MY DAY IN
Rick Archer, October 2006
On Thursday, October 12, I had
the opportunity to spend four hours in Municipal
Court observing how justice is handled here in
I was there to dispute a ticket I had received for
placing heavy trash in front of my house prior to
pickup time. I thought this ticket had been
given to me in error so I intended to have my
say in court. Little did I know I would have
to wait 4 hours.
They say you can't fight City Hall.
Throughout the day I was given several very
interesting lessons on the possible origins of this
2006 - THE STORY BEGINS
On Thursday, June 15, as I
pulled into my garage, I noticed what looked like a
ticket hanging next to the doorbell. I frowned.
I had a bad feeling about this ticket.
A few years back, there had been a stoppage in the
city sewer line in the easement behind my house.
The easiest way to reach the problem was to come
through my yard. Normally my fence keeps
my home fairly inaccessible. However of course
I opened up my yard to facilitate repairs.
while the men were back there with their heavy
equipment fixing the problem,
some city inspector decided to come into my back
yard and have a look around.
He discovered some old dog poop
with the leaves in my mulch pile. I had no
idea that's a
A simple warning would have
been sufficient, but out came the ticket book.
That unpleasant incident set me back $350.
This experience left me with a
deep distrust of all people who work for the city, a
feeling that remains to this day. Currently
here in the Heights where I live, we have the
Graffiti is a big problem in our area. Some
genius came up with a great idea... wherever
graffiti was found, why not fine the victims a few
hundred bucks for failing to remove the graffiti?
In other words, rather than set up some traps to
catch the kids who are causing the problem, instead
they hired the Graffiti Police to drive around the
neighborhood every day looking for residents like me
to fine $500.
My fence gets hit every couple months or so.
As a result, I keep a wood sander handy at all
times. I run
outside at the first chance I get and sand it off
(see my handiwork).
Now you know why I am suspicious of city
The first thing I did with my
ticket was try to figure out what I had done wrong.
The ticket said I was being fined for allowing trash
to remain at curbside. I scratched my head.
I had not left any trash at curbside. But I
had a pretty good idea what trash they were talking
about. My next door neighbor had put some trash
out some time ago, but I had not paid any attention
to it till now.
I looked at the ticket a little closer. The
court was a long way away. I could give up my
entire afternoon, drive 20
miles across Houston to 8300 Mykawa, then take my chances arguing my
case in court. Or I could pay a $233 fine and
get it over with.
I was innocent, but a little voice told me it might
be easier just to
pay the money.
A couple days later, I saw my next door
neighbor. Without telling him about my ticket, I asked
him what the story was on the trash.
He frowned. He said the stupid garbage people had
skipped their scheduled pickup last week. He said no
one got their trash picked up on the scheduled day.
He said it was easier
to simply leave the trash there than haul it back inside,
then haul it out again. I nodded in agreement.
Then he pointed around the
neighborhood. Sure enough, everywhere I looked,
there was a pile of heavy trash sitting next to the
sidewalk. So I got in my car and took some pictures.
Every one of the 6 pictures below was taken within two blocks
of my house.
I thought about why I had been ticketed. After all,
the trash was not in front of my house. That didn't
make any sense. Why was I given the ticket and not my
neighbor who was responsible?
The more I thought about it, I decided the odd set-up of my
home was the reason behind the mix-up. I have a very
unusual home. For example, there is no front door
visible from the street. I enclosed my front
door several years ago with a garage. For safety
reasons I prefer to use my garage as the entrance to my front door.
Many years ago my house was broken into three times in less
than a year. On the final visit, they literally backed
up a van to my front door and stuffed everything into it
they could. After that experience, I decided to make
my home more secure. In addition to adding the garage, I built a large fence around my
home. So far (knock on wood), this strategy has
been very effective.
Sad to say, I believe my decision
has cost me any opportunities to win local home
beauty contests. From the street, no one has a clue
what my house looks like!
LET'S PLAY A GAME!!
Before we go much further, let's pretend you are the City
Trash Inspector. You have witnessed a terrible crime:
In order to protect the community, it is your job to punish
the evil doers. But first you must decide which
house the trash belongs to.
The trash is
situated equidistant between two garages.
Is it the house on the right with the car in the open garage or the one
on the left with
the closed garage door? You will get the
answer in a minute.
TALE OF TWO PICTURES:
ABOVE AND BELOW
Now let's have a look at the original
problem. I have a very unusual lot. In the picture
you can see that my property starts at my garage and extends
to the corner at the end of the street.
As you can see in the picture BELOW,
the trash pile was equidistant between my house at 608 and
my neighbor's house at 614. I imagine the Trash Violation Inspector was unable to figure out that
the trash belonged to 614.
I can see where someone might get confused.
Not only does the fence disguise the house behind it, I
guess that large bush at the left might have confused her as well.
This picture shows there is no obvious reason to decide
which garage "owned the trash". Despite my irritation, it
seemed like an honest mistake.
I DECIDE TO CONTEST
Of course I didn't want to pay the $233
fine. But it looked like the only way I could contest
the issue was to go to court.
The more I thought about it, I wanted to
contest the fine. After all, how hard would it be to
win this one?
