The judge entered the courtroom from a door behind his bench, and took his time over sitting down. At one point, the Clerk of the Court looked as though they were about to jump up and help the judge, but then the judge seemed to untangle his robes from something under the desk, and managed to sit down. He sighed a little, and then open a manila folder on the desk in front of him. He peered at it, his glasses now clearly seen to be bifocals, and then he peered at the courtroom before him. The lawyer for the prosecution, a young man in a charcoal grey suit with a nervous tic in his left eyelid looked about to say something, but then held his tongue. The judge frowned.
“There is such a thing as a frivolous case,” he began, his voice stentorian. “And I wonder if this case is not, in some regard, frivolous.” The lawyer for the prosecution looked astonished, and then started to smile, just a little tugging upwards of the corner of his mouth. “I feel that there was no need for this case to ever to come to court,” continued the judge. He turned a page of the notes over, and cast his eye down the new page. “This seems like a very clear-cut decision to make.”
The lawyer for the prosecution closed up the notes he had in front of him and openly smirked now.
“However,” said the judge, his gaze transfixing the cocky lawyer all of a sudden, “we are here and we shall try this case. However silly it may seem.”
The lawyer subsided in his chair, slumping down, and re-opening his notes.
“So,” said the judge. “According to the notes I have here, the claimant is one Mrs. Heather Edgewick, mother of a young child. Is she here today?”
A hand was raised, confidently. It belonged to a youngish woman, possibly in her mid-to-late thirties, who was wearing a houndstooth-check coat over a ruffled-collar blouse and a string of pearls. She looked like she’d walked off the set of a period drama for the 1950s.
“And the defendant is Mr. Damon Loyola, owner of a… chihuahua. Is Mr. Loyola here?”
Another hand raised, this time with deference. The man, scarcely younger than the woman, but noticeably paler and more timid, was wearing a suit with holes at the elbows and a shirt that appeared to have faded with washing.
“And the chihuahua?” The man lifted the dog up from his lap so that judge could see her. She peered at the judge and then lost interest in him.
“And the claim is…,” said the judge, checking his notes. The brash young lawyer stood up.
“If I may, your Honour,” he said, “the claim is simply that this man allowed his dog to attack a child. The child required treatment for actual bodily harm, and later for delayed trauma. The dog should be destroyed.”
The judge looked up, and looked at the lawyer in silence until he sat down again.
“According to the documents submitted by both sides,” he said, “the case is not quite as you have made out. According to the evidence provided on CD by the traffic camera departments, the case is not at all as you have laid out. In fact, your statements, which I have here in front of me, are so far from the truth, as shown by objective observers, that I would describe them as mendacious.”
The lawyer blanched and started to stutter a response.
“Quiet,” said the judge. “Quite simply, the camera evidence, as I believe you are all aware, shows that this man was walking his dog outside his own house, on his own lawn. This woman came along and encouraged her child to approach the dog, despite the man asking her not to, repeatedly. The man then attempted to go to his dog to pick her up, but the woman interfered, claiming that the girl, and I quote from your statements here, should be allowed to play with the little dog. It is at this point that the dog bites the girl, quite clearly in self-defence. The girl nonetheless pulls the dogs tail and ears.”
“She’s allowed to play with doggies! That one’s a menace to society. It should be shot!” Mrs. Heather Edgewick was determined to have her side of the argument played out in the courtroom. The judge gestured to the policeman at the side of the room.
“Another outburst like that and I shall hold you in contempt of court,” he said. “Do you understand?”
“It means that you will taken away by this gentleman here, and you will be given a short, but meaningful, prison sentence.”
Heather fell silent.
“Your child approached a dog, despite being asked not to, and you prevented the dog’s owner from protecting his dog from your child. Your child caused harm to the dog, and yet you sit here before me, and tell me that the dog is dangerous. This is palpably untrue, and ridiculous.”
Heather turned purple with indignation, but kept her mouth shut. At the front of the room her lawyer had a woebegone expression; he could already tell that the case was lost.
“I have decided however, that an example should be set,” said the judge. Heather brightened up instantly, while her lawyer cringed.
“Your child shall be destroyed, as it is clearly a menace to society,” said the judge. There was a sharp intake of breath all around the room. “And you shall pay for the dog’s psychological counselling, as she had undoubtedly been traumatised by your behaviour.”
“You can’t do that!” screamed Heather.
“By the time you can get your protest through the courts and judicial system,” said the judge, “your child will have been destroyed. So I rather think I can.”