Yes, you read all of that correctly. The 4th District Court of Appeals was actually asked to rule on a matter involving the whopping sum of $5. And yes, in doing so, they were forced to wade through a 47-page appeal, which was most likely copied more than a dozen times at a cost well in excess of $50 ($50,000, if copied at your law firm).
Can you just imagine being one of these judges? You've finally ascended to the ranks of an appellate judgeship. Your parents are making all of their friends and family sick as they talk about their son or daughter -- the "big-time appellate judge." And then you have to go home for Thanksgiving and explain this case to your parents.
"Have I decided any capital cases? No, not exactly. What about political cases? No, not precisely. Multi-billion dollar class actions? No, not really. But hey! I did resolve a dispute over $5 last week. Can you pass the cranberry mold?"
I can only imagine that at some point, one of the judges must have been tempted to reach into her own pocket and just pay the $5 fine herself.
Of course, I feel most sorry for the lower court judge who was reversed in this matter. It's one thing to be reversed in a landmark decision like Roe v. Wade, Brown v. Board of Education or Ali v. Frazier. These contests meant something (especially if you had money on Ali). They had an impact on the history of the nation and to this day, generate heated debate and thoughtful reflection. For some reason, I just can't fathom future historians producing a series of documentaries entitled "$5 to Life: The Case That Changed the Law as We Know It."
Perhaps, the most pitiable person in this incident is the prosecutor who felt it necessary to appeal the massive $5 fine he received as a result of being five minutes late to court. Now, I certainly understand that prosecutors don't make as much as, say, partners in large law firms (or associates in large law firms ... or receptionists in large law firms), yet are times that tough among the prosecutorial ranks? Will prosecutors start hanging out around freeway off-ramps holding up signs reading, "Will Plea Bargain for Food"?
And what does this story foretell about the ability of judges to assure promptness in their courts? Without the ability to impose fines (even miniscule ones), will judges be forced to eliminate any expectation of timeliness?
"Tomorrow, court will begin at, oh, around 10 ish ... or 11 ish ... or maybe, you could all arrive at sometime tomorrow before midnight, but hey, no pressure!"