This was a no-brainer.
1) It wasn't my trash to begin with.
2) The trash was not in front of my house.
3) I was not responsible for the trash in any way.
All I had to do was make the 20 mile drive to Mykawa,
explain the problem to someone with common sense and the whole thing would be
MY DAY IN COURT
My court date was originally set for
August 22nd. I was leaving on a cruise trip on the
26th. Knowing I would be pressed for time
trying to get my studio's Newsletter out before the cruise trip, I called to reschedule.
In the mail, I received a notice of "Trial by Judge" at the
Mykawa location with the new date, October 12.
As the October date approached, I was sick in my stomach. I was
in the middle of writing two cruise stories for the
October/November Newsletter. Now I was forced to
give up prime writing time in the middle of the afternoon in
order to clear up some city employee's mistake. I
already regretted giving up such valuable time.
2 PM - THE
Leaving my house at 1:15 pm, I
arrived at Houston Municipal Court 14 promptly at 2
pm. The court was presided over by Judge Kathy
I would estimate there were about 50 defendants in
Starting around 2:20 pm, Judge Han called out names. I acknowledged my presence.
As you might guess, none of these people looked very
happy to be there. One woman entered the room
crying. She was accompanied by a man.
After she sat down, she buried her head while the
I really had no idea what to expect. Since I
am not in court nearly as often as is rumored, I was
curious to see how things operated.
Now that the docket had been called, one by one
people from the group were asked to come up.
I discovered these people were not
going up to speak to the judge.
people were directed to a woman I named the
"Mysterious Docket Lady" (MDL).
I never quite figured out who she was, what she was,
how much authority she had, or what.
Was she an
attorney? Was she the prosecutor?
I did grasp that she was important.
When their names were called, people went to her
instead of the judge to discuss
Ms. MDL ran the preliminary show while Judge Han
quietly watched the proceedings.
As I waited... and waited...
and waited, I played computer chess.
mind-occupying activity kept my legendary impatience under control.
Before the day was out, I would win six different
games. I would have gone nuts without my
little chess friend.
I was surprised to see no one was doing anything
with their time except sit there. No
newspapers, no magazines, no nothing. Some
people stared at their tickets or their notes
regarding the case from time to time, but that was
I was the only person in the room with
a coat and tie on. I also noted I was the only
person in the room with a laptop.
that? Where were the other professionals?
I grimly speculated that all people with enough
money to wear a coat and own a laptop
probably also had enough sense to cut their
losses and pay the fine by mail and get it over with.
Their time was more valuable.
Guilty or not guilty, who cares?
Chalk it up to bad luck, pay the fine, cut your
losses and save some precious time. At this
thought, I began to feel I had made the wrong
decision to come here today.
3:15 PM - I GET CALLED
Finally around 3:15, my name was
called. Like a fool, I assumed that this was my chance
to clear up the misunderstanding and go home.
I stood before the Mysterious Docket Lady. I started to explain the
problem, but Ms. MDL asked me to be quiet while she
explained my options. She began by saying that she was
willing to reduce my fine to $100. I said that would
not be acceptable. She frowned and said I could
have a trial... I immediately said 'yes, I would like a
She frowned at me again and chided me to let her finish.
'Are you going to listen or not?' Ms. MDL said that
since I wanted to contest the fine, she recommended I reset
the trial to a later date and get an attorney.
Privately, I was appalled at this suggestion. Why in
the world would I hire an attorney? It would have been
cheaper just to pay the hundred bucks and get out of there!
forcing me to come back, Ms. MDL was penalizing me with a
second trip. Now I would be wasting two days.
I was already angry at myself for blowing an entire
afternoon in order to stand up for my rights. Why the
heck would I want to postpone this nonsense to a later date?
I wanted to get this over with!!
I told Ms. MDL that I would rather not make this so
complicated. I added that if she would allow me to explain, this
whole thing could be put to rest quickly.
She ignored what I said. Ms. MDL wanted me to listen
to her, but she wasn't willing to listen to me. I
seethed at this obvious disdain.
Instead Ms. MDL asked if I fully
understood the consequences of having a trial.
stared at her, but said nothing. There was something
in her tone that gave me pause. Ms. MDL said if I had
a trial with the judge and if the judge ruled against me, I
would be expected to pay a $2,000 settlement PLUS court
fees which I estimated at another couple hundred bucks.
My eyes narrowed. This woman was playing a very
Two thousand dollars was a lot
of money to risk against one hundred bucks. The
possibility crossed my mind that these people had a nasty little shakedown going
on. Was this event really about justice or was it
a charade designed to fill the city coffers?
I glanced around the court. There were
a lot of poor people in this room. How many of
these people were in a position to take the chance of
betting $2,000 against the fairness of a judge they didn't
know? Was this woman judge lenient? Was she harsh? And
how many people were confident about getting a fair shake
when this MDL woman kept barking 'you better get a lawyer, you
better get a lawyer'?
I didn't know about anyone else in that room, but suddenly my confidence was shaken. I openly admit I was very
Look at it this way - I was standing
there with an airtight case plus
I had the money in the bank to cover my bet in case things went horribly
wrong, but even with the winning hand that I held, I had become very worried.
