Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cecil ponders tense Hume-Conley case:
past imperfect; but future perfect? Well...

by Tom Nadeau

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Cecil listened for three hours Friday to Elk Grove City Councilman Patrick Hume and his former flame Constance Conley bitterly complain in excruciating detail their on-again, off-again love-hate affair.

When they were finally done accusing, denying and being unable to recall, Cecil said he would rule by Oct. 8 on if the politically active Conley and Hume must remain apart.

Their rocky relationship had lasted about five years – years marked alternately by break-ups and make-ups and break-ups again.

During one especially acrimonious estrangement Hume obtained a stay-away order that barred Conley from contacting him. In that same interim Hume, 38, took up with a new girlfriend, one Lisa Lent.

At the same time, however, Hume and Conley blatantly ignored the stay-away court order and attended political events and fund-raisers together, Conley’s attorney Paige Minor Hibbert elicited through questioning.

“Hundreds and hundreds” of phone calls, emails, text messages ensued, Hume and Conley admitted, under questioning by Hume’s attorney, Ronald James Peters.

The nasty details …

Not only did Hume and Conley exchange many calls and messages, some individual conversations were extraordinarily long.

Telephone records showed (and Hume confirmed) that one particular call between himself and Conley lasted eight hours and 10 minutes.

The calls, messages and emails sometimes became nasty, with Conley making unflattering accusations against Hume and Lent.

When Conley took the stand, she produced a three-ring binder packed four inches thick with printouts of emails and other exchanges between herself and Hume.

Hume’s demeanor on the stand was testy and his answers were curt. At one point, apparently impatient with how things were proceeding, he began testifying directly to the judge.

Peters, a seasoned and respected attorney, immediately cut Hume short, telling him in very few words that it was the attorney not the witness who led the questioning.

That odd exchange was but one of several uncommon events highlighting the courtroom action in Hume v. Conley, case #06CP01317.

Judge ignores past imperfect wants future perfect plans instead

The parties gathered in Cecil’s Department 16 courtroom at 9 a.m. Cecil laid out the issues at hand as he saw them, summarized the legal options allowed in the given circumstances and sketched out how he wanted to proceed.

For one thing, Cecil wanted to limit the testimony to what the parties wanted to accomplish by way of resolving their argument. That meant he was not interested in rehashing their entire history.

Conley was clearly disappointed. It appeared she had wanted to air all of her grievances against Hume, but that was not to be.

Cecil clarified another apparent misunderstanding by Conley.

“Hume is not restrained. Only Conley is restrained,” he pointed out.

More to the point, Cecil added, if neither party could abide by the first order, what good would it do to issue another.

One truly bizarre moment occurred when Hibbert -- in an apparent attempt to demonstrate how cordial things once were between the two now-bickering people -- tried to enter into evidence two neckties Conley had given Hume.

After Cecil rejected the ties as evidence, he joked, "Are the ties now for me?"

Only one witness was called to testify and that was Elk Grove Vice Mayor Steve Detrick. When asked by Hibbert to describe the interaction between and Conley and Hume at a political event, Detrick said it was “cordial.”

Testimony sometimes acrid

Towards the end of the three-hour hearing, Cecil asked the attorneys to summarize what it was they wanted him to do.

Peters said Hume wanted the order the judge granted to do three things: 1) extend the existing order for five years, although three years would do; 2) impose significant sanctions on Conley if she violated the order, and 3) grant attorneys fees for the time and expense laid out for the case.

Hibbert objected to any order being imposed on his client, but he agreed that the attorneys should be granted reimbursement for legal fees.

At the last minute, Peters added one further request. He asked Cecil to extend the order to include a demand that Conley stay away from Lent and that it be enforced by the police.

Cecil balked at that. First of all, police had expressed some doubts they could effectively enforce such an order and, besides, it would be improper to include Lent in this particular legal procedures.

If Lent wanted an order against Conley, she would have to seek one separately and of her own accord, Cecil said.

After the hearing Peters immediately departed to meet a court commitment in Placerville. Hibbert spoke briefly, saying he had hoped to bring more information to light in his questioning, but Cecil had barred that.

He was asked to summarize the on-again, off-again affair that seems to have developed between Hume and Conley. Hibbert agreed it was an uncommon situation, saying it was like Hume and Conley “feed off each other.”

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