TBA Law Blog

Posted by: William Haltom on Jan 2, 2012

Journal Issue Date: Jan 2012

Journal Name: January 2012 - Vol. 48, No. 1

Like most lawyers, I’m addicted to my phone. Almost every waking moment of my day, my phone is either pressed against the side of my head or being held in the palms of my hands.

My phone and I are virtual Siamese twins. We are attached wherever I am, in the office or at home or in church or at a restaurant. You name the place, and my buddy “Cell” and I are together.

About the only time my phone and I are not together is when I’m either sleeping or in the shower. But I am confident that Apple will soon develop the Aquaman i-Phone and the Sleepy Time i-Phone, and when this happens, “Cell” and I will be together 24 hours a day.

I wasn’t always addicted to my phone. Just a few years ago, I did not carry my phone with me everywhere I went. It was impossible to do so. My phone was a big, black heavy object that weighed about 25 pounds. It looked like a bowling ball with ears. I couldn’t put it in my pocket or even carry it around my office without getting a hernia.

I couldn’t put it in my car or talk into it while I walked down the street. I had no alternative but to attach myself to it and stand or sit right beside it when I used it.

And all I could do with it was to talk to someone who was attached to their own big bowling ball with ears in their office or home or elsewhere.

I couldn’t send or receive e-mails or text messages on it. Heck, I didn’t know what an e-mail or text message was. My “text messages” were letters, and rather than being sent electronically, these messages were delivered to the recipient by an agent of the United States Government (translation: a mailman) within a matter of several days, if not weeks.

I could not use my big bowling ball telephone to access the Internet. Al Gore hadn’t even invented the Internet at that time, and had you told me that I would someday use my phone to read the daily newspaper, I would have asked you what you were smoking.

But now my phone is about the size of a credit card, which is not exactly a coincidence, since it actually also serves as a credit card, which is not a good thing at all.

My tiny little phone fits easily into my pocket and is my key to the entire world. It’s with me everywhere. And that is precisely the problem.

Recently I was sitting in a courtroom in the Shelby County courthouse, waiting for a judicial status conference.

The Honorable Robert “Butch” Childers was presiding. Judge Childers is a very good Judge, and to my knowledge he is the only judge in Tennessee named “Butch.” I think that’s a very good thing. A judge named “Butch” is a man you must respect, both on and off the bench.

Judge Butch was hearing another matter, and therefore I had some time on my hands. I also had my phone in my hands. I had “silenced” my phone, or at least I thought I had. I had pushed the little button on the side so that the little bell icon had a line across it.

Once I had done this, I began to check on the many e-mail messages I had received from clients, family members, friends and Viagra salesmen. (How did they get my name?)

I was happily entertaining myself with my phone when suddenly, to my absolute horror, I heard a voice. It was not the voice of Judge Butch or any of the other lawyers in the courtroom. It was a voice that was coming from … my phone!

And unfortunately, everyone else in the courtroom, including Judge Butch, could also hear the voice.

I then did two things. First, I desperately tried to turn my phone off, but to no avail.

And then, I shoved the phone in my pocket, and glanced around the courtroom as if I were trying to figure out where that strange voice was coming from.

It didn’t work. Judge Childers’ trusty bailiff, Deputy Sheriff Buford T. Justice, glared at me, confronted me and ordered me to leave the courtroom.

I was absolutely mortified. I was just grateful that Deputy Justice did not take me into custody.

As I walked out of the courtroom, I and everyone else in the entire courthouse could still hear that voice coming from my phone. And here’s the pathetic part. Since I had stuffed my phone in my pocket, the voice was coming from my pants.

I spent the next several minutes in the hallway outside the courtroom, trying to control myself so that I did not wet my phone. I finally silenced it by removing the battery. But I still had a problem. I had no alternative but to return to the courtroom since Judge Butch was about to call my case.

I was also concerned that Judge Butch was going to call a new case: State of Tennessee v. Haltom, in which I would be charged with disturbing the peace.

To my great relief, when I appeared back in the courtroom for my scheduled hearing, Judge Butch did not even mention the traumatic event involving my screaming phone. However, Deputy Justice kept a close eye on me during the entire hearing as if he were Inspector Gerard and I were Richard Kimball.

And I thought of my phone as the one-armed man.

I have not been back in Judge Butch’s courtroom since this unfortunate incident. But I’m scheduled to return there soon, and when I do, I’m going solo. My phone is going to stay back in my office until Apple develops an app that automatically shuts the little sucker down every time I walk in the courthouse.

Bill Haltom Bill Haltom is a partner with the Memphis firm of Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson & Mitchell. He is past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and is a past president of the Memphis Bar Association.