So if I was scared, how were these other people feeling?
Helpless, maybe? As I listened to this hostile
woman intimidate me with her threats of a fine escalating to
$2,000 and her warnings to get a
lawyer, nausea gripped my
stomach. Was this a court of law or was it a kangaroo court?
I began to wonder just what kind of justice was being dispensed in
I told myself to get a grip. No matter how much this
threatened me, I couldn't see any way I was going to lose this case.
I was INNOCENT, for crying out loud!
I had come
this far, so I decided
to stick to my guns. I told the woman I would not
plead my case. I said I wanted to have the judge hear my
case. Ms. MDL frowned and told me to go sit down.
I returned to my seat completely rattled. No computer
chess for a while! I could barely think straight. First I had to regain some
As I sat in the back of the room, I watched as one person
after another came back to their seat complaining about their treatment at the hands
of Ms. MDL. She held all the cards.
guy sitting nearby was beet red with anger as he explained to his wife,
"Hell, I don't have $2,000 to fight this!"
I paled as I overheard that his dispute revolved around some
garbage-related problem. He was in the same boat as I
was. I got the feeling this garbage ticket racket
must be paying a lot of the salaries in this room.
Whoever said trash was worthless had never met these people.
license to print money in this place.
3:30 PM - I TAKE A RISK
I am a born worrier. As time went by, it was getting harder
and harder to keep my fears at bay. All sorts of bizarre possible
outcomes kept creeping into my mind.
I remembered the
time when I was a kid (11) and I cut my knee open playing
touch football. It was on the weekend so my mother
took me to the Emergency Room at Ben Taub to get it stitched up. They told
me to sit down and wait. Here I was with a bleeding knee, no
big deal, when they brought this guy in screaming with pain.
He was vomiting blood everywhere. Then this lady had an epileptic
seizure - a bad one - right in front of my eyes. To top it
off, they brought in this guy on a stretcher with a gunshot
wound to his head. There was a huge purple welt where
the bullet when in!
I hadn't been scared when I
entered the ER, but now I was crying because I was scared
out of my wits!
I snapped back to the present. The parallels
between the hospital emergency room and this courtroom were
obvious. I didn't have anywhere near
the problems the other people in this courtroom did, but I was
still deeply worried! Their misery was
People around me
were crying. Others were bitter. Others simply
went zombie and stared blankly into space. Their
problems began to affect me. Why not just pay
the stupid $100 and get out of here!
As my anxiety increased,
I decided to take a chance. I gathered up my laptop
and my printed pictures, then walked up to Ms. MDL without
being summoned. I told her that I was innocent of the
charges and that the ticket had gone to the wrong address.
I showed her the pictures of my house, of the trash, and
pointed to the correct address.
Ms. MDL looked me over carefully. I felt like I was
being sized up. She paused for a
moment, then said, "Okay, if you will give us the name of
the person who lives at that address, fill out an affidavit,
and agree to appear in court as a witness when this person
is summoned, I will dismiss your case."
I was stunned. This
woman was a perfect example of an old lawyer adage - '99
percent of all lawyers give the rest a bad name'.
Is this how American Justice works?
We will let you walk
if you give us another victim!!
I didn't need to
stoop that low, but even more to the point, I didn't want to
obligate myself to any further involvement. I would be
damned to do something that would give them a reason to make
me come back here another time... and this woman knew it.
I ignored her suggestion. Instead I pointed to the
pictures and said I simply
did not live at the house where the trash had been left.
Why couldn't we just wrap this up?
Ms. MDL said, "How do I know which house you live in?
How can I tell you don't live in the house behind that
She handed the pictures to a man next to her. He
agreed that the pictures were not sufficient to explain
where my house was located behind the fence.
I had several pictures printed out, but I had even more
the computer that I had brought along 'just in case'.
This seemed like a good time to use the extra pictures.
I offered to show her a couple pictures on the laptop to help
buttress my argument. She gave me a contemptuous look.
"We don't accept evidence from a computer in this
I said some of the pictures on the computer showed how my property
was shaped. She gave me her 'didn't you hear me the
first time?' look. That's when I said if she didn't believe me, I
would raise my right hand and swear I was telling the truth.
Ms. MDL said, "Don't bother. I'll let the judge handle this.
By the way, any pictures on the laptop are
not admissible. We only accept hard copies of pictures
as evidence." Then she gestured for me to sit
Now I was even more shaken. Okay, so
I'm not a lawyer. Why was this case so serious that
this woman resorted
to hardball? Ms. MDL seemed determined to extricate money
out of me one way or the other.
Given what MDL said, how was I supposed to prove what the
two houses looked like
behind the fence? It had never dawned on me to take
pictures inside the fence, but now it seemed like a pretty
good idea. But what good would it have done me... I
probably would have kept the pictures on my computer.
I could hear her
words bounce back and forth in mind.... INADMISSIBLE
And how was I supposed to prove I didn't live in the
house directly behind that pile of trash? As Ms. MDL
put it, the pictures didn't prove a thing. Looking at the pictures, my garage could just as
easily belong to the house with the trash pile.
