
I don’t know for sure, but I believe a slight smile crossed the judge’s face at that moment. She said nothing for several long moments as I awaited my fate. Finally, she dismissed me and nothing else was said, as she discharged the assistant district attorney – another woman — and the probation officer.
Nothing ever came of that incident except for a great little war story I can tell about honesty always being the best policy. Even if you’re threatened with contempt of court and a possible fine or imprisonment.