Justice Led Down the Garden Path by Judge in Texas

Judicial proceedings in College Station, Tex., got a breath of fresh air when a judge with spring fever shed his robe and traded a hot courtroom for a cool city park pavilion. Municipal Judge Philip Banks, clad in Hawaiian shirt and shorts, hunkered down on a park chair with an orange soda in one hand and dispensed justice while lawn mowers whirred in the background and geese honked on a nearby pond. Banks pleaded guilty to being seduced by the spring temperatures--in the low 80s--in moving to conduct court al fresco. "Why not?" he said. "College Station has such a nice park system. I also think the sight of me in shorts would have a punitive effect on these traffic offenders." Elizabeth Scroggins, who was in court over a traffic ticket, approved of the change of scenery. "I think it's cool," she said. "It makes the atmosphere so much more relaxed."

--Officials in Florida's Leon County thought it was an eye-catching gimmick when they posted speed-limit signs reading 44 m.p.h. for a 45-m.p.h. zone. It was. A lot of drivers, in fact, not only stopped and took notice, they stopped and took 70 of the novel signs from along the road. County commissioners, over the objections of Commissioner Gayle Nelson, have decided not to replace the signs and will instead reinstall the conventional 45-m.p.h. warnings. Nelson argued that the signs remain the best way to get drivers to slow down along scenic Miccosukee Road, where they were posted.

--After being called a bunch of prairie chickens by Texas Gov. Bill Clements, the Texas Senate decided to forgo any squawking on its part and make it official, adopting a resolution to make the bird the official state grouse. Clements last week charged that state Senate Democrats supporting a $5.8-billion tax bill have not faced up to the "real world" and reminded him of "prairie chickens (that) have a genetic compulsion during the breeding season to . . . thump the ground." The resolution, sponsored by state Sen. Ray Farabee, a Democrat from Wichita Falls, praised prairie chickens for "protecting their domain" and said: "Crying fowl in an unfair and unprovoked attack is a particularly attractive attribute of the prairie chicken, and this body deems it better to act as prairie chickens than to play chicken." The resolution was passed on a voice vote after Hobby said: "All of those in favor, signify by thumping."

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