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|Los Angeles County, CA||June 5, 2012 Election|
By Kenneth R. HugheyCandidate for Judge of the Superior Court; County of Los Angeles; Office 78
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The best bench officer I have ever known is my Father. As I was growing up, my father was a country magistrate. His bench was sometimes a 500 gallon kerosene tank welded onto sled-like runners and parked in our yard.Rabbits By Kenneth R. Hughey
The best bench officer I have ever known is my Father. As I was growing up, my father was a country magistrate. His bench was sometimes a 500 gallon kerosene tank welded onto sled-like runners and parked in our yard. He stood there, with his magistrate's book opened on the tank, calling the court to order and conducting trials, sometimes in a hot mid-day sun.
Some of my colleagues refer to me as the ICEMAN, loosely based on the Top Gun movie+the acronym ICE standing for Integrity, Courage, and Experience. I like the idea, but my father was the real epitome of these qualities+I am a mere imitation. He had about a 6th grade education. He left home when he was 16 years old to make his way in the world. By the time he was 21, he owned and operated a portable saw mill.
The modus operandi of saw milling was to set up the saw mill on solid ground on the bank of the Mississippi river, and then to cut timber upstream from the mill, roll the logs into the river and form rafts, and float the rafts downstream and tie them up to the bank near the mill. He used oxen to "snake" the logs to the river and then from their tied up position from the river to the mill. Hard and dangerous work. He wound up in the river more than once, and more than once, he cheated death by a narrow margin. He was tough. He was also very fair, honest to a fault, and considerate of his work force, particularly the animals. Later, long after his saw milling days, I witnessed him firing a field hand and ordering him off our farm for mistreating one of our mules. I also witnessed several elopement weddings conducted under the light of a kerosene lamp in our living room.
The most memorable trial I have ever witnessed in my life involved a game law violation. We lived 25 miles from the nearest town+Dyersburg+in a farm community named Chic. The game warden was the undertaker in Dyersburg, and was probably the wealthiest man in town. He liked to hunt and was a stickler regarding game laws. He showed up in our yard on a hot August day in 1943, driving a 1942 Buick Roadmaster+roughly equivalent to a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud in our neck of the woods. Two young men, our neighbors, were in the car with him. The game warden parked his car near our 500 gallon kerosene tank, got out of the car and approached my father and me. He addressed my father: "Squire Hughey, can you do a trial?" My Dad said that he could, and asked about the subject matter. The game warden explained that he had two defendants in the car with him who had been shooting rabbits out of season, and that the rabbits were in his car. With that, the trial proceeded.
The warden opened the trunk and laid five rabbits in the hot dust near the kerosene tank. My Dad retrieved his books from the house and opened the record book on top of the tank and called the court to order. The game warden presented the defendants and the evidence+five dead rabbits+and explained the case. My dad listened intently and made some notes in his record book. When the game warden finished his case, my Dad asked the defendants a few questions. They admitted that they had killed the rabbits, and the rabbits they killed were those five rabbits laying there in the dust. My dad noted that, in that case, he had no choice but to find them guilty. He then pronounced sentence per the game law: $50.00 fine. The warden was on the verge of exultation, when my Dad popped his book closed and said: "sentence suspended." With that, the warden scooped up the rabbits, threw them into the trunk of his Buick Roadmaster, cranked up and sped out of our yard in a cloud of dust. He apparently never realized, thought about, or cared that these young men lived in different circumstances than he did. They didn't shoot the rabbits for sport. They shot them because their mother did not have meat for her table. There were plenty of rabbits in Chic. These young men, and, of course, my Dad knew more about the practicalities of game conservation than did the game warden.
I was 11 years old when I stood there right beside my Dad at that brief little trial. I can still recall the smell of tobacco and sweat, my father's cologne. I knew at that moment that my Dad had just done something special, but, at that time I couldn't define what it was. Could it have been Justice?
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