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A Moment with the Honorable Vaughn Walker

11 Mar Posted by in • Guest Writers | Comments Off on A Moment with the Honorable Vaughn Walker
A Moment with the Honorable Vaughn Walker

I am a freelance court reporter. Yesterday, only moments after confirming an assignment with my regular firm for the following day, an 11:00 a.m. hearing at a prominent SF law firm, I got a text message from someone who needed a reporter in Truckee. Damn!  It always happens that way. I could have taken that job and hit the slopes by lunchtime. Oh, well, 11:00 a.m. in San Francisco on a beautiful faux spring day will be a nice way to wind up my week.

Around 6:00 p.m., my assignment sheet came in. “Hearing with Vaughn Walker” – THE Vaughn Walker?? Wow. Who cares about skiing! I did have an opportunity years ago to work with him on a wrongful death case while he was still presiding in the U.S. District Court. I remembered him well, mostly because I found he had a wicked sense of humor and, back then, frequently wore a bow tie. “I think he’s gay, you know,” whispered another reporter – some sort of novelty I guess, back in the ‘80s. For a fleeting moment, I wondered why she thought that or even why it mattered. Anyway, all I really remember is how he always made me laugh.

So – glass law firm (translation – high rise, fancy glass-walled conference room, folks running around in designer clothes even on a Friday).  Hmm. Heels? yes. Full makeup? yes.  Yes, I have to iron my pants. Simple jewelry… Vaughn Walker?  How will I not gush all over?  How will I NOT burst out, “You, sir, are a true American Hero”?…. (should I wear my fake eyelashes?…no, probably not)

After passing through the gauntlet of security de rigueur for a downtown high rise these days, I took a seat, awaiting my escort to the conference room.  Shortly after hearing the elevator doors roll open, Judge Walker’s assistant crossed the room with a crisp gait to greet me. He ushered me along, welcoming and chatty as he flipped on the lights and set out coasters for coffee and water. “Judge Walker will be down momentarily,” he said, smiling as he stepped out of the room.

Of course at the precise moment I was on my hands and knees plugging my reporting equipment into the electrical outlet under the table, derriere big as life facing the door, a deep, clear voice sounded from behind me, “Ahem. Good morning?”

“Oh,” (thwap,head bumping the conference table), “good morning,” I said, jumping to my feet.

He extended his hand and with a warm smile simply said, “Vaughn.”  We exchanged pleasantries, and of course I had to nervously mention I had met him before, some 20 years ago, on a case he had absolutely no recall of. “It’s funny what cases stick in our minds and for what reasons,” he commented. But he was gracious enough to relate a story of his own in which his misremembering of events placed him in a rather comical situation—something to do with a recent lecture he gave. “Sometimes our minds play tricks,” he concluded.

“Yes!” I exclaimed, “and that’s when I get to playing tricks back!”  (oh, no, I didn’t. I did not just use that old, lame-ass joke…Really?)

Our proceeding began presently, and he handled everyone with such aplomb and grace, high-stakes attorneys arguing over intellectual properties, fervent and dogged in relating their stances on the various issues at hand. I watched his bright blue eyes darting around the room as the lawyers were speaking. I listened and reported his calm, deliberate comments and marveled at how he effortlessly rewrote what they had submitted into simpler, more concise terms. He seemed to school the attorneys on how to write a judicial order in a way that made them want to accept his point of view.  Nothing short of brilliant.

“Well, Ms. Smith,” he said patiently, “the more words you put in there, the more interpretations you are opening yourself up to.”  He winked at me.  I tried to imagine what his relatives were like – British perhaps?  Definitely elegant and polished. His strong hands and long fingers twisted the top of a pen on and off again.

The proceedings closed, and everyone signed off. He leaned back in his chair momentarily and with an avuncular sigh noted, “Quite zealous, these young attorneys.”   (No, I WILL NOT tell the joke about the old bull and the young bull. Whew!)

He arose to gather his things but not before extending his hand and flashing an amiable smile.  “Nice to see you again,” he said, eyes twinkling, handshake firm.


Debbie Fuqua is a crazy 53-yr-old mother of an 10 yr old boy and lover of a talented saxophonist (aka – the baby daddy).  Born and raised in the bubble of Marin and delighted to get out and see the real world as often as possible.  (oh, yeah, and I love my job – sounds boring, but I’m a court reporter)….  Now that the “some days” are gone I have good reason to JUST DO IT!

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