Judge Byron: Very busy
Madison County Circuit Judge George Moran could have quit sooner than he did, but he stuck around to pull a final grand surprise.
Moran had set 44 motion hearings and 84 management conferences Feb. 9. When the day arrived, he simply did not show up.
His vanishing act plunged the courthouse into chaos.
Someone taped a sign to his courtroom door, directing attorneys to the courtroom of Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron. Attorneys packed Byron's room like sardines.
At the same moment Circuit Judge Don Weber's courtroom sat empty. Weber read in his chambers.
Circuit Judge Daniel Stack's courtroom sat empty. Stack had temporarily taken over the larger courtroom of Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian, to conduct an asbestos trial.
Matoesian chatted with friends in the common area outside his courtroom.
Thus stood the tally for the morning: one judge missing, one running a trial, one handling 128 cases by accident and two handling no cases at all.
No one had anticipated that Moran would dump his docket and take off.
The size of the docket raised no eyebrows, for Moran regularly scheduled days with more than 100 hearings and conferences.
At first glance, his mass dockets looked goofy. They allowed a few seconds per case. In practice, however, they worked beautifully. They brought attorneys face-to-face for conversations that might resolve discovery disputes or even bring about settlements.
For other attorneys, these days provided a chance to show that they had not lost interest in cases. The attorneys would draw up orders to continue, and Moran would sign.
Attorneys who wished to argue a motion would stick around until the mob dispersed.If no attorney showed interest in a case, Moran might dismiss it at the end of the day.
His final mass docket began taking shape last July, when attorneys on both sides of a case asked him to continue it for 120 days. He gave them more than 180 days, setting a management conference this Feb. 9.
In September he set a few more cases for Feb. 9.
On Oct. 26, he conducted a bunch of management conferences. When attorneys asked to continue cases, he set them Feb. 9.
In November, Moran took over a batch of cases that plaintiff attorneys took away from Weber by moving for substitution. Moran set Feb. 9 management conferences for them.
On Nov. 23, Moran again conducted management conferences. When attorneys asked to continue, he reset the conferences Feb. 9.
Whenever attorneys filed motions, Moran set Feb. 9 hearings for them.
In at least three benzene cases, defendants moved to dismiss or transfer.
In a contract case, defendant Delmar Hagen Jr., moved to vacate a default judgment that Moran entered in December for $110,000. In a civil assault case, Denny vs. Twente, Moran postponed a motion to dismiss from Jan. 12 to Feb. 9.
As new cases arrived on his desk, he set Feb. 9 management conferences for them.
Moran, a Democrat, had planned to run for retention this year, but his support in the party began to weaken.
His prospects diminished when the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that he posted photos of himself in a judicial robe, hunting for dates on the Internet.
Moran announced that he would not run for re-election after all.
He said on Jan. 30 that the Post-Dispatch would run another story about him.
Sunday, Feb. 5, the Post-Dispatch quoted a Granite City woman who said she and Moran watched a Cardinals baseball game from attorney Stephen Tillery's luxury box.
The Post-Dispatch did not publish the name of the Granite City woman.
A headline on the front page of the Feb. 9 Post-Dispatch said, "Moran appears to be resigning." The paper connected his exit to the story of Granite City woman.
Moran's anonymous accuser did not determine the timing of his departure. He picked his own time, and he achieved a marvelous effect.
No man would pass up an opportunity like that.