John Grisham: The Judge's List

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The call came through the office landline, through a system that was at least twenty years old and had fought off all technological advances. 

It was taken by a tattooed receptionist named Felicity, a new girl who would be gone before she fully understood the phones. They were all leaving, it seemed, especially the clerical help. Turnover was ridiculous. Morale was low. The Board on Judicial Conduct had just seen its budget chopped for the fourth straight year by a legislature that hardly knew it existed.

Felicity managed to route the call down the hall to the cluttered desk of Lacy Stoltz. “There’s a call on line three,” she announced.

“Who is it?” Lacy asked.

“She wouldn’t say.”

There were so many ways to respond. At that moment, though, Lacy was bored, and she did not wish to waste the emotional energy necessary to properly chastise the kid and set her straight. Routines and protocols were crumbling. Office discipline was waning as BJC spiraled into a leaderless mess.

As a veteran, the veteran, it was important to set an example. “Thanks,” she said and punched the blinking light. “Lacy Stoltz.”

“Good afternoon, Ms. Stoltz. Do you have a moment?”

Female, educated, no hint of an accent, mid-forties, give or take three years. Lacy always played the voice game. “And to whom do I have the pleasure?”

“My name is Margie for now, but I use other ones.”

Lacy was amused and almost chuckled. “Well, at least you’re up front about it. It normally takes me some time to work through the aliases.”

Anonymous callers were routine. People with gripes about judges were always cautious and hesitant to come forward and take on the system. Almost all feared retaliation from the powers on high.

Margie said, “I’d like to talk to you, somewhere private.”

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