Sleetmagazine.com

Volume 14 • Number 1 • Spring-Summer 2022

Anthony J. Mohr

Bauchet Street

The noise from the fight in the lockup alarms me until the deputy city attorney and the public defender, both of whom know this is my first week at Bauchet Street, Los Angeles County’s misdemeanor arraignment court, make dismissive gestures and one of them says with a smile, “It’s nothing, Your Honor, we can proceed,” and the senior deputy sheriff agrees before announcing that we have “twenty-three bodies” to process before lunch—bodies being the bailiffs’ word for humans in custody at least until I set bail or allow them to go free on their own recognizance, which is why we’re all jammed into this crowded, musty, germ-laden courtroom with a clerk who yawns and rubs her eyes before starting to call the cases, beginning with “a 484,” petty theft, stealing a ham and cheese sandwich from a market because the defendant—homeless according to the police report—said, “I was hungry,” and judging from the man in the dock, he must have been, so loose are his clothes, so big are his eyes, so after he pleads no contest, I give him summary probation plus credit for the night he spent in jail and then order him to stay away from the market before I move to the next case with no time to think about how sad this person makes me feel, because if I did, a tear might form in my eye, and that’s not fitting for a judge on the bench who, before lunch, is going to watch another twenty-two men and women shamble into the dock.

Anthony J. Mohr lives and writes in Los Angeles. For twenty-six years, he served as a Superior Court judge in Los Angeles and now is a 2021 fellow at Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative. His work has appeared in, among other places, The Christian Science Monitor, Commonweal, DIAGRAM, North Dakota Quarterly, Prick of the Spindle, Whistling Shade, and ZYZZYVA.