My father was the county attorney for Carroll County, Ky., for 16 years. His office was in the courthouse on the third floor, the walls painted a strange shade of Seventies Chartreuse.
I worked there, in the county attorney’s office, for several summers during college, and my brothers followed. (Well, Mark did for sure. I’ll have to double-check with Paul.) It was a great summer job, helping my dad prosecute recalcitrant “absent parents,” the state’s term for the well, absent parent of children who received Aid to Families with Dependent Children, or AFDC. The state would like its welfare money back, if it can, so it leaves it to county attorneys to try and squeeze some out. We Baker kids kept the records.
We also kept the books, and by this I don’t mean any sort of real accounting duties. We kept the law books up to date. Now, I ain’t no lawyer so I can’t speak with absolute authority on this topic, but basically the cases are frequently updated and require the addition of supplements. When there’s too much supplement to be added over the course of X number of years, they replace the book. When I took the job with Dad that first summer, you would not believe the backlog. But I whipped him, or rather his law books, into shape and the brothers kept them in order after I went on to more journalistic pursuits.
But while AFDC cases and law books occupied a lot of my time, sitting around waiting for Dad to give me something to do occupied a rather hefty chunk as well and boy did I get a lot of books read. I even read cookbooks and copied off a lot of recipes I liked. But that’s not really the point. The point is, as I sat around reading, talking to Jessie, his secretary, the room wherein I loafed, the waiting room, was decorated with a rather humorous little painting called The Hung Jury by one H.M. Brett.
It still amuses me to look at it.
This photo of the print was taken by Mark, who had occasion to visit a law office in Burkesville, Ky., last week. He whipped out his iPhone and emailed it to me, which naturally made my day. For Dad’s print of The Hung Jury has been lost forever to the Baker clan, a victim of poor Mark’s condo fire three years ago, where he lost absolutely everything. I’m not kidding even one little bit.
So it was a minor thrill, for he and I both, to catch a sighting of The Hung Jury, now that our own copy is gone, gone, gone.
“Ah well, I’ll just buy another one somewhere,” I thought. Well, apparently not. According to Mark, who got it from the Burkesville lawyer, The Hung Jury was presented as a gift to clients of West Publishing, purveyors of the aforementioned forever-must-be-updated law books. Apparently it’s even printed on the thing somewhere: Compliments of West Publishing. The Honorable Mr. Burkesville-At-Law isn’t even sure when this happened. He got it from his father, and he isn’t any spring chicken himself. Mark and I theorize that maybe Dad got his from Old Judge Hardin, the lawyer whose practice Dad assumed when we all (a family of three and a half: Dad, me and a pregnant-with-Mark Mom) moved in Carrollton in 1967. And the thing can’t be found anywhere. Mark knows. Mark Googled. Nada Hung Jury.
I ruminated upon this for a little more than 24 hours, and the journalist in me kicked in. I did a quick Google myself and located West Publishing, now purveyors of all KINDS of lawyerly products, and gave ’em a jingle. I talked to a nice young man who listened quite politely to my long yarn, made appropriately sympathetic noises when I mentioned A) the death of my father and 2) the fire of Mark, which brought me to the predicament of being Hung Juryless here in 2009. He actually sounded quite interested in the whole case, truth be told (hey, it’s a case and he works for a law-book outfit) and promised he’d start digging deep in the bowels of West Publishing to see what he could come up with. He would do his best to see that the progeny of Stanton Baker, Attorney at Law, would have their nostalgic, kitschy giveaway picture from 1952! *applause*
It’s also captured the interest of Tras, who’s amused too at his wife’s dedication to hanging on to every last sentimental thing from her childhood — and from her father.
Despite the fact that he’s home today, knocked blind by a sinus headache, he trudged out to the computer this morning, asking, “H.M. Brett? What Publishing? The Hung Jury?” He loves a challenge — and now he, too, is On the Case.
Stay tuned for the verdict.