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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

PJ Coyne and the Intimidation Game

My father
I recently had a frank, off-the-record conversation with a judge who at one point suggested that I need to be a bit more like my father. If I was a bit more like my father, I would have suggested that he go fuck himself.

I'm much nicer.

Let me tell you two quick stories about my father, an active trial lawyer who took no shit from anyone, least of all a judge.

The first is one he told us all at the dinner table, when I was a young snot. He had really irritated a Bucks County judge that day, and was warned, "Mr. O'Hare, you are close to being in contempt of this Court."

"Close is not enough," was my Dad's reply.

The second story is one I witnessed. It happened in Lehigh County It was back in the days of President Judge Coyne, a 100% prick. At that time, he and only he was running criminal lists, civil lists, custody lists and estates. He didn't trust the other judges because some of them still remembered what it was like to be a lawyer.

My father was in the middle of a construction arbitration involving lots of money, and was kicking ass. But his partner had a custody case and would be running late. He asked my Dad to announce that the case was "ready" when it was called by Coyne. The partner would be there in an hour or so and Coyne would never miss him.

So there my Dad sat with a gaggle of other lawyers like Ham Neely, waiting for His Majesty to get off the judicial shitter.

At one point, Ham turned to my Dad and said, "You know, Barnie, any one of these bastards can sentence you to death, but only Coyne can give you a continuance."

Eventually, Coyne appeared, my Dad announced the custody case was ready, and left for his arbitration on the top floor.

Unfortunately, Coyne raced through the custody list and soon got to the one my father said was ready. He somehow learned that my father was in this arbitration, and sent his Master, Ted Gillespie, to get him.

"I'm busy, damn it," my father told Gillespie. "Tell him I'm busy."

"Bernie O'Hare told me to tell you he's busy," Gillespie reported to Coyne.

The PJ exploded, and demanded that my father report to him immediately.

"Tell him I'm not here," my dad answered. "Can't you see I'm busy?"

"Bernie O'Hare told me to tell you he's not here," Gillespie reported to Coyne.

I was watching my dad in action - he really was on a roll - when the double doors to the room suddenly flew open. It was Coyne in all his judicial glory. He was still wearing his black robe, and his face was so red it could have heated the Lehigh Valley for an entire winter.

"You! You son of a bitch! Who the hell do you think you are?"

My Dad was sitting there, holding a cigarette whose ash was about three inches long. He was completely unphased.

"Didn't Ted tell you I was busy?"

While he ripped my dad up and down, my father calmly told him that his partner would be there momentarily, and that the judge was interfering with a previously scheduled arbitration. The judge stormed out of there with Ted Gillespie in tow. By the time he got back to his chambers, my Dad's partner was waiting ... ready.

Coyne unloaded on him, too, and even followed up with a few letters claiming he was going to the Disciplinary Board.

It blew over, although Coyne harped on it with me a few times after I was admitted to the bar.

Coyne was playing the intimidation game. The Court has to be respected. But once you let a judge intimidate you, it's all over.


Anonymous said...

Hard to believe but i appeared in juvenile court as a reference for a young man where Judge Coyne presided over 50years ago. After admonishing the mother for the costs her family had incurred for Lehigh County , he turned to the young delinquent and said " If i ever see you in this court again , I`ll make your teeth rattle." Needless to say you can guess whose teeth were rattling. He could scare the devil. Your dad was a brave man to take him on.

Anonymous said...

yes your father looks like he was a fine young ladd and your storyline article about him is a bold STATEment for a bold man!
My era was Definderfer and them half glasses on the tip of his nose staring upon you as if bullets were perpelled from those eyes as he STATEd, "I better not see you in my court room again" here we are a half century later and my handler has changed many times unbenounced to me as to who and what it has become?
Must say it again, must have been a fine young ladd as you to were most deffinatly a fine young ladd like myself, I be willing to lay a bet that all three of our mischifs wouldn't come close to todays children and the poison peddled on the glorified typewritter gagets today that have become the carnival circus the world is living today?
Thats long winded but to compair Three degenerate bastards to theZe days, not even modern social problems proffessor could explain, progress, and it is but the perception of crime?
REpublican redd
humanist by design and not design of man