Matthew Cartright and William Rochester were judges of the New Zealand District Court. They were also very good friends, and had been since law school thirty years ago. Both practiced law in the New Zealand capital, Wellington City, for a couple of decades and both were promoted to the bench within a few years of each other.
Both judges enjoyed a tipple or two together on Fridays down at the ‘club’ which was frequented by other judges as well, and a number of senior solicitors and barristers around town.
Mathew Cartright owned and self drove a Mercedes Benz, while William Rochester preferred the latest American Ford. Both judges had a very bad habit of driving home after their tipple or two together at the ‘club’, and had done so without mishap for a number of years.
Like many things in their lives, they had both married their wives within a year or two as well, but they would find that they could not get away without mishap for ever. Both judges were pulled up by police patrols on different Friday evenings and arrested for driving under the influence – ‘drunk driving’.
A few weeks later the two judges discovered they were both on the list before the District Court, and arranged to hear each other’s case. A clever enough decision, under the circumstances – or was it?
When Mr William Rochester appeared before Judge Cartright for driving under the influence, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Judge Cartright fined Mr William Rochester $1,000 and suspended his licence for three months. A severe enough sentence for a first offender. He gave him the usual speech from the bench and sent him on his way.
When Mr Mathew Cartright appeared before Judge Rochester the next day in the same Wellington District Court, again nothing appeared out of the ordinary, until the sentence was revealed. Judge Rochester said to the accused in front of him, “It appears to me that too many people lack any personal responsibility when drinking, and fail to make any alternative arrangements and just get into their vehicles and drive away under the influence with total disregard for any other driver on the road.” he said authoratively. ” A person of your standing should set an example to society, and I intend to sentence you accordingly. You will be fined $5,000 and have your licence suspended for one year. Step down!” he demanded further.
Judge Cartright, just plain ordinary Mattew Cartright that day, was totally stunned, and rang for a taxi in the court foyer.
The following Friday he met his “friend” William Rochester in the bar of the club and demanded that he explain the severe sentence he had handed out to him.
William Rochester stared straight at his friend, Matthew Cartright, and said calmly, “Matt I had to make an example of you the other day…I mean after all, there was another judge before the court just the day before, and in my opinion he received a rather light sentence under the circumstances. Having a drink, Matt?” he enquired searchingly.