October Olio: Law, Literature, & Love

by CJ Verburg

hall-of-justice-san-francisco“In San Francisco, the DA’s office, criminal courts and city jail are located in a Stalinesque seven-story structure at Seventh and Bryant that is modestly known as the Hall of Justice.” — Sheldon Siegel, Special Circumstances


I had the good fortune to meet Sheldon Siegel at my first Sisters in Crime meeting a few weeks ago. Good fortune because (1) I enjoyed talking with him, and therefore (2) I picked up his courtroom drama Special Circumstances–a gripping read, especially since (3) I was obliged to spend yesterday afternoon in that very Hall of Justice.

Siegel’s character is on trial for his life after being falsely accused of murder. I was on trial for $238 after being falsely accused of running a Stop sign. Hardly comparable, but oddly parallel. What strikes you upon stepping into those marble corridors is that the leitmotif is not Justice For The Accused so much as Convenience For The Employed. The lawyers buzzing around Traffic Court gave the same reassurance to the police officers they were cutting deals with as Siegel’s protagonist gives his client: We’ll get you out of here as quick as we can.

Not having a lawyer, I was the next-to-last defendant in the courtroom to get out. Experienced perpetrators know that hiring a lawyer jumps you way up the priority list, and strongly inclines the officer who accused you to request a dismissal. Are the scales thereby tipped heavily in favor of the guilty? I can’t answer that, but I know I got lucky in being assigned to a judge who truly was committed to justice. Of course, once all the pleas and dismissals were negotiated by the hundred or so lawyers, officers, and defendants in his courtroom, only five of us were left for him to try. We were out of there by 3:30.

1booktoberfest2014Much more elevating was last Friday’s fourth annual Booktoberfest at the Mechanics’ Institute Library. For one night, the third-floor reference library became a feast, where a capacity crowd browsed samples of locally produced beer, wine, munchies, and (of course) books. With UC Berkeley Extension as the event’s main sponsor, local literary organizations from Litquake to Zyzzyva (see below) staffed tables with information and giveaways. 2booktoberfest2014Meanwhile, in a nearby classroom, almost two dozen member authors gave three-to-five-minute presentations of their work. The impressive roster included novels, memoirs, chronicles of adventures, even an app. Kudos to librarian Taryn Edwards who masterminded this delightful “Buy Local” celebration–which originated with the motto, “Put the PUB back into publishing.”


luxy-bannerLast and certainly least is the news from Mark Morford at SFGate of a new dating service called Luxy which touts itself as [sic] “TINDER MINUS THE POOR PEOPLE.” Is this for real? The San Francisco Bay Guardian’s Rebecca Rowe wondered that, too. Rowe quotes ‘the (poorly copy-edited) website: “Our members include CEOs, entrepreneurs, investors, millionaires, beauty queens, fitness models, Hollywood celebrities, pro athletes, doctors, lawyes [sic] and successful people, juast [sic] name a few. . . . The average income of male users on LUXY is over $200k and those who are unable to keep up financially are immediately removed from the service.”’

Prank or not, Rowe notes that ‘actual people are signing up for it.’ Morford adds that Luxy may be most useful as a filter, to help users ‘weed out exactly the type of human you want nowhere near your world: entitled, vacuous, vain enough to think an app like this is exactly what they need but cheap enough to believe it should be free (Sign that Luxy is bulls–t No. 27: Any real dating app for rich people would cost $500 a month and ask for your dental records and two years’ of tax returns).’

For a different angle on the love-and-commitment question, see yesterday’s SFGate post by Tony Bravo. According to a recent survey by the Daily Mail and Jezebel, ‘half of all married women have a backup husband in mind.’ And, no–nobody asked what married men have in mind. Some lids are better left unlifted.