People's Justice
In Elk Grove

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by Robert Winter

You can rediscover the impressive gambles of American-style justice in Elk Grove, California.

Elk Grove is the kind of town Superboy would have felt at home in.  It happens to be in California’s agricultural central valley; it could be anywhere off any interstate. 

Its justice is dispensed in a modest tile-roofed building that nestles among shade trees in a miniature business district.  A branch library shares the building.  You don’t have to dress up special to drop by either place.

If you had happened to be passing by on the sidewalk this morning, you might have caught snatches of a comfortably-earthy cadence drifting through the cracks of the venetian blinds:

ALL-rise, ELK-Grove-Galt-Judicial-District-Justice-Court now IN-session...the honorable judge FRED May, PRE-siding...

A powerful-looking older man in a brown sport coat is coming through the same door everyone else has used.  He settles himself at the bench--a wooden teacher’s desk on a small dais.


Work boots and black oxfords scuffle the linoleum, as plaintiffs and defendants try to get comfortable in the rows of wooden seats.  The judge hunkers forward a bit and begins his explanation of constitutional rights.  He uses simple, direct words.

He is an ex-truckdriver.  He has never been a lawyer.

Judge May--"Buster," as his friends call him--took a special course of study, and passed a special state examination, to qualify for this job.

It’s an elective position, but he’s really not much of a campaigner, either. When a judgeship opened up, he put out a few simple bumper stickers and posters.  His opponent was a city lawyer who waged an expensive media campaign.  "Buster" trounced him soundly.

People here take their justice straight and unadorned.


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