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Sandusky Hearing Shows That in Legal World, Sometimes the 'Big Game' Never Gets Played

Today in Bellefonte, Pa., the media hoping to cover the Jerry Sandusky preliminary hearing got a taste of one of the more frustrating aspects of the legal world: the non-event, i.e., the highly anticipated important event that doesn't actually happen.

As a practicing lawyer, I remember numerous occasions where I would do something along the lines of:

  • Prepare for days or longer for "important hearing";
  • Fly from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco on day before "important hearing," check into hotel room;
  • Wake up early, further prepare, meet client and arrive at courthouse for "important hearing";
  • Attend and participate in "important hearing," which unexpectedly turns out to be limited to trivial issues and lasts 10 minutes, postponed to a later date or simply canceled altogether.
  • Fly from San Francisco back to Washington, D.C., shaking head and wondering, "what just happened?!"

On Monday, media from around the country and perhaps the world descended on the tiny town of Bellefonte, Pa., in anticipation of the preliminary hearing in Sandusky's child molestation case. Many of his accusers were slated to confront Sandusky in this hearing with testimony about the abuse to which he allegedly subjected them. As Deadspin wrote Monday, the downtown area of the small town had begun to "resemble the lit-up scurrying of a movie set," and the town had parceled out areas where the dozens of TV crews could film their on-location reporters. Police began to barricade certain roads. "It was as if we'd arrived in town the day before a big game," Deadspin wrote.

This morning, the town awoke to what locals said would be the highest-profile event in town history. The WSJ Law Blog was on the scene to live-blog the proceedings, and said that reporters arrived early to pack into the first seven rows of benches. The members of the public who filled the back rows were selected from more than 1,000 people who applied to attend the hearing. Famous courtroom sketch artist Elizabeth Williams was on hand to draw sketches of the event.

Then, the following occurred:

8:29 a.m.: Hearing called to order.

8:30 a.m.: Sandusky waives his right to the hearing. Hearing over.

The Deadspin analogy to today's hearing feeling like a "big game" probably felt accurate last night. But as lawyers know, there is one big difference between law and sports events such as the Super Bowl: they always play the Super Bowl!

Posted by Bruce Carton on December 13, 2011 at 12:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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