Some stride and some saunter, in and out of the courthouse doors, the telltale suits and briefcases leaving little doubt as to their profession.
When we need them, we kind of like them, but automatically dislike the ones who represent the other side.
Nonetheless, they are the ones who stuck it out through law school, and the mere staying power for three demanding years of academic hell above and beyond an undergrad degree should earn at least grudging respect.
A lot of lawyers never get their hands dirty by walking into a courtroom, those big-shot corporate types who represent the rich at the expense of the poor, the millionaire attorneys whose jumbo retainers are enough to warn off the simple people who fight the big corporations for some semblance of economic justice.
Joseph Louis Watkins III, affectionately referred to by most people who know him as “Bubba,” is not one of these. A scion of a legal dynasty, with a father and a grandfather who were judges and left strong marks on the Terrebonne Parish legal community, Bubba is well known. Slim and slight, with a well-manicured beard and shock of white hair to go with it, Bubba is all over the courthouse on some days. He does not carry one of those fancy leather briefcases that are so enviable, but one of simple green cloth.
He earns his living doing civil lawsuits, wills and criminal defense. There are also the domestic cases, custody battles and divorces.
It has to wear on them, these officers of the court, who see first-hand the emotional cruelty one side of a child custody dispute will visit on the other. Along with CASA volunteers, judges and perhaps the court officers, the lawyers who work these challenging cases have got to have big shoulders, figuratively if nothing else.
So last Monday there Bubba was in the courtroom of District Judge Juan Pickett, representing a client in a domestic case too complex to detail here.
The judge made a ruling that one of the parties did not like at all, and Bubba made a joke to the bailiff when it was all over about whether perhaps he needed an escort to his car.
So he minded his business and walked down the interior stairs, to the lobby of the great art deco courthouse that is the seat of justice in Terrebonne Parish, prepared to finish up a little paperwork.
The man who had been ruled against, whose name is Marvin Robichaux and who lives in Bayou Blue, showed up in the area just outside the clerk’s office, where people walked by right there in the open.
Robichaux had some words to say to Bubba and Bubba tried to calm things down a bit and then there was Robichaux’s fist in the air and Bubba doesn’t remember a lot about what happened next, but there was contact.
Bubba went down, hitting the floor butt-first, which was likely a good thing, and, according to the people who saw what happened, then came the rest of him.
Robichaux was gone and Bubba came to, stunned and bloody in the lip with a broken tooth. It was no kind of a fight, just a sucker punch. But if it was a fight Bubba was back up quick enough to have beaten the count.
A warrant was issued for Robichaux, who was jailed on a second-degree battery charge and bonded out after spending the night there on $2,500.
It makes you wonder with all the anguish that attends court proceedings why Terrebonne Parish doesn’t require metal detectors at all the entrances, instead of just outside the courtrooms. But then, metal detectors don’t keep out fists.
Despite those who joked about how many people wished they could punch out a lawyer – and a few did – it is sad that Bubba or anyone else just earning a living would endure the pain or discomfort.
Bubba was on his regular scheduled the next day. The one bad experience, he said, won’t keep him out of the courtroom or from doing the best he can for the clients, and he summed it all up with a few simple words “I’m still here,” Bubba said. “I’m still standing.”