The judge waved his old wooden gavel at the bailiff. “What’s next?” he sighed. It was catch-up day in the court; trying to get all the cases out the door that were left over from last week.
“Peterson v. State, your honor,” said the Humpty Dumpty-lookalike bailiff, sweating slightly in the damp Georgia summer heat. “A request for waiver of Code 6.1 of the reformed Georgia Statutes.”
The judge, seeing that the plaintiff and her attorney, along with the defense attorney, were already at their tables, kept his expression professionally neutral, while mentally blowing an exasperated breath, wondering if people were ever going to start taking the new laws seriously.
The judge took off his silver-rimmed glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose where the glasses were pinching him. He glanced at the paperwork. “Mr. Watkins, you are the plaintiff’s attorney?”
“Yes, your honor,” Watkins replied as he stood and brushed the wrinkles out of his blue, chalk-striped suit.
“Thank you; you may be seated. Mr. Foley, you represent the State?”
“Yes, your honor,” Mr. Foley responded, while also rising to his feet.
“Thank you, Mr. Foley,” replied the judge, noting that Mr. Foley was dressed in black, as usual. The judge pondered asking the plaintiff to identify herself to the court. A Miss Shauld, he saw in the case file. No point, he thought. There were just the five of them in the court room, and the defense attorney already knew her, and the bailiff didn’t care.
“Are there any procedural questions before we begin?” Hearing no replies, the judge pointed at the Mr. Foley. “Let’s have the opening statements. Please begin.”
Mr. Foley rose to his feet, and began speaking to the judge. Jury trials, for matters like this one, had been done away with under the revised laws. It made things go much faster. “Your Honor, the State will show that the Plaintiff should be denied her request. She was a willing participant in the activities, and no excuses, outside of violence, are acceptable as conditions for granting of a waiver. Also, that the Plaintiff should pay for the cost of this trial, as this matter is a complete waste of …”
“Objection, your Honor,” said Mr. Watkins. “That is speculation.”
“What part, Mr. Watkins?” said the judge.
“That this matter is a complete waste of time. This is important to my client. Many aspects of her life will be …”
The judge motioned him to sit down. “Save the preaching. Sustained. Mr. Foley, please contain your remarks to the facts of the case.”
“Yes, sir.” Foley sat back down.
The judge gestured to Mr. Watkins. “Your turn.”
Mr. Watkins eased his tall, light-pole-thin frame from his chair and began to pace while he spoke, occasionally glancing toward where the jury used to sit. “Your Honor, my client is asking for a waiver from this code section for the following reasons: it was an accident; not getting a waiver will destroy her livelihood because she is a figure model; and as we know, the physical toll is tremendous. There are also her personal rights to consider.” Mr. Watkins walked back to his old oak chair and sat down.
The judge stared at Mr. Watkins for two or three seconds, then turned his head a few inches and looked at the plaintiff. Medium height, about five foot six. Dark tan complexion, crystal green eyes, setting off her dark brown hair, and an almost-perfect nose, with a bleached-white toothy smile. She could be a model, he thought, but what does her occupation matter in cases like this?
“Finished, Mr. Watkins?” Seeing Mr. Watkins nod, the judge proceeded.
“Miss Shauld, please stand.” After she did so, the judge asked, “As you may know, we no longer swear anyone in for proceedings in this court. It saves a great deal of time. If you are found to have lied, the minimum sentence is five years, and the maximum is execution. Do you understand?”
Miss Shauld’s completion lighted up a bit, but she said “Yes.”
“Are you also in the first trimester? The court never considers a third trimester case and rarely a second trimester.” Miss Shauld nodded. “Very well; please sit down,” said the judge. “Please begin, Mr. Watkins.” As Mr. Watkins stood, the judge added, “Please don’t stroll around. Stay at your table.”
Already taking his first step, Mr. Watkins backed up and put his age-spot-covered hand on the polished walnut of the table. “Yes, your honor. Your honor, in addition to the reasons stated previously, my client had no intentions of becoming pregnant that evening. She was not even looking for a romantic encounter because she had decided to remain chaste until she was married.” Mr. Watkins paused and looked at the judge, who was making notes on a legal pad. “However, young men and women have needs and desires that sometimes cause them to drop their inhibitions.…”
“Not to mention pants,” muttered Mr. Foley.
The judge glared at Foley. “No more, Mr. Foley, or it is contempt. Only warning. You’ll have your chance.” Foley pursed his lips and rubbed his beard, then nodded at the judge.
“Please continue, Mr. Watkins,” said the judge.
“Drop their inhibitions and do things they might not plan on doing. My client knew what day she was on in her cycle, and as things got more intimate, watched the gentleman put on a condom. They then did what young men and women do. I believe the fact that she has not sought any ‘back alley’ solution and has come to the court in the proper manner shows her good intentions.” Mr. Watkins sat down.
“Defense attorney’s turn.”
“Thank you, you honor. It will be laughably easy to destroy those arguments. Your livelihood will be destroyed? Boo-hoo. Whose livelihood is ever guaranteed? A physical toll? Isn’t that what your body is designed to do? Bear children?” Mr. Foley paused. “Your honor, may I question the witness?”
