(Fact - Drawn from Memory)
The life of an Assistant Register is never dull. The phone is constantly ringing as people, attorneys included, are always calling trying to figure out how to navigate their way through Probate and Family Court. One day when I was working as an Assistant Register in Dedham, the phone rang late in the morning, probably around 11:30 a.m. The man on the other end of the line was calm, coherent, articulate. He said that the court was holding a hearing concerning him and that he wanted to be heard. This hearing concerned his medical treatment plan; he was calling from a mental health facility.
I went to the courtroom to check on his case. The clerk running the session informed me that the man's case was before the judge at that very moment. She interrupted the judge so that I could address the court and explain that the man involved had called and wanted to be heard.
The attorneys involved gave me a few evil eye glances at this point. The Department of Mental Health attorney said that the man was a danger to himself and others. His own court-appointed attorney said that he had met with his client just the day before and that his client told him that he did not want to attend the hearing. Nevertheless, in light of the information provided by me, the judge had no choice but to postpone the case to the afternoon so that the man could be transported to the court and be heard.
Around 3:00 p.m. that afternoon, we heard loud noises coming from the courtroom. Word spread quickly that three court security officers were trying to restrain a man gone wild. I poked my head in the courtroom long enough to see two court officers sitting on the man as he writhed on the floor while the third court officer put handcuffs on him. It didn’t take much to figure out who the man must be.
Believe it or not, the thought that popped into my head at that moment was the old cartoon character who used to say “Exit, Stage Left”, which is promptly what I did.
We have a great system of justice in our country and place great emphasis on notice and opportunity to be heard. While this man’s outburst may not have been quite what he hoped to say, he was heard.