Yes, there were pictures on my laptop that indicated
how my property was shaped, but what good were they? If these pictures were
inadmissible like the woman said, how I was
supposed to prove my innocence?
In this court, I
was guilty. They didn't have to prove I was guilty, I
had to prove I was innocent... and they twisted the rules
any way they could to win.
I had assumed that the pictures would
be sufficient, so I did not think it necessary to bring
along a witness. But Ms. MDL had dismissed my
pictures as worthless.
Was she bluffing?
3:45 PM - JUDGE HAN
CALLS ME UP
Thirty minutes after my impromptu
visit with Ms. MDL, Judge Han finally called me to come
up. I figured this was the showdown, but I was wrong.
As I stood in front of her,
Judge Han handed me a piece of paper. She said if I wanted to
have a trial, first I would have to sign this document. Then Judge Han
began to repeat everything Ms. MDL had said earlier.
First she reminded me that if she
was forced to rule against me, I would be expected to pay
$2,000 plus court fees.
Oh, so now court
fees would be tacked on to the $2,000. And how much
more would the court fees be? I decided not to
Judge Han recommended I get a lawyer and reset the trial. She said that
since I was unfamiliar with how to present evidence, I could
very well jeopardize my case. She said it was not her
responsibility to make allowances for my legal shortcomings. I did not ask, but
this sounded like judge-speak for no laptop pictures.
"I strongly recommend you get a lawyer."
The thought crossed my mind that the legal profession had to
love people like Judge Han and Ms. MDL. With their
'strong advice', they were definitely putting money in some
But I saw things a different way. What was the point
of getting a lawyer? I imagined the lawyer might cost
me another $2,000. Either way I would be out $2,000.
I might as well lose here today and get it over with.
I replied that I was prepared to argue my case as best I
Judge Han kept a straight face, but I thought I could
discern a flicker of amusement in her eye. My
imagination was that when the cat plays with the helpless
mouse, the cat enjoys an occasional twist to the game.
Makes it more interesting when someone fights back a little.
I imagined very few mice had the guts to play her game.
Judge Han then told me there was no court reporter.
This was new information to me. She said that if she were to rule
against me and that I wished to appeal, there were would be
no record of what was said. Did I wish for a court
reporter to be present? If so, she could delay the
trial till they could obtain one or arrange a change of
venue. I said I was willing
to trust her judgment and that I would waive my right to a
To myself, this seemed like an awful lot of fuss
for a stupid trash ticket.
It also occurred
to me that whatever game these people played during the
trial would NOT BE RECORDED. Now isn't that
Judge Han gave me another chance to throw in the towel.
She asked me for the second time if I was sure I wanted
to go to trial on this issue, adding that I could still pay the
fine if I wished. I told Judge Han that I was innocent
and that I wanted to take my chances with a trial. I told her she
seemed like a fair person to me and I would abide by her
Judge Han then asked if I felt she had explained my options
to my satisfaction. I had a vision of a guy
going into heart surgery with the doctor saying, 'Are you
sure you want to do this?' It was obvious that
Judge Han was trying to discourage me from having this
trial. I wondered what she knew that she was not
Was this one of those games where I
was in way over my head?
I was reminded of a helpless feeling I sometimes get when I
play basketball. Due to a childhood injury, I only
have one eye. Therefore my peripheral vision is limited.
Whenever I catch a pass with my back to the basket, I have
no way of knowing if my defender is near or not.
I hate getting
my shot blocked. So I always hesitate. Rather
than shoot the ball, I stand there and debate what to do.
Theoretically, this is the ideal position to shoot from.
However, due to my poor vision, I often hesitate to shoot
fear what I can't see. I have no idea where the
defender is. I am almost certain someone is hiding
behind me just drooling at the chance to stuff my shot.
At this moment in Judge Kathy Han's court of law, I had this exact same feeling.
I fear what I can't see and I fear what I don't know.
I was being forced to make a
decision without knowing what I was up against. And
the constant hostility led me to believe that this playing
field was badly tilted in their favor.
This was THEIR
GAME. Was I making a big mistake? After
all, they kept warning me not to do this.
Of course you the reader might think how unlikely it would
be for me to actually lose this case. After all, it
wasn't my trash and it wasn't in front of my house.
But you weren't in that in courtroom!
I was so intimidated by the double-team put on me by the
MDL person and this Judge that I worried I might lose on some
stupid technicality I didn't know about. I cursed
softly to myself. Why the heck did the Judge keep telling me
"Get a lawyer, get a lawyer"?
What is it that I needed
to know that I didn't know? Doubts crept through
my mind. My ignorance of the law was killing me!
I took a deep breath and looked at the Judge. Her face
was impassive. She was waiting for me to make up my
mind. I thought to myself she had an excellent poker
As I stood there, I quickly went over my position once
again. That 'poker face' thought came up again. That is
when a new idea crossed my mind. Were they bluffing? Was it possible Judge
and Ms. MDL were simply giving me every opportunity to throw
in my cards?
That thought gave me new courage. Maybe there wasn't
any legal technicality! This had to be a game!
They had nothing to lose by scaring me, then giving me time
to talk myself into folding! If that was the
case, believe me, it almost worked!
There was no way I was going to lose this case.