“Miss Shauld, what was the date of this party?”
“The sixteenth, a Saturday.”
“You remember this very clearly? Seems important to you?”
“Objection, your honor. Defense is fishing for emotional attitude. Nothing factual.”
“Sustained. Proceed, Mr. Foley,” said the judge.
“How long were you at this party before you went to bed with this gentleman?”
“Perhaps three or four hours. I don’t remember exactly. It has been a few months.”
“Was alcohol served? Did you consume some?”
“A few, maybe. I wasn’t blasted or anything.”
“One, two, or five. It doesn’t matter. Alcohol lowers inhibitions. Now you say you saw this man. What was his name?”
“He said it was John.”
Mr. Foley chuckled and rubbed his bald head. “Seriously? John? Do you even know his last name? I mean, talk about a fake name. How could you buy into—”
“Mr. Foley!” snapped the judge.
Mr. Foley nodded his head slightly. “My apologies, Miss Shauld. Now you saw John place the condom on before you began, yes?”
Miss Shauld blushed and squirmed in her seat. “Actually, I placed it on. I wanted to make sure he was wearing one.”
Mr. Foley tapped his finger on the table. “You had a condom with you? Do you carry them?”
“Ah … well, sometimes I do.”
“Your honor, may I speak?” asked Mr. Watkins.
“I’ll allow it,” replied the judge.
“As I stated earlier, young men and women have fires burning that need to be cooled. Miss Shauld cannot take the pill. She is allergic. She cannot use the patch. She gets a skin rash. The IUD causes bleeding. She can use the sponge, but a condom accomplishes the same results. She has tried to prevent this type of situation.”
“Thank you, Mr. Watkins. Continue, Mr. Foley.”
“How many condoms do you carry, Miss Shauld?” Seeing the judge about to speak, he continued, “I withdraw the question. Miss Shauld, did John keep the condom on the whole time?”
“This is pretty personal,” replied Miss Shauld. Her attorney leaned over and whispered in her ear. “What? I have to answer all this. This is just gross.” Looking at Mr. Foley again, she replied, “I don’t know. I was thinking about other stuff. To be blunt, my approaching orgasm. He finished. I finished. We lay there a while, and I fell asleep. When my girl friend woke me up, he was gone.”
“So you don’t know if he did. Do you happen to have the condom?”
“Ick, no. Why?” Her attorney again whispered in her ear. “If it broke, I might win my case. Crap. Well, I don’t know where it is.”
“Now, let us talk about the possibility that you slept with another man that night or the other lovers you have had, though you claim to be saving yourself for marriage.”
“Strong objection, your honor! No bearing on this case.”
“Sustained, Mr. Watkins. Mr. Foley, the statue is written to protect the unborn child from being extinguished because it is inconvenient to someone. Not to impose moral values on someone.”
“Any more statements from anyone?”
“Your honor, I did what I could. Am I supposed to live like a nun, with no intimate contact?”
“Not something I can answer for you, Miss Shauld. That is your choice. The court will take a ten-minute recess while I decide the case.”
The judge stood, as did the others. He walked behind the bench to his private chamber and removed his robes. He sat down at the battered gray steel desk. Probably some Army surplus that was donated to the State. He leaned back in the cheap plastic office chair and asked the bailiff to bring him some coffee. The bailiff returned in short order with a mug of coffee. The judge sprinkled in some creamer, stirred, and sipped as he thought about the case. Some cases were easy. Termination was used as de facto birth control. Easy to rule on those. Rape or incest, a little harder, but still easier than this. The judge finished his coffee, donned his robes and walked back into the courtroom.
“All rise,” called the bailiff.
“You may be seated,” said the judge. He looked around the room at the participants. Mr. Foley, good intentions, but edging into extremism. Mr. Watkins, competent, but passed by with the events of the last few years. Miss Shauld, with behavior perfectly acceptable over the last few years. Himself, sworn to uphold the law, the law that was becoming more and more distasteful and biased. Too many cases and laws like this one appearing on the books. Shoving those thoughts aside for later, the judge asked the plaintiff to rise.
“Miss Shauld, in this matter, I find that there is not cause to have the pregnancy terminated and thus find for the defense, for the unborn child. Mr. Watkins, please give your client a tissue. Thank you. Miss Shauld, I sympathize with your position. You did almost everything you could. However, the law is clear. A missing condom does not absolve you of your actions. However unsatisfying to you personally, abstinence is an option. Therefore, you are to carry the child to birth. You are also to maintain good health and healthy habits to ensure the child is as healthy as possible when born. If you cannot afford prenatal care, the State will provide it for you. You must check in with the State monthly till the last trimester, then weekly, to prove your good-health requirement. If you choose not to raise your child after it is born, it may be adopted. If no adoptive parents are located—though, given the troubles over the last few years, I find that to be difficult to believe—the child will become a Citizen of the State. The State needs healthy members to replenish those lost in the events. You are entitled to find the father and ask for financial and physical assistance both during and after the pregnancy. The State can help you find him, and there must be a DNA match to receive assistance from the father. Are there any questions? No? You are free to go.” The judge rapped his gavel.
Holding out his hand for the case file, the judge asked, “What’s next?”