Making out with palm trees. Mistaking police cars for taxicabs. Rolling a stolen restaurant barbecue down the road, flames shooting up from the chicken still cooking on the grill.
Such spring-break high jinks have made Municipal Judge David Colwell’s courtroom one of the best shows in town. Now Colwell has collected some of the memorable anecdotes from the past nine years, in a new self-published book, “Spring Break: A Judge’s View From the Bench,” being sold at local bookstores.
Although Colwell recounts some serious episodes of violence and death, the majority of the anecdotes in the 98-page book are humorous.
Most have to do with public intoxication, and the often silly excuses defendants give.
“I am always glassy-eyed, talk with a slur and walk with an unsteady balance,” said one.
Guilty, said the judge.
The 60-year-old judge sits in front of a colorful seascape mural and wears tennis shoes when holding court on the weekends. In general, he said, he tries to keep things a little lighter during spring break.
“My primary rule is if I have to sit up there all day, by God, they have an obligation to entertain me,” he said. When he hears snickers, he tells those in the courtroom: “Go ahead and laugh. I’m going to laugh with you, because most of the time it’s so darn stupid.”
Like the defendant who threw a beer can out of a pickup truck and hit a police car.
“I informed him that this is Texas,” Colwell wrote. “You are supposed to throw the beer cans from the cab into the back of the pickup, which has been well known for years as a traveling wastebasket.”
A student from New York appeared before the judge and did not fight his indecent exposure charge, instead asking what his punishment would be.
Colwell wrote: “Instead of explaining again that in the United States you are innocent until proven guilty, I said, ‘This is Texas. We don’t allow men to go around exposing themselves to young ladies. We have a tree out back, and we’re going to hang you.’ The defendant turned pale. Being from N.Y., with tales of the Old West in his head, he actually believed me.”
The judge said he has sold about 500 copies of the book.