By Tony Russell

"Whatever happened to your poker pot?" asked Patty last night, as she was dishing out the black bean soup. "Who won it, George or Al?"

I was surprised. Patty usually knows everything that's going on. "Didn't you see the papers?" I asked. "It's been in the local news for weeks. They took it to court. George got the pot."

"They took a poker game to court?" Patty said incredulously. "Why would the court have anything to do with a poker game?"

I hate it when she asks questions like that. I start out explaining something to her, and by the time she's finished, I realize I don't really understand it either. "I guess it's up to the court to decide what it wants to decide," I offered lamely. "Did you already salt this soup?"

"Of course I already salted it. That's never stopped you before. How did they decide to give it to George?" she asked.

"As I understand it, there were two factors," I said, adding salt and pepper. "The first was the equal protection clause. The judge figured that if they included the three bent cards in this hand, they'd have to replay all the hands that night. And the other was time. The judge put off the case until the day before his vacation, and then said there wasn't time to replay those hands before he had to leave."

She snorted. "Who was the judge?" she wanted to know.

"Judge Unrecht," I told her.

"Unrecht," she said thoughtfully. "I think I know him. Doesn't his wife work in George's office?"

"Now that you mention it, I guess she does."

"Sure she does," said Patty. "That blonde. You know who I mean. And doesn't his son work for George's lawyer? That short, intense guy?"

"I think you're right. "She mused for a moment. "Unrecht," she repeated. "Wasn't he appointed by a friend of George's?"

"Uh huh."

"And doesn't he plan to have friends of George name his replacement when he retires?"

"This soup's too salty," I complained. "What's your point, Patty?"

"I thought there were standards--I don't know what you call them, codes of ethics?--that judges were supposed to follow. Like if you had a relative or a financial interest or something like that tangled up in a case, you were supposed to refuse yourself."

"Recuse yourself," I said. "Look, Patty, that's only when you're dealing with something important. Who's going to complain about the outcome of a poker game?"

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