Summertime always brings unexpected events: relatives arrive without warning; you finally beat your brother-in-law at golf; and you can lose your childcare and your backup childcare.
The last unexpected event happened to my wife and I back in the middle of August. Our son, Wallace, ended up having a great, and unique, experience.
Our childcare provider unexpectedly took a week off in the middle of August. My wife and I were able to find alternative activities and supervision for Wallace except for Thursday. My job as an attorney had me in court everyday but Thursday. I then decided to take a vacation day for this one day and planned to do to some "guy stuff" with Wallace.
Wallace Rankin, 7, is pictured with the Hon. Stephen Cass.
The best laid plan went awry in a great way. The Tuesday before, I was in court and not concluding a trial. The presiding judge, Hon. Stephen Cass, directed me and the other attorney to appear on Thursday morning to wrap up the trial. The issue at hand was the value of a pile of wood. I told the judge that I could not attend court on Thursday due to a childcare issue.
"You mean, Wallace?" the judge said. I replied, "Yes." Judge Cass then said, "Bring him along with you. He can sit at the attorney table as your co-counsel. In fact, bring your camera, and I will take pictures."
I answered in the only way possible: "Umm, OK, your honor."
"Great. I will see everyone on Thursday at 9:30 a.m."
I went out to the parking lot and immediately called my wife, Elisabeth. Apparently, all I could say was, "The judge ordered Wallace to appear in court."
Elisabeth sagely said, "What did you do now?"
I calmed down enough to explain the situation, and we both agreed this could be a great experience for our 7-year-old son.
Thursday morning arrived, and we were all up early. Elisabeth made sure Wallace ate breakfast before getting dressed. We, therefore, avoided the dreaded oatmeal-on-shirt incident. Wallace picked out his best looking "handsome clothes," including a bow tie. I gave Wallace a brown folder that matched mine, and Elisabeth helped Wallace pack a pad of paper, pens, and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" (what every 7-year-old attorney needs). I slid in our tablet computer, which ended up saving the day.
We arrived at court in Mayville, and Wallace made friends with all of the security officers. One security officer gave Wallace a tour of Judge Cass's courtroom, including the secret hallway that only the judge can use. Wallace then joined me at the attorney table, and he set up his pad and books just like a junior attorney.
The official proceeding ended up being delayed for about an hour. Judge Cass came out and introduced himself to Wallace. Wallace then got to sit in the judge's chair and play with his computer. Apparently, the state's computer network will not allow people to buy lightsabers. Wallace managed to overcome this disappointment.
Judge Cass then took Wallace on a personal tour of the other courtrooms in Mayville. I will never forget the pure joy on Wallace's face as Judge Cass escorted him around the building. Wallace had the time of his life. I think his favorite time was sitting in the witness box and testing out the sound system. We all learned how loud a 7-year-old boy can be with an open microphone.
Eventually the trial resumed. Judge Cass stated on the record that Wallace Rankin was my co-counsel. I amended the record to note Wallace's age should any other person ever read that transcript. We were done in about an hour. Wallace, to my huge surprise, was a champ and did not cause any problems during the trial. However, we did take a two-minute potty break for my co-counsel.
Wallace spent most of the hour playing games on our tablet computer. A couple of times, he asked to download a Harry Potter movie. I gently declined, and Wallace went back to his games. The other people in the courtroom had to work hard not to laugh. I can honestly say that I have never tried to ask questions to a witness while debating with my son the merits of Harry Potter.
We finished by lunchtime. Wallace then enjoyed a celebratory cheeseburger Happy Meal. We both knew that we had enjoyed a special morning that came about from a spur of the moment idea by Judge Cass. Life certainly is an adventure.