I was arguing a sentence in front of Judge D’Opal one day, the exact nature of which I do not recall. It came down to a call between 60 days jail or something less than 45 days. The distinction between the two was actually more significant than the arithmetical difference between the two numbers. Most people sentenced to jail in Marin County do not actually serve the jail in the so-called Blue Roof Inn dubbed such in homage to the color of the top of the Civic Center building designed by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright. We referred to our jail by this benign moniker even though it had been moved a bit north, out from under the aesthetical pleasing lines of only public building designed by Mr. Wright that was ever actually constructed. Presently the jail was sunk in a hole, excavated in a grassy knoll that abutted the northwest corner of the existing structure. James Murray opined at the time of proposed construction of the new jail that society had progressed from the point where we dug holes and threw people into them. This did not overcome the hue and cry of law enforcement for a new lock-up with more cells and less sunlight.

There were two alternatives to having ones room and board covered by the County for a period equal to 2/3 of the actual sentence after taking into account time off for good behavior. If a person was sentenced to 44 days or less, an application could be made to perform community service work known as AOWP, Adult Offender Work Program. A jail term of 45 days or more pushed a sentenced individual into applying for county parole aka home detention aka ankle bracelet. 

In trying to convince Judge D’Opal to cut this guy a term which was less than the one recommended by the probation department I argued that 60 days on ankle bracelet sitting home watching cartoons would not make nearly as significant an impression on him as would some old fashioned physical toil without pay. In doing so I referred to the proposal as ‘slave labor’. Judge D’Opal wrapped in the rainbow flag of political correctness called me to the for a brief off the record parley. She told me that there were some African American persons in the courtroom who probably did not appreciate my use of the terms ‘slave labor’. I grabbed the right lapel of my jacket upon which my diamond Rotary Club past-president’s pin sat. I told her that we in the Rotary Club did not appreciate calling it community service because it equated an involuntary situation with the volunteer work we did. I also pointed out the historical fact that African Americans did not have market on slave labor cornered and were hardly unique in that experience.

Always the diplomat I added, “Never the less, it’s your courtroom and I will refrain from using that term in the future.” I walked back to counsel table without further comment and continued my presentation. If an apology was what her honor was seeking, she is still waiting.

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