September 2022 Millar’s JurisDiction - Grandmothers’ Names

by Richard W. Millar, Jr.

Grandmothers play an important role in our lives, but they often have names with mysterious origins. I did not know my grandmother on my mother’s side very well because she lived in the East Coast and only visited us a couple of times. Her real name was Ethel Armes, but I knew her as “Didsie.” If I was ever told the source of that name, I have long since forgotten and there is no one left around to ask.

My father’s mother was named Marguerite, but she was “Tanta” to my brother and me. My grandfather, her husband, died before I was born, so she was the only grandparent I really knew. She was a wonderful, nurturing soul and often stayed with my brother and me when our parents were traveling. While I believe she chose to be called Tanta, I am not sure if that was the case, but she was always Tanta to me even after I was married and had children.

My mother had a far less imaginative streak. When our children were born, she insisted on being called “Grandmother.” With a capital “G.” My father, who probably could not have cared less, but knew enough not to become embroiled in an unwinnable marital conflict, settled for “grandfather,” with or without a capital “G.”

Then Nancy and I became grandparents and it was name decision time. We defaulted, or perhaps deferred would be a better word. We decided to let our first-born grandchild name us.

Which she did, although not immediately as we had to wait until her English skills became discernable. Nancy became “Maga” and I became “Oompa” and we have been so known ever since.

I probably should add that there were no political overtones to her selection. It was about thirty-five years ago, long before President Trump took center stage. Perhaps, she or we should have copyrighted it, but who knew.

I have since learned that MeMaw is a popular name for grandmothers in the south. However, I also learned that you have to be careful where you use it and to whom you are referring. It is not, for example, a good idea to refer to the Governor of Alabama as “Governor MeMaw” if you are a circuit judge in that state.

Or, so sayeth the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission in a recently filed complaint against Circuit Judge James T. Patterson.

The Commission accuses Judge Patterson of often referring to Governor Kay Ivey, who is approximately seventy-seven years old, as “Governor MeMaw,” and referring to the state’s prison system as “Governor MeMaw’s prison system.”

In an order related to a covid-era Zoom hearing for a status report, he issued an order cancelling the hearing because, as he put it, “this court was of the opinion that it better not hold virtual hearings because that may require someone else (staff person/IT person/lawyer who doesn’t have access to the technology?) to leave home and violate Gov. MeMaw’s order.” [Emphasis in original.]

That order, according to the complaint, “went viral,” causing a number of judges to be concerned that it might have an impact “on upcoming budget discussions for the next fiscal year.” I am not sure what that says about other judges’ priorities of concerns, but I digress.

After that imbroglio, according to the complaint, “Judge Patterson has made joking remarks to attorneys on more than one occasion about him not being able to call the Governor ‘Governor MeMaw’ anymore.”

He is also accused of making “denigrating comments about the circuit’s presiding judge as a ‘G*d d*mn snowflake’ and then later again as a ‘snowflake.’” [Asterisks in original.]

Again, per the complaint, he constantly complained about the court’s budget, stating “in orders and in the media that the circuit was ‘dead ass broke.’” [Asterisk in original.] He dealt with the lack of money in an imaginative, but not legal, way by essentially hijacking a routine non-appearance in a criminal case and issuing an order declaring some Alabama statutes unconstitutional and ordering the “circuit court clerk to withhold ten percent of court fees and costs collected until the state adequately and reasonably funded the Mobile circuit clerk’s office.”

That order was ultimately overturned by the state supreme court.

While it is too soon to know what the ultimate outcome of the complaint will be, there is a lesson to be learned:
Never pick a fight with a grandmother no matter what her name is.

Richard W. Millar, Jr. is Of Counsel with the firm of FSG Lawyers PC in Irvine. He can be reached at rmillar@fsglawyers.com.