Besides, even in the unlikely event that everything went against me, I could afford to lose.
Yes, $2,000 was a ridiculous amount of money to lose considering how
minor the problem was, but it would not be the end of the
world for me.
I wasn't going to jail if I lost.
So why back down now?
So I signed the form requesting a trial and went back to my seat.
4:15 PM - I GET IN
I was stunned when they began
to call the 4 pm docket. I had not even had my
trial and now there were new people showing up.
How long was this going to take? Was my
trial going to be held at the end of the evening?
It was now 4:15 in the afternoon. Counting
drive time from home, I had now wasted over 3
hours of my day and there was no end in sight.
I had to go to work at 7 pm. The thought of
being forced to wait into the night almost broke me.
I began to wonder just how ruthless these people
were. How far would Ms. MDL take this? She
would do anything to win, wouldn't she?
Earlier I had regained my confidence, but now I lost
it again. If they weren't going to play fair,
then what difference did it make how solid my case
was? I began to believe there was a
good chance I was
going to get railroaded. I wondered how I
would explain to my wife that I lost a slam dunk case and $2,000 in
Then it occurred to me this might make a good story. And you
can't have a good story without pictures, now can
So I walked out of the room and
reviewed the rules on the door. No talking, no
smoking, no cell phones, no this and no that, but nothing about cameras.
I looked again. Nope, no rules on cameras. I was
certain that taking pictures would break some rule, but I
had my alibi.
So I walked back in and
quickly took three pictures.
I put the camera away and went back to my computer chess
game. Since I was sitting in the back of the room and
most everyone had their back to me, I hoped that no one had
noticed. No such luck. Five minutes after my
photo shoot, Judge Han called to me. I wasn't
paying much attention, but when I heard something about 'you
in the back',
I looked up. Now that she had my attention, Judge Han gestured for me to come forward.
I walked up and stood before Judge Han. She asked me
why I had taken pictures. I said I had been
there for three hours and wanted pictures to remember this
incident. Judge Han did not accept that answer.
She asked again why I had taken the pictures. I
said it was simply to capture the memory of the experience.
The Judge was clearly not satisfied with my answer.
Now she began to lecture me on my invasion of people's
privacy. Then she said she was displeased that I had disrupted
her courtroom. I
apologized and said I would not do it again. I
mentioned that I had not seen any rule forbidding such
activity. She frowned, then
asked me a third time why I had taken the pictures.
I noticed a policeman nearby who seemed ready to come get me
if I simply blinked wrong. I wondered just how serious
my mistake had been. Now maybe I would end up in jail
after all. Maybe my wife would need to
post bail. Was I dreaming this?
I said I was sorry for the second time.
continued to lecture me on how inappropriate my behavior had
been. Then abruptly she stopped and told me to sit down.
My mood changed. I had been
afraid before, but now I felt defiant. The fact that
Judge Han was so concerned about the pictures actually made
me feel better. Furthermore I was shocked that she had
not demanded I erase the pictures. Was this a paper
tiger? I was the mouse that roared. It felt good
to fight back.
My bravado soon turned back to despair as the wait continued.
I don't know who told them my biggest weakness, but 'Waiting' is my Achilles
Heel. My patience had run out. I honestly
believed I was going to be stuck here till dark. With
that gloomy thought, I could feel myself visibly weakening
with each click of the clock. 5 o'clock came and went.
5:15 came and went. That was the four hour mark.
This ordeal was now up to four hours with no end in sight.
At 5:30, Judge Han called me to come up. This
looked like the main event. I asked
if I could bring my laptop computer. She said that would be
okay. My hopes immediately soared.
When I got to her bench, a short, thick woman wearing a
uniform came up and stood at my
side. I had not previously noticed her in the
courtroom, but I assumed she was the person who had written my
Judge Han didn't waste any time. She said she was
dismissing the case.
I wasn't surprised. The calmness in her expression had tipped me off.
She obviously didn't expect an argument from me.
My instincts told me the camera incident had been a turning point. I don't
know why, but once I survived the tongue-lashing, I had begun to sense
with increasing certainty this event was a giant
bluff. They had tried to intimidate me on four
different occasions, but I had stood my ground each time.
From that point on they let me sit and stew for another hour
and a half. I got the feeling that they had simply been waiting me out.
After all, the only other person who had asked for a trial
had been called before Judge Han to wrap up his case well over an hour ago.
We had both come in at the same time. That's what made
me think this entire
affair was quite likely a charade.
I figured that was it, but to my surprise, my conversation
with the Judge wasn't over yet. Judge Han had something
very interesting to
say. She told me that the Prosecution had asked for a continuance
in order to gather more
I looked for Ms.
MDL. She had disappeared, probably to go home.
Are you people out of your mind?
I was dumbfounded. Ask for a continuance?
Gather more evidence? I don't want to go through
this again!! There's no way I want to come
Was I the only person in the room who grasped the absurdity
of this situation?
We were locked in a debate
over a victimless crime regarding a few pieces of wood
discarded on my
This was not OJ or Ted Bundy. No damage.
