Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Young Woman Shows Her Middle Finger to A Judge

This entry is a good opportunity to introduce legal terms to you. Most of the vocabulary words below are not used in the article I am posting, but these are good words to know. Many news stories deal with issues of crime, justice and punishment, so you should know what the following terms mean.  After these common legal terms, I also define the interesting terms in the article.

a court - this is the place where a trial happens.  If you click on the link below, you'll see a photo taken in a court room.  People who are arrested or who are being sued appear in a court room along with the alleged (possible) victim and/or the plaintiff (the person suing).

a judge - this is the person in charge of the court room.  He presides over the trials (he administrates the trials).

a jury - This is a group of 12 people who can also determine whether a person is guilty or innocent.  In America a person on trial may choose whether he wants the judge or the jury to decide whether he/she is guilty or innocent.

alleged - you see this word a lot in newspapers.  If a person is arrested, he is not automatically guilty. So the newspapers will say he is the alleged criminal.  Alleged means possible criminal.  He is the person the police think may have committed the crime.  There are also alleged victims.

a criminal court -  the American system has criminal courts and civil courts.  In a criminal court the punishment can be prison time, in a civil court people are always trying to get money.

to sue someone - to take a person to court to try to gain money which is owed to you or money you feel you deserve because you were hurt by another person. To sue a person you file a law suit.  To file means to present papers to the court officially.

a civil court - this is a court where you can try to sue someone.

a felony - a major crime.

a misdemeanor - a minor crime.

to be arrested - this is when the police take you into custody.  Nobody goes to criminal court until he has been arrested.  During the process of being  arrested police will try to ask questions, but Americans who have been arrested have the right to remain silent.  If you are ever arrested in the USA, remain silent.  Don't say anything.  If they ask you why you are silent, say, "I am exercising my right to remain silent. Please stop harassing me." Keep asking them for a lawyer.  "I want to talk to a lawyer. Please stop harassing me."

to be on trial - to go through the process in which a judge or jury determines whether you are guilty or innocent.

bail or bond - after a person is arrested, he/she will have to wait several weeks for the trial.  The judge will often "set bail" or "set a bond."  This means that if a person pays this money to the court, he/she can go home until the trial.  If the person does not appear at the trial, he/she loses all that money. if the person appears, he/she gets most of it back.  If the person does not appear for the trial, this is a serious offense which will lead to jail time.

a prosecutor - this is the lawyer who works for the state.  He/she tries to prove a person is guilty in a criminal case.

a DA - A District Attorney.  Same thing as a prosecutor.

a defense attorney - this lawyer defends a person accused of a crime or a person being sued.  The plaintiff's attorney is the lawyer who tries to successfully sue someone.

to be "not amused" - if someone acts as if he is not amused, he does not think that something is funny.  Indeed, he/she is probably angry.  i.e.  After I got into an accident and destroyed my husband's car, I joked with him that it was an old car anyway.  He was not amused.

to mess with - to mess with someone is to bother or upset someone.  In this article, the girl should not have messed with this intolerant judge.

miserable - to feel miserable is to feel terrible.  You can also feel rotten or lousy.

The DMV - The Department of Motor Vehicles.  The journalist is making a joke.  He is saying don't be nasty to people at the DMV or they will make you wait longer.

to face charges - to have to answer to charges or to have to defend yourself against charges. Charges are accusations.

to flip someone off - to show someone your middle finger.  This means "Fuck you" in America.

a gavel - the wooden hammer the judge bangs on his desk sometimes.

"File this case under ill-advised" - the journalist is joking and saying the girl was ill-advised (made a mistake) by doing what she did.

a prescription drug - a drug you can only take if a doctor writes a prescription for you.  A prescription is the little note you take from your doctor to the pharmacy.

"That was strike one" - this is baseball terminology for making your first mistake.  In baseball if you get three strikes you are "out" and have to sit back down.

wealthy - having a lot of money.

"Like Rick Ross..." - I didn't understand this either.  I guess Rick Ross wrote a song about having a lot of money.

"to which she answer" - an example of a typo. Yahoo wrote: "to which she answer" but it should have been "to which she answered." A typo is a typing mistake.  I hvae no money ---> an example of a typo. It should be: I have no money.

to chuckle/to giggle - to laugh softly or to laugh in a silly way

Adios - goodbye in Spanish.  I am not sure why he was angry at the word Adios.  I am guessing the judge thought it was disrespectful.

to elicit - to draw out.  To cause.

a gasp - this is the sound a shocked person makes.  Usually the person opens his/her mouth and sucks in air.

to flip the bird - to show one's middle finger.

the big house - a term for jail.

contempt of court - if a person openly shows disrespect for a judge, the judge can throw the person in jail.  Yes, we use the verb "throw" with prison.  The judge threw this poor teenager into prison.


To me this just seemed to be a very young woman who was embarrassed and nervous. It seems as if the judge was a bit excessive in his punishment to me (excessive = doing something too much).  Also, she didn't seem to be charged with the most terrible crime in the world. She had been arrested for having sleeping pills.

Some of my students are interested in how people become judges in America and they are often shocked to learn the truth.

Basically judges are elected by the people.  A person has to be a lawyer to run for the position of judge, but, basically, most judges are elected to their positions.  Only higher-ranking judges are appointed by Governors or the President.

What do I mean that judges are elected?  Here's where it gets strange/weird. To be completely honest, nobody really knows who these judges are when they run for election.  People look at a sheet of paper with a bunch of names to vote for, but they really don't know who is who. They just see a bunch of names of lawyers who want to be judges in their city.

Basically, in New York City, political parties determine who should be on the ballot (the ballot is the sheet from which people are chosen).  Political parties also recommend which lawyers people should vote for.  On election day the Democratic and Republican parties will hand out fliers (pieces of paper) listing the names of the judges they support.  People then usually vote for these candidates.

What does this mean?  Well, in all honesty, it means that if you want to be a judge in an American city, you have to do favors for a political party, and then they will help you become a judge.  So, again, in all honesty, most judges are probably not the most honest people in the world.  This is why many Americans who are arrested will pick a jury instead.

Also, it seems that many judges become judges because they failed at being lawyers.  Really good lawyers get a lot of business and can make a lot of money.  Judges make a modest salary.  So good lawyers stay as good lawyers and bad lawyers go to the political parties so that they can run for a position as a judge.

So if you are arrested in America some day, you will be taken before a guy or woman who wasn't good enough to be a good lawyer, and your freedom and life will be in this person's hands.  Good luck.

1) What do you think of the American system of picking judges?

2)  Do you think this teenage girl deserved to go to jail for 30 days?

3)  Do you think this judge is a fair person or do you think he is too extreme and lacking in compassion?

4) If you had been the judge, what would you have done?  Perhaps giving the girl a warning or yelling at her might have been enough.  30 days in jail for saying "Fuck you." seems harsh to me.

5)  The girl was very upset when the judge raised her bond.  Can you understand why she said what she said?

Yes, I'm the guy who created the scandal in Asia two years ago :P




Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

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