As a criminal trial court judge, I get several letters a week and sometimes several a day from folks who have a lot of “not free” time on their hands.
Most of these writings want to re-argue their brilliant trial strategy (“The surveillance video lied, the police lied, the eye witnesses lied and my confession…it was a lie”) or claim that their legal counsel was ineffective (My scum-bucket lawyer was sleeping with the prosecutor and was on crack during the trial). A few express appreciation for the role I played in the drama that led to their incarceration. (“Dear Judge, I have filed a complaint with the Judicial Conduct Commission. You are a moron”). Almost all claim that they recently re-found Jesus or experienced a non-religious epiphany and now realize for the first time that drug dealing or stealing or beating people up is a bad thing.
I simply do not have time to individually respond to these heartfelt epistles so I have prepared a form response containing a checklist of the most often called-for responses. Subject to later edit, I plan to henceforth employ this form in the name of judicial economy:
Dear (Fill in name:___):
Thank you for your (Circle one: 7,8,9,10 or fill in number __) page letter.
(Pick one or more if applicable) 1___No, I will not recover your 5 1/2 pound stash of “medical-use” marijuana from the evidence locker and preserve it for you in my humidor;
2___I lost jurisdiction to do anything about your case in 2005, after the completion of your seven appeals;
3___I’ve checked with my accountant and I do not presently have the 10 billion dollars necessary to settle your legal claim for “dumb-ass judging”;
4___Despite your conversion to Scientology and membership in the Tom Cruise fan club, I will not let you out to speak to children’s groups on the subject of universal peace;
5___Yes, I am part of a world conspiracy to suppress the expression of your political views and promised the United Nations to keep you in jail…So?;
6___Go ahead. “Curse my loins”. I am not sure I even have loins;
7___The fact that you got an “A” in prison classes teaching chemistry and marketing gives me no incentive to let a drug dealer back on the streets;
8___I cannot let you out to attend your mother’s funeral. There is a limit of three “furlough-for-mother’s-funeral” excuses and yours are used up;
9___I am sorry that (mark out any that do not apply): prison whites make you look fat/your cell mate stole your toothpaste/the authorities refuse to show “Escape from Alcatraz” on movie night/the penitentiary’s Zumba instructor is not very good. I’ve already forwarded your earlier complaints about such matters to the warden;
10__I feel much better knowing that you are praying for me, think I am really smart and a really good judge and would vote for me if you were in the free world. FYI, blowing smoke up my skirt will not get you a reduction in your sentence;
11 ___You are one scary dude and I wouldn’t get you out of the penitentiary even if I thought you would honor your promise to “lend me your wife” (but thanks for the pictures).
I realize that this form will not address all the response-worthy missives I receive. A few days ago, I received a hand-written scrawl from Stephen S. (doing ten years on a Robbery conviction) which read as follows: “Dear Judge: This is not the place for me. I got blue ball. I need to go home.” After striking out using medical dictionaries, I Googled the phrase and discovered that “blue ball” refers to a condition caused by…a lack of conjugal relations. I responded to Stephen S. as follows: “Dear Sir: Half the married men in America are likewise afflicted.*Try again.”
My momma always told me to be nice to people, always write someone back when they write to you and stop scratching there in public. I’m doing pretty well with two of those. I think using this form response letter will help with the other.
*Not me, of course