Old Lady In Tennis Shoes Is a Winner?
Bonnie McGuire
Probably the most obvious incidence of Judicial prejudice towards those involved in the timber industry happened in Auburn. Mel was hauling a load of logs when a police officer made him pull over. As he wrote a citation he informed Mel that it was illegal for him to be hauling logs on that highway. While he waited, a large gravel  truck stopped at the intersection and then continued on its way. The officer looked up, but didn't say anything. Evidently the ban was on logging trucks. This bothered us, and we both had a hunch something was wrong. Eventually we received a notice that Mel's hearing would be conducted in Loomis. I wrote the court, and later we received notice it would be in Auburn. Meanwhile, I decided to go look over the site in Auburn. There weren't any signs prohibiting trucks on the highway. However, a sign warned trucks about their pin settings. Then I checked the highway signs from the Forest Hill, old Auburn highway direction, and noticed that the sign directed truck traffic through town instead of the actual truck route.
Next I went to the police station at City Hall. They directed me to the Public Works Dept. across the parking lot. The young woman director was very nice, and mentioned that her father had been a trucker. I explained my visit, and asked her why there weren't any signs banning truck traffic. She replied that the State wouldn't allow it. I secretly knew this was because all trucks pay an extra Use tax to use the state highways, and therefore it would be illegal to ban them. I asked her if she'd testify in Court. She said she couldn't because she worked closely with the Police Chief, but I could tell what she told me. (The Judge would have told me it was hearsay.) Before leaving I informed her that the sign on the other side of town directed truck traffic through town.
Mel's court date arrived, and I went instead, so that he wouldn't loose any time on the job. The Auburn Justice Court was located in the DeWitt Center. Upon entering the building, I checked the Court Agenda and couldn't find our case listed. I went to the clerk's window to inquire. She couldn't find anything, so I asked her to sign the court's notice that I had appeared. We didn't need a Warrant for failure to appear. This motivated her to place our case in a specific court room. The Judge was very nice to all the defendants (drunk drivers etc.). When our case finally came up his demeanor changed. His face flushed and he seemed angry as he read the offense and set the bail at $200. He was interrupted by a surprised court attorney who said, "But Your Honor, it's only a misdemeanor." He ignored her and asked how I pled. Of course the answer was "not guilty."
Later, I mentioned his behavior to our family attorney. She laughed and commented that he probably needed a Snicker's candy bar, well known to make him happier. She also commented that the offense was more like an infraction, but evidently Mel hadn't broken the law....The policeman and Court broke the law.
Anticipating our Court appearance and armed with my camera, I went to Auburn again to take pictures to use for evidence. My funny mental image was that of the preverbal old lady in tennis shoes making her intent obvious to our adversaries. I laughed when I saw the sign directing truck traffic downtown had been moved, and now sent the trucks the right way. Needless to say, we waited for notification of our court trial. None came, so our attorney called to see when it would be. She was told that our case had been dropped.
To this day I chuckle about the whole thing. I wonder how many unwary truckers have paid illegal fines. The experience was another example that we should never take things for granted.
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