No bloodshed. No victim. No one had even complained about the
trash so it clearly wasn't bothering anyone. Was it possible someone in this room was guilty of blowing this
situation out of proportion? Why ask for a continuance over a
pile of wood that no one cared about?
the answer to that... this was a shakedown and they
didn't want to let a single fish off the hook scot
I looked around for Ms. MDL
again. I wanted to ask her why she needed more
evidence on a no-brainer case like this. Let's wrap it up!
I noticed for the first time all
day, Ms. MDL was nowhere in sight. I assumed it was not a
coincidence; she was probably mad she had not gotten her way
when she asked the Judge for a continuance.
sticking around to give me the satisfaction of
seeing her discomfort over having one person stand
their ground against her intimidation?
As I thought of her, it occurred to me
that maybe there was another reason I had been kept waiting.
Maybe during the past hour Ms. MDL or someone else had been
on the computer looking at city property records to
determine if I was telling the truth or not.
Now I was angry. I could not believe Ms. MDL actually had the nerve to
ask the judge for permission to drag me back into court
a second time without even giving a chance to speak my case
while I was here!
Ms. MDL seemed willing to do anything to squeeze me.
As if I hadn't waited in this courtroom long enough already,
she wanted to put me through this ringer all over again!
Judge Han noticed I was deep in thought. She said for
the second time that she had ruled against the request for a
continuance. But then she added another bombshell. She
said that even though she was dismissing my case, the City of
Houston could reopen this case any time it wished.
That was the capper.
I smiled to myself. Mind you, it wasn't a happy smile,
but rather a twisted, ironic smile at the absurdity of the
situation. This was beyond bizarre.
Was Judge Han
afraid I would think I had won or something? Be
sure to twist him as much as possible.
She knew and I knew the chances of the City of Houston ever
re-opening this stupid little case were slim and none. But of course
it was her duty to point it out.
That's when I noticed the ticket woman next to me was
glaring daggers at me. She had her arms crossed and looked
very angry. Hmm. Obviously this was
another person who
cared a lot more about this case than she should. This woman did not like me.
I looked at her and asked if she was the person who had
written the ticket. She nodded that I was correct, but
I took my shot. "Well, guess what, you made a
mistake." Her eyes fired some more darts at me. But
I knew she wasn't going to say anything in front of the
Judge. At least one person in the room had the sense to keep their
Then I turned my attention back to Judge Han. I told
did not wish for my case to stay open in any way. I
said I was prepared to go to trial and put this matter
to rest. I added that I had driven 20 miles
and invested four and a half hours of my time in her court so I could
clear this matter up. Why not try the case and get
it over with? I said here I am; let's get it started. I'm ready to give my testimony.
A person with any sense would have simply shut up long ago.
I knew I was pushing my luck, but then I have always
disliked the indiscriminate use of authority.
I wondered how the Judge would react to my impertinence.
It seemed to me a bemused smile crossed her face.
To her credit, Judge Han did not lose her patience with me at all.
She replied, "Mr. Archer, I have made my ruling. That will
I wasn't done yet. I asked if I could be given something in
writing. She smiled again and said that one of her clerks
would give me a letter. I soon had my letter from the Judge.
It said the case was dismissed due to Insufficient
I had to be at work in less than an hour.
I didn't have time to go home and change. As I drove
directly to the dance studio, I was still fuming about the
conversation between Ms. MDL, the woman who wrote the
ticket, and Judge Han regarding the continuance.
Why bother taking my word for it? Hey, I bet Ticket Woman
couldn't wait for the chance to go back to my
house and have another look around.
They had no
problem prolonging this. After all, they played this game every
day Monday through Friday. Since they were going to be here
anyway, it wasn't any sweat off their back to drag me
back in and let me sit another 4 hours. Why not make
me come back and jerk my chain around
Maybe this was the Trash Court
version of the sick joke 'You can beat the rap, but
you can't beat the ride.'
On the other hand, I am grateful Judge Han said enough is enough. Perhaps she decided that very few people
would risk standing their ground in her court as firmly as I did
unless they were holding some cards of their own.
have been another factor too.
I hope I am wrong, but snapping those pictures may
have actually helped. There is a part of me that
believes that people in power care deeply about their reputations.
Between the camera and the laptop, I have a hunch they were
all curious about what I was up to. Why else would
Judge Han ask me three times why I took the pictures?
I believe it is
possible they viewed my picture taking as a huge warning
Maybe she decided it was safer just to get rid of me.
On the other hand, I could be completely wrong.
Maybe the pictures had the opposite effect. Perhaps the camera incident irritated Ms. MDL so much she
decided to ask for the continuance as a payback. There
had to be some reason she pushed so hard. I suppose I will
never know. A lot of what went on in the courtroom
remains a total mystery to me.
Whatever the truth,
I think the little game they played on me is abhorrent.
How much effort does it take for Ticket Lady to drive up and
down the street looking for trash violations one day after
the once-a-month heavy trash pickup is missed? How
many citizens think to lug their trash back in? And once
many people have the time to contest this ticket writing
game? And if these poor souls are stupid enough like me to
show up for their Day in Court, how many of them are willing to gamble
$2,000 to save $100?
Guilty or not, most people
with any sense probably just mail in the check for $233 and
get it over with.
