Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Last week I wrote a post saying I wasn't a fireman (though I might be). The post was satirical, and really about a local judicial race here in Kern County, where one of the candidates had their license to practice law suspended (revoked?) for failing to pay their bar fees. Whether the suspension was for 1 day or 20 days isn't the issue. Being suspended from practicing law, like having your drivers license suspended, means you're not eligible to claim you're a legal practicing attorney, or a legal driver, during that time.

I'm bringing this up because when I was young and driving around Santa Cruz county, there were several times when I was on the verge of having my drivers license suspended because I didn't have the money to pay my fines, which meant I had to go to court. It wasn't all fun and games, and the Superior Court judges didn't mess around with excuses. Allow me to explain ...

It was the late 1970s. I was in high school and had a 1965 Mustang that looked very much like the one posted below. I can't remember if it was cherry red, but it was red, and fast. Real fast. It had a classic 289 engine, and a three-speed stick, which helps to explain why I can honestly say I never lost a race in my '65 Mustang (yeah, I know, I know ...). 

As you can imagine, I was (for some strange reason) pulled over more times than I thought I should have been and, yes, received my share of tickets. I also ended up paying my share of penalties and fines for late payments and the like. 

In my mind I'm pretty sure I paid for half the stop signs in Santa Cruz county. 

A stop sign in Santa Cruz county. I'm pretty sure I paid for it ... :-)

Here's the point. I'm not a race car driver and never should have been driving like I did on the streets of Santa Cruz, or like I did in the mountain roads of Santa Cruz county. Whether a high school kid should be driving around in a car like this is another issue (but rest assured, my son didn't have anything remotely resembling my '65 Mustang). More importantly, I paid a price for my antics, and never received the benefit of the doubt when I went to court to pay my tickets and late fees. The claim "it never came in the mail" argument fell about as flat as "the dog ate my homework" defense. 

This is why this article from the Bakersfield Californian's Bob Price on the race for Kern County Superior Court is so pertinent. Mr. Price is asking questions about our local race that raise serious issues for anyone who wants to sit and pass judgement on others. 

At issue is whether candidate Brandon Martin is eligible to run or even hold the position of Superior Court judge since he was not "a member of the State Bar for 10 years ... immediately preceding the election."  In Brandon Martin's words, he was only "ineligible" to practice law (and not suspended?) for 21 days for failing to pay his bar dues. 

Brandon Martin doesn't believe there's any merit to this issue because the postal service "sent notices to the wrong address." And, besides, he eventually paid his bar dues. Put another way, claiming you didn't receive notices because the postal service didn't get your change of address means subsequent failures to pay and suspensions don't really count (I'm guessing). 

If Brandon Martin's reasoning holds water, all I can say is where was this kind of judicial insight when I was explaining my late payments for my "street" infractions? Seriously, if this is Brandon Martin's approach to the rules, he's going to be a hit in traffic court. 

Driving with a suspended license? No bigee, as long as your notice was lost in the mail. 

Failure to pay? No problem since, you know, the dog ate the notice. 

Warrants? Ha, ha ... that damn post office.

If you live in Kern County, and want to know more about the drama for Superior Court judge you should read Bob Price's piece, which you can do by clicking here.  

- Mark

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