Jan. 9, 2023
l am like a fugitive from a horror movie, one of the undead. Luckily, I don’t enter the courtroom from the entrance, an unnerving experience. I hope attorneys and litigants leaving the courtroom after oral argument don’t mutter “I think we got screwed in the Arthur Gilbert courtroom.”
The "event" l wrote about in my December column is over. Whew! My colleagues and I now preside in an eponymous courtroom. Over the entrance the observant will see letters that spell my name. I had nothing to do with it. Last time I checked, I have not "passed on." Don't like that term. It's like missing an offramp. That is the best time to name a building or room after a person. l am like a fugitive from a horror movie, one of the undead. Luckily, I don't enter the courtroom from the entrance, an unnerving experience. I hope attorneys and litigants leaving the courtroom after oral argument don't mutter "I think we got screwed in the Arthur Gilbert courtroom."
Many people who attended the ceremony for the "event" thought the "naming" marked my retirement, a better circumstance than death. Perhaps it should have been my retirement. Because it was also my birthday in December, several friends gave me Steve Lopez's new book on retirement "Independence Day" (Harper Horizon 2022). Think this is a hint? I have expressed the imminent eventuality of my departure (judicial departure), but, after five years of saying so, I am losing credibility.
A few years ago my colleagues asked me not to retire. I was flattered and agreed to do so on condition that they let me know when I am "losing it." Of course, when that happens... maybe it already did, I won't believe it. So maybe the coming year ... oh, never mind.
So getting back to the Steve Lopez books on retirement. Notice the plural "books." The observant reader will note that in an earlier paragraph I wrote that "several friends" gave me Lopez's book. I was a grateful recipient of these thoughtful gifts from friends. So what does "one" do when "they" (preceding neutral gender plural pronoun now acceptable to refer back to singular noun - drives me nuts) are in such a situation? To the first friend who gives you the nicely wrapped book, one (me) might say something like, "Oh! Thanks for the thoughtful gift. Is this a not-so-subtle hint? Ha ha. I am not doing a good job?" (Note - try to hide the edge of sarcasm.) And what does one do when friends give you the same gift? Of course you look surprised and say pretty much what you said to the previous friend.
So, what do I do with all these books? I don't want to be rude and read only one of the books. I came up with an ingenious plan. I will read chapters in succession in each of the books. That way I can say with near truthfulness to the gift givers that I read the book they gave me. Just thought of something. What if any one of them reads this column? Darn. I have to chance it. I have limited time and I am not about to scuttle what I have written and start over.
Not all the gift books I received had inscriptions written in them. It would probably be... well, would it be untoward to give one of the books as a gift to someone else? I guess so. And it would be even more unacceptable to write an inscription in any of the books I could give as a gift to others. Didn't say I was going to do this, just musing.
So speaking of retirement, this takes me to the recent HBO series on Shaq O'Neal's post-retirement reminiscence. He is sprawled out in a large leather chair, the one that Jack encountered when he finished his climb up the beanstalk. The chair was requisitioned after the giant's demise. So, Shaq reviews his past triumphs and defeats. He says it like it is from his perspective, sprinkling his narrative with a generous share of obscenities between replays of past games. My kind of guy. I guess because of his profession, he gets to use profanity with abandon, even before retirement. I recall many years ago seated mid-court in an all-star basketball game. I could hear the players yelling and shouting profanities. Could have been a dialog on cable television.
There was a scene in the series where Shaq mentions the great coach Phil Jackson, the "Zen Master," and devotee of Eastern philosophy, urging him to read Nietzsche's "Ecce Homo." Shaq, who acknowledged he wasn't all that much into reading, said he read the book. I bet he read the cliff notes. "Hey Shaq buddy, just kidding." Yes, Shaq and I are "buddies." Sort of. Don't think he will dribble me around the courthouse. After all, Shaq reads my column. Well, at least he read one a few decades ago.
Readers on Medicare might recall I wrote a few columns about Shaq's response to the question, "What does it take for the Sacramento Kings to beat the Lakers?" Shaq said, "It begins with 'C' and ends with 'T.'" I speculated on what Shaq meant... "cheat," and whether that was a "cheap shot." Clever, huh? To make it even more clever, I cited the infamous People v. Arno (1979) 90 Cal.App.3d 505, 514, footnote 2. Shaq would never know. He doesn't read the Daily Journal, right? Wrong, he read this one and wrote to me scribbling across his copy of the column, "Gilbert, J., what makes you think I don't read the Daily Journal?"
I wonder if there is a story behind Shaq writing to me. Let's see. I believe Shaq was a reserve officer with the Port Police and then attorney Elwood Lui served on the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners. Maybe... oh well, Shaq wanted to have lunch with Elwood and me, but before we could arrive at a date he was traded to the Miami Heat.
So, getting back to retirement, when that happens, what happens to my column? Does it retire with me? Who cares what an ex judge has to say? Come to think of it, that same question can be asked about a sitting judge. And, even if I continue to write the column, will it reflect the same style? I have been told that some personalities change in retirement. I read in the New York Times there is a new A.I. app called ChatGPT. It writes creatively, with humor and nuance. Hmm, maybe...? No, forget it. It would never write "undead."