I never had the guts to bring up the fact that negligence on
the part of the City of Houston caused the trash problem to
Was it just a coincidence that Trash Ticket Woman showed up
the following day to go down the block writing tickets or
did she have inside knowledge? Did someone in the
Trash Collection business tip her off?
I predict one of these days the woman who wrote the
ticket will be back out to write me up again. Based on
the way I was treated, I imagine they don't enjoy losing their nasty game.
Call me paranoid, but I fully expect Ticket Woman to come
after the guy who had the nerve to embarrass her in court. Or if
it isn't Trash Ticket Woman, what happens if someone alerts
14 that some jerk like me had the nerve to question the
propriety of their proceedings?
Maybe I will get
lucky and my case will be reopened like the Judge suggested. Or maybe they will come over and look for more graffiti
and dog poop. Got to protect our citizens!
wonder if the City of Houston employment office screens for bullies?
After all, it has been my experience that whoever has any
authority over you, no matter how small, will attempt to use
One thing I have never
figured out is the $2,000 angle.
pointed out in the article, in
order to have my case heard by the judge, they said I would be fined
$2,000 if the judge ruled against me. But if I would leave meekly,
they would only charge me $100.
Suddenly I wasn’t fighting a $233 fine anymore. That fine had
just multiplied by a factor of 10!
The whole scene felt crooked. They held all
the cards. Did I have the guts to face the judge in
this kangaroo court with $2,000 on the line?
I have been to traffic court a time or two.
I don't recall being threatened with a much greater fine unless I
anybody shed some light on this situation? Say whatever
you want. I promise to keep your identity secret.
to Rick Archer,
Another Case in Judge Han's Court
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2015
Subject: Kangaroo court
I have just read your interesting article about your day in
court back in 2006, at 8300 Mykawa ,court 14 run by Judge Han.
What a racket, ruled
by fear, intimidation and downright feeling of dominance of the
"ignorant masses" ,just to rip them off of their money, legally.
And all rolled up in
one person named Han.
I would like to tell
you more about my experience in that court and see if we can do
something to correct that situation.
If you still care
and have the time to hear about my day in court, please do not
hesitate to contact me
On Thu, Mar 19, 2015 at 8:46 AM, Rick Archer wrote:
incident took place in 2006 nine years ago, I can't imagine
what can be done about it short of running a candidate to
oppose the woman. However, it is upsetting to see that
the ticket racket is still in place.
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2015
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: Kangaroo court
This is what
happened to us. My husband is a Vietnam Combat Veteran, recently
diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease due to Agent orange exposure,
so we have good days and not so good days.
On February 17 -2015
while taking a step his legs bone collapsed and we took him to
the VA Hospital, he was admitted. He had surgery on the 20th,
released a couple of days later.
Since I do not drive
I relied on Metro to get me to the VA Hospital ( 3 buses).
We have 3 dogs: one
Chihuahua, one Staffordshire Terrier and one English Mastiff.
When I left to the
Hospital I put the big Dogs in my backyard ( behind one wire
fence, one wood gate and one more wire gate) on my property, and
also a common wood gate between my house and my neighbors house.
This gate is 8.5
feet high and opens up from the streetside via deadbolt sliding
When I came home in
the early afternoon I had a HPD officer plus BARC awaiting me.
All of the dogs were inside my house.
(BARC is an
animal control agency run by the City of Houston)
My front window was
broken, with the glass mostly inside. The cop was not interested
in even looking at anything, and I was told that a anonymous
lady, a neighbor had called them.
The wooden gate had been opened from the outside (streetside),
and all the inside fences were cut.
We were given
tickets for like five offenses for each dog, from no rabies
shots ( which they all had) to dogs running at large, to dogs
If you can think of
something we had it.This was on 2-19-2015.
On 2-20-2015, I
happened to be in the front when an other cop was at a neighbors
house , talking to her. Then he came straight across to me
and proceeded to tell me that I was not supposed to have seen
He than told me that
he could give me more tickets for anything he could think
about!!!! I said for him to get his pen and paper and get
busy, he should also be aware of the fact that I was an American
citizen, even so I speak with a German accent, I vote in every
election, I even write to U S Senators or the President and I
will express my opinion. He backed off and no tickets.
The following day
here is the lady from BARC inspecting the previously broken
window and taking a picture to show that it was fixed. That
afternoon here comes another cop with the same litany about
I said that I now
understand why they can not catch any serious offender, like
killers burglars and what not. They like to concentrate on
voiceless animals, when they get them in, they can sell them to
other people or shelters somewhere else.
That cop was really
angry, but again no ticket.
Now it comes the DAY
in COURT 14 MYKAWA.
First we could not
find that place, not even the residents of the area knew where
it was. We drove passed it 8 times, no sign no nothing.
Why is that? Is it on purpose so people will not find it,
miss the day in court and end up with more tickets and arrest
We arrived 1 minute
before 2 PM, we checked in and I explained to the clerk that I
would speak for my husband. The clerk informed me that I
was not permitted to do so, since the tickets were in his name,
from the car registration. I explained that my husband was
in the VA, had PD, was in a wheelchair and besides he knew
nothing from what happened.
Anyways I was
allowed to speak, big deal!!!!
