Judge Ellis has seen everything (Shanghai)

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JUDGE VANCE: Mike McCollum.

JUDGE McCOLLUM: Thank you, Judge, I’m way too young to be up here. I can’t believe it. I’ts terrible. I’ve got a couple of things. I’m sitting down there right next to Charlie Tessmer, and of course two chairs over is the judge where I tried most of my cases. I guess Judge Ellis tried 3800 jury trials in the 28 years he was on the bench, and I swear I must have tried 3500 of them. I lived down there for so many years. So it wasn’t until a few years — I’m going to tell a story about — about how I met Charlie Tessmer and tell you something that you may not know about Judge Ellis that I found out about him not more than five years ago when he was over at the new courthouse.

As you all know he is — he was the most patient man in the courthouse; everybody knows that. And he was the most patient man because he had to be a judge in front of young lawyers like me. And every young prosecutor that came through down there, he had to let them try their cases. And, you know, a lot of people thought he was real impatient, but he was very patient because he’s dealing with young lawyers for 28 years. It’s incredible.

And being the patient man that he was on the bench, I discovered — it must have been five years ago — something that I know you are all going to want to know about him. He’s a world traveler, and he — and one of the things that makes him so patient is he’s seen everything. And I found this out on a Friday afternoon. What Judge Ellis used to do is he used to have bail bond hearings on these adult education type cases that some of the better lawyers do, you know. The State calls them obscenities. We call them adult education cases. And Malcolm Dade for years has done those. And Judge Ellis believed in following the letter of the law on any case, and especially on these obscenity cases there were a lot of pretrial motions that could be filed. And Malcolm — of course not for purposes of delay, but for purposes to assure that he — his clients got full representation would file about five pounds worth of motions in each case and he might have 100 of these cases at a time. And every one of them we’d have to have a pretrial. When I was a prosecutor, I did the pretrials down there at Judge Ellis, and then later on when I got out and I started representing some of these adult educators I would do them and I’d have these hearings on Friday too.

And about five years ago Malcolm Dade, who everybody knows and loves — Malcolm had a bunch of these cases, and the judge had scheduled this bail bond hearing for Friday afternoon. And what happens is at these hearing sis the vice have to bring in the educational videos or the marital aids and show them to the court so the judge can rule to look at them, you know, to see if as a matter of law they weren’t obscene. So the judge at least had to preview them. Kind of like you have a motion to suppress hearing in front of a judge on a traffic stop or on a search, and a judge can rule as a matter of law it’s illegal or it could say, “No. I find that they’ve met their burden of proof in front of me, but you can still do that in front of a jury.”

Well, Judge Ellis would make sure in every on of these obscenity cases if a lawyer requested a bail bond, he’s have a bail bond hearing. So he schedules them for Malcolm, and Malcolm’s got probably 20, 25 of these cases set one day. And they’re all device cases. So the vice guys have to bring all the devices up there. Man, they bring them in, and the whole courtroom is filled with them. And Judge Ellis says, “All right. Just set them up, I’ll go by; I’ll look at every one of them.”

And of course Malcolm, he’s got his motions and that’s not the only motion he’s got. And Malcolm has got this monotone voice. And ever since he got his hearing aid, it’s even worse. And he will just drone on and put you to sleep. And he’s going on, “Now, Judge, I’ve got this other motion here.” “Mr. Dade, I — I see your motion. I’m going to rule on it. Now, let’s get this — let me look at these devices here.” “Yes, sir, Your Honor.” And then he’d go around and he’d look at them. “All right. I’ve looked at this one, this one.” And of course Malcolm would say, “Now, Judge, I’m not real sure that you looked at everything over here in this case right over here.” There would be a box of devices over there. The judge would go through and look at — say, “That’s — you know, that could be a dog collar, that could be something else. I find that’s — you know, that’s out, that’s out, this is in.” And he was getting it all done.

And Malcolm of course, he didn’t want to get this — you know, I wouldn’t say — well, let’s just say it wasn’t in the interest of his client for these things to get through in one day. Maybe have to continue the hearing for another week or another month, who knows. But anyway, Malcolm keeps telling the judge, “Now, Judge, I’m not sure that you saw all of this stuff.”

Finally, Judge Ellis, patient man that he is, finally says — patience was ending. He says, “Mr. Dade, I have seen that device. I have seen everything.” “Now, Mr. — Your honor, I’m not sure that you looked at this and you know exactly what this could be.” “Mr. Dade, I have seen everything. Mr. Dade, I have seen everything. Mr. Dade, I ran a bar in Shanghai at the end of World War II. I have seen everything.”

My God, I had no idea. About two months later Judge Ellis says, “Mr. Malcolm, would you come” — I’m in there, you know, in the courtroom doing some pleas and whatever. “Would you come to my office for a minute?” I go to his office, and he shows me a picture. And it’s a picture of Judge Ellis, and he’s got to be 18. I guess he had to be 18 to be in Shanghai, but he was in the Navy. It had to be 1946, ’47. He’s sitting in a rolled and pleated — remember those old diners that had those rolled and pleated booths? He’s sitting in a rolled and pleated booth, he’s wearing his Navy — I don’t know if it’s derogatory. We called them bog uniforms. The neat Navy uniforms the enlisted guys wore which were the bell-bottom trousers and the — the blouse, the shirt that goes over the back. He was sitting there with that. He was in his dark — in his blues. There was another young sailor there with him. Both of them, I”m telling you rosy cheek, he was 17, he couldn’t have been over 17, 18 years old. The two of them were sitting there, and they’re sitting there with an old guy in a three-piece suit who looks even older than I do now and he was a white — he says, “This was our partner.” He was a white Russian who owned the bar, but because he was a white Russian he couldn’t own it. He had to have, for some reason — legal reasons — or maybe — it might have been that the judge and the other sailor had to have a white Russian as a part owner of the bar.

But as God is my witness he owned a bar in Shanghai before the commies took over and that — that was the wildest place in the world at that time. Judge Ellis has seen everything. And that’s why he’s such a patient man.

JUDGE ELLIS: His name was Sergai Guy.

JUDGE McCOLLUM: Yep, I asked him “But do you know Shanghai Jimmy?” How many of ya’ll remember Shanghai Jimmy? The judge knew him in Shanghai. I mean when I found out, I could not believe it. That’s a piece of history, and that does explain why he’s pretty unflappable.

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