Capital attorneys tie one on…

Due to burgeoning caseloads, a seemingly endless series of controversial rulings and a sue-now, ask-questions- later attitude on the part of some legal practitioners, California courts have had their share of difficulties over the past decade or so.

Nothing in my experience, however, prepared me for what I was to encounter in Sacramento Superior Court in recent months.

The problem has to do with, er, neckwear…Perhaps I should explain.

(Sure, why not?)

During the past 35 years, I’ve reported on court cases throughout the Bay Area and Sacramento Valley – from Oroville to San Jose, Gilroy to Gridley. It gives me something to do when I’m not trapshooting or heartlessly baiting our publisher.

I’ve seen a lot of strange things in California courtrooms, but nothing quite so strange as the ties currently being worn by attorneys in Sacramento Superior Court.

Really. This is eerie stuff.

Sure, a Solano County attorney will, on occasion, wear a painfully loud tie or show up with neckwear that’s been liberally decorated with mustard from Barb’s Deli, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule. California lawyers generally steer clear of hanging complete chaos around their necks.

From what I’ve seen in Sacramento County courtrooms during the past six months, though, I can only conclude that:

  • There was a horrendous explosion at a nearby paint factory recently.
  • Sacramento attorneys resolve their differences during enthusiastic lunchtime food fights at the Old Spaghetti Factory.
  • Legal practitioners in Sacramento belong to a secret society that is based on the premise that Salvador Dali was a colorless, unimaginative dullard.

During the past five months I’ve seen ties in Sacramento courts that would be immediately confiscated by sharp-eyed bailiffs in almost any other jurisdiction.

I would have warned the general public about this unexpected menace earlier, but I was still reeling from overexposure to an ultrawide neck piece that resembled a knot of chow mein.

(Closer inspection revealed that the tie was a green, brown and yellow nightmare that depicted a marshland scene replete with reeds, tules and bulrushes – and perhaps the occasional rice noodle…)

Many of the ties I viewed appeared to have been part of some arcane origami experiment that went horribly wrong. Others, I surmised, may have been rescued from a ceiling fan after being painstakingly laundered by a wolverine.

And, for the most part, the Sacramento courtroom neckwear I’ve observed has been carefully tied with what is generally known as the distinctive “Im Not So Think As You Drunk I Am” knot.

The most conservative tie I saw was a grayish number emblazoned with portraits of the Three Stooges peering around a doorway beneath the logo “Dewey, Cheatem & Howe, Attorneys At Law.”

Yes, there’s something very, very wrong with neckwear around Sacramento Superior Court.

I only hope the California Judicial Council takes notice before it’s too late for all of us…

Originally published May 22, 2005