After a considerable
wait we were called to a mystery person who told us he would
throw out all but 2 tickets, a total of $100.00 payable. We said
that we would pay $100.00. We sat down and waited. I noticed
some very worried people, some angry but mostly hopeless
expressions on this poor souls faces.
Anyways after a long
wait we were called to face the Judge Kathy Han, right off
neither my husband nor I could understand what she was talking
about, her english is atrocious. How can she sentence
people who can not understand a word she is saying?.
We told her that we
had reached a agreement and we would pay the $100.00 that day
and we would be done. She informed us that there would be fines
that she would add and the amount would reach $1000.00 or more
amount unknown at that time.
My husband said that
he wanted a Trial by Jury, Han told us to sit and wait.
After a while My
husband said that he was ready to go to jail and that the jail
would send him to the VA jail. I was not happy with that
Idea since I had no way to get home. So I was stressing
Both of us are
senior citizens and protected under the Federal Law of Abuse of
the Elderly. But that card I did not want to play until
the last moment. We sat and waited.
I remembered that we
had another court date for next month, I approached mystery man,
explained the situation, that dog had a rabies shot city tag
Mystery man said pay
$35.00 and you can go. Okay.
Here we wait again,
My husband is talking about Kangaroos in court, Judge Han is
angry, people are giggling behind us. I am ready to demand
We finally face her
Honor the Judge again, I told her that we had settled with
mystery man, she became livid, told me that the court was too
busy to put up with me changing my mind and that she could put a
contempt of court on me.
I said that she
could do so with cause, but as long as I had a Pen I could
demand Habeas Corpus at any time, and also a Pen is mightier
than a sword. Since she was ruling with a sword she was in a
weak situation and after all we are all governed by the
Constitution. That Lady was actually speechless and left her
seat for a break.
We sat and waited
some more, than we were called to a clerk who told us to pay
$232.00 and we could leave.
Is this what happens
to our citizens every day? Is this a Mob racket or what,
The Godfather should have been aware of this easy racket, and
who gets this money?
But our problem is
how can we change the situation?
On Thu, Mar 19, 2015 at 2:17 PM,
Rick Archer wrote:
The sad thing is that I believe
every word you said.
I will be happy to add your story below mine. However I
would recommend you let me remove your name and email
On Thu, Mar 19,
2015 at 3:26 PM, Rick Archer <email@example.com> wrote:
May I ask a couple questions to clarify?
My front window was broken,
with the glass mostly inside.
Does this mean you were robbed? If so, are you saying you
were being ticketed for dogs running loose due to the
You wrote: The wooden
gate had been opened from the outside,
(streetside), and all the inside fences were cut.
Or were you vandalized by someone trying to get you in
You wrote: On
2-20- I happen to be in the front when an other cop was at a
neighbours house, talkin to her and than he came straight
across to me and proceeded to tell me that I was not
supposed to have seen this.
What was it you weren’t supposed to see? What is going
here… is there some sort of neighborhood conspiracy?
I don’t understand what has happened to your house and yard.
You wrote: That
afternoon here comes another cop with the same littany about
Why do these cops keep coming around to harass you??
I am not quite sure why these cops were so rough on you.
Typically the police are
sympathetic to a homeowner who has been attacked.
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2015 4:27 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: Kangaroo court.
We were robbed a
couple of years ago and the person responsible is on
probation. It is my believe that this incident has nothing
to do with the Burglary.
The front window was broken and we believe that that
is due to a neighbor who does not like dogs.
Having a broken window is enough reason to be visited by the
City. The window was not broken when I left that morning to
go to the Hospital.
We were targeted
by someone who saw me leave, had malice at heart, opened the
common gate, and cut the wire gate, in order for the dogs to
run loose. I have a large English Mastiff but even he could
not reach 8.5 feet up over the gate and down 2.5 feet and
slide the bolt over to get out.
You see until
that moment I had been told by the previous police officer
and BARC that I was not allowed to know who had called in
with a complaint.
I do not even
know what the complaint was or is. Only it is awfully
convenient that when I am leaving all gates are in order and
closed, a call goes out to HPD and BARC and they are there
when my dogs are out in the front. Someone helped them.
I was not supposed to have seen him [the cop] talking to
that Person in order to avoid a potential problem, I guess.
I just want peace and to be left alone.
we had to replace the window glass two more times as late as
Normally I have no interaction with cops, my brother was a
high ranking Police officer in Germany. I think they just
wanted to write tickets. Or may be they got calls to come
out I do not know.
In the last three weeks we were not visited by cops. We have
been home owners for nearly 20 years and been in the same
house all of this time and we only had cops here once for
I hope that I have clarified the matter some.
March 23, 2015
Rick Archer's Note: Please note that I do have any direct knowledge of the
truthfulness of these emails.
I will say, however,
that in my opinion these letters have a definite ring of truth to
them which is why I made the offer to reprint them.
If I have understood the
problem correctly, a vindictive individual... quite likely a
neighbor... caused the damage and deliberately freed the dogs, then
called the authorities.
Rather than protect the
victim, the authorities preferred to exploit the victim.
The amount of hate in
this world is unbelievable.