One of the many fond memories I have of being an Assistant DA is cursing in Court. I’m thinking about this because I just saw an article about a CNN reporter who used a racial slur on air (sort of).
Let me say at the outset that I’ve never been held in contempt (once, though, only by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin).
So how, you might ask, did I curse in Court?
In New York, when someone is arrested, you have to get them before a judge within 24 hours. The hearing is most popularly known as a bail hearing. In New York, it’s an “arraignment.” You have to get arraigned within 24 hours. And it’s true, at the arraignment, there are arguments over bail, and bail is set, or the defendant is released on his or her own recognizance (or “ROR’d”).
But there’s another purpose of arraignment. Under the New York criminal code, defendants have a right to know how they were identified (like via a line-up, or a photo array, or otherwise), and they have a right to know if the prosecution plans to use any statements against them. Meaning, if the defendant told the police something, the DA has to notify the defendant what the statement was that they’re going to use. When I was doing it, the statute was sec. 710.30(1)(A).
So we’d stand up in court, and say, “your Honor, the People serve 710.30(1)(A) notice. In sum and substance, the defendant said…” And we’d repeat, verbatim, whatever the defendant said.
Sometimes, that got interesting.
Because the rule was, we had to say it over verbatim. If that included foul language—as it often did—we’d repeat the foul language.
Sometimes, with more…experienced…defendants, they’d even say something about the Judge. It would sometimes be “…in sum and substance, the defendant said you motherfu*%er, no way is the f$#king Judge gonna set bail on me,” or something like that.
It was hard, sometimes, not to crack up.
Because cursing in court is kind of fun.
By the way, one of the funniest things I heard in Court was a new ADA who didn’t understand what the notices were, and said “your Honor, the People serve 710.30(1)(B) identification notice. The defendant didn’t have any ID on him when he was arrested.” Oops.
It’s funnier if you’ve ever been in NY criminal court. Honest.