Thursday, October 15, 2009
Attorneys’ Dirty Trick Blocks Hatch From Hearing Motion
BY DAVID PATTERSON HATCH
As transcribed by Roger M. Grace
(The writer died in 1912. Through psychic means—entailing “automatic writing”—he authored three books subsequent to his death, and is now providing his reminiscences by similar means.)
When those who have been admitted to the bar, supposed servants of the law, engage in subterfuge, causing court proceedings to veer from the course they would otherwise have taken, they commit an act of perfidy and thus defile their oaths as attorneys at law.
This proposition is set forth because to this day, 123 years after I presided over the action by Miss Louise Perkins against Elias “Lucky” Baldwin for the breach of a promise to marry her, I take offense at the execrable conduct on the part of attorneys for Mr. Baldwin in causing me, through trickery, indeed fraudulence, to be barred from ruling on the defendant’s motion for a new trial.
I had presided over the 1886 trial in Los Angeles County albeit my post was that of a judge of the Superior Court of the County of Santa Barbara. The Superior Court of this county was comprised of two members, the Honorable Anson Brunson and the Honorable William A. Cheney, neither of whom desired to preside in the case, and request was made of me by Judge Brunson to do so. The fact of such a request was reported in the newspapers and was a matter of common knowledge.
Surely it could not have been be supposed by any reasonable man that I came to the courthouse of this county as an intruder; took a place, trespassorily, on the bench in Department Two, where Judge Cheney normally presided; and called a case on Judge Cheney’s docket—with the two judges, court personnel, and attorneys for parties simply acquiescing in my bold usurpation of powers. Yet, this fantastic scenario is, in essence, what the duplicitous lawyers for Mr. Baldwin sought to portray to the California Supreme Court.
Here is the sequence of events:
June 19: I announced from the bench, in Santa Barbara, that I had submitted to the Honorable George Stoneman Jr., governor of the State of California, my resignation from office, to take place July 1. I had decided to make permanent the residency in Los Angeles of myself and my wife, and to engage in the practice of law in partnership with Julius Brousseau. (That gentleman had served as city attorney of Saginaw, Mich., then of Kankakee, Ill., and had been the the first treasurer of the Los Angeles Bar Association.)
June 24: Judge Cheney and I both occupied the bench at 1:30 p.m., the time set for the hearing of a motion for a new trial. The defendant was most upset by the jury’s award of $75,000 to the plaintiff, and wished, by a motion for a new trial, to have the verdict nullified. But the objective of the defendants’ attorneys that day was not to secure a favorabvle ruling on the motion, but to obtain delay. They asked that the order setting the hearing for that date be vacated, and I denied the motion. The defense then prevailed upon me to continue the hearing, its motion being supported by an affidavit sworn to by Mr. Baldwin’s attorneys, Messrs. James G. Howard, Walter Van Dyke, and Bradner W. Lee. I obliged by continuing the matter to 9 o’clock a.m. on June 28. A short time after alighting from the bench, it became clear why the defendant’s attorneys were intent upon my not acting on the motion. They were hopeful that prior to my ruling on it—and they obviously anticipated I would deny it—the Supreme Court would intercede. Indeed, it did. Later that afternoon, I was handed a telegram announcing that the court had ordered me to show cause on Aug. 2 why a writ of prohibition should not be granted precluding me from rendering further rulings in the case. By Aug, 2, the issue would be moot; as aforestated, my resignation was set to take place July 1. A writ had been sought by the defense lawyers on the spurious ground that I had not been asked to preside over the case either by Judge Brunson or Judge Cheney.
June 30: Efforts were afoot in San Francisco by Miss Perkins’ lead counsel, Mr. Stephen M. White, to gain a dismissal of the writ petition. A hearing on the motion for a new trial was scheduled in Department Two of the Superior Court for Los Angeles County for 9:00 o’clock a.m. on June 30, the last day before I would be drained of judicial powers. I had business to attend to in Santa Barbara on June 29, and rode all night by carriage so that I might attend to the motion in Los Angeles, should the Supreme Court permit. No word had been received from San Francisco that morning. At 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon, I took the bench and announced that the motion would not be heard by me; Mr. White’s efforts had failed, as stated by him in a telegram. Judge Cheney then set the motion for hearing on July 12.
A shameless scheme had succeeded.
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