"No, Your Honor, It's An Insulin Pump"

As a reporter at a legal newspaper, I find myself regularly passing through courthouse security and sitting in courtrooms.

A recent assignment took me to a local courtroom notorious for having a "no tolerance" policy on cell phones and related pieces of technology, to avoid any potential courtroom disruptions. The judge and bailiff are well-known for the policies and discipline imposed on folks who disobey.

So you can only imagine my delight recently when my insulin pump appeared on their disruption radar and the court focused some of its attention on me.

In the hours before entering court that day, I'd been flirting with Lows all morning. Blood meter checks showed my CGM paranoia was totally off base and was at least 40 mg/dL off the mark - meaning there was nothing to be worried about. But being in a constant on the run mode that day made it a little more uncertain, and meant the constant pump alerts weren't helpful and were rather annoying. Court just added to it.

This wasn't federal court, where the security guards have gotten to know me by face and don't hassle me much anymore about the pump at my side. No, this was a county, state-level court I don't make it to very often. Blank stares on the faces of the security officers at the entrance didn't seem to comprehend what an insulin pump was, and they weren't overly impressed with my explanation that the device attached to me was a "medical device that cannot be removed." A wand revealed no danger, so they cautiously let me pass (though I could feel the glares as I moved on through).

At the courtroom door, the bailiff instructed all who entered that the judge wasn't fond of cell phones even being out in someone's hand, let alone being used: "If (the judge) sees you playing with a cell phone, it will be confiscated and you could be fined and held in contempt of court." I'd heard this many times before and waited patiently to enter the courtroom, not suspecting it'd be an issue. My cell phone is always silenced in court, as is my insulin pump.

But that day, once sitting in my seat and the judge had entered, Larry The Loaner CGM got fussy. He decided to start alerting me that a Low Was Predicted. I silenced him, and minutes later he alerted me that I had in fact hit 70. Another snooze before another alert that I'd gone down more. After the fifth one, I started getting annoyed and wondering if I was, actually, as Low as Larry was saying.

I drew my pump from the holster at my waist and examined it for a moment, looking at the CGM graph that had hovered somewhere around 70 all morning. But now, two arrows were pointed straight down and the number on the screen was 58. Hmmm.

I felt fine, without any blurry vision or other signs of Low present. But it might be time to check. Didn't want my courtroom or people-watching ability to be sacrificied because of a Low.

Producing my blood meter from my coat pocket, I set my little black case on my leg and did a blood test. There was no one immediately to my right and the person a few seats down didn't seem to notice or care what I was up to.

The bailiff standing to my left was a different story, and he had apparently become very interested in what I was doing. As I fondled my pump and pushed some buttons, I saw him put on an "Oh, no you DIDN'T just whip out a pager!" facial expression. As I pulled out my meter case, he moved toward me.

"You need to give that pager or phone to me," he instructed, pointing to my pump now resting back on my belt.

Me: "It's not a pager or cell phone. This is an insulin pump."

Bailiff: "Well, whatever it is, you are not supposed to be using that during court. It's against the rules. If you want to use it, you'll have to leave the courtroom or I'll confiscate it."

Me: "Fine. If you want to call the paramedics when I fall over unconscious, I'll give you my medical device now. I'm sure the judge will love it when you and him are both sued because you don't understand what an insulin pump is."

He stared at me. I could feel his uncertainty about what to do - leave me alone, toss me out of court, or slap some handcuffs on me for arguing with him. Though the moment didn't last more than a few seconds, I imagined him cuffing me and hauling me up to the bench before the judge for a whole other conversation.

Judge: "Son, you were instructed not to be using any phones or pagers while in my courtroom."

Me: "With respect, Your Honor, this is not a cell phone or pager. This is an insulin pump. It's a medical device."

Pointing to my pump: "That right there? It's so small, just like a pager. Are you sure?"

"Your Honor, it's an insulin pump. Trust me. I wear it all the time to help monitor my health. Kind of like a pacemaker. It is not going to disrupt anyone in court."

I imagined him eying me suspiciously, obviously taking a cue from the security guards at the front of the court entrance.

Judge: "I see. Well, just stop fidgeting with it. You are making my bailiff uncomfortable."

"Yes, Your Honor. I understand."

Of course, this conversation didn't really happen and I doubt it ever would. I've personally observed that most judges and most courtroom staff are great, caring people.

My issue this time was with the bailff, who was hovering above me back at my seat and finally spoke, drawing me out of my daydream of standing before the bench.

Him: "Well, then, do what you need to. Just don't disrupt court."

Me: "I won't. Thank you for your concern."

You know... I make every effort to respect the rules of court. They are important. But this was just ridiculous. A case where this moron being all concerned about my quiet, discreet, and non-disruptive pump viewing was MORE OF A DISRUPTION than what I was doing. Sometimes, people use their phones and are disruptive. Sometimes, phones and pagers aren't silenced. Yes, that's disruptive. But this wasn't. I was being quiet and no one cared, except for the hawk-eyed baliff who took an issue with someone not watching the judge's every word. That annoys me, and frankly it's a waste of court resources for this to be happening.

For the record, my blood test was not 58 as the CGM arrows indicated - my meter said 75. Assuming the trend was correct, I found my sleeve of glucose tabs in my coat pocket and ate a couple to offer a little boost. All was fine.

But with the CGM acting up, I'm thankful that whatever "ruckus" it was causing didn't result in my getting cuffed or having to actually stand before the judge because of my pump. If that were to happen, I wonder if the Diabetes Online Community would help pay my bail if I ended up in jail for "Disruptive Courtroom Insulin Pump Button Pushing?" Hmmm.

Well, at least we didn't have to find out - for now...


Bob Pedersen said…
I dunno, Mike. You kinda seem like a flight risk to me. :)

(I'm sorry you had that experience. Hopefully, the bailiff will be slightly less ignorant in future.)
Jess said…
people can be so difficult, can't they? i once got yelled at in high school by a teacher who thought my pump was a pager. this was just in passing in the hallway--the teacher didn't even know me! people, people, people...
Jonah said…
"40 mg/dl off the mark" - I like that.

The lack of an option on the Dexcom to silence the under 55 alarm is one of the things I don't like about it, precisely because of situations like these.

Whenever I know that people have no electronics policies, I let them know as soon as I'm in their space that I am wearing a medical device. Before they notice it themselves.
Alexis Nicole said…
I was reading this as you commented on mine..creeeepy.

Omg i had to read it twice cause i thought judge actually said that!!

And hell yea we would bail you out.... somehow....;)
Mel said…
Love it! (And thanks for leaving me a message!)
Unknown said…
I'm with Bob...you are a total flight risk!

Bummer on the experience. Sounds like you hopefully educated the bailiff a bit and he will be more conscientious in the future.
Cara said…
I'm going to a play this weekend where I have seating actually on the stage. You aren't allowed to have any electronic devices or bags of any kind. They make you check them in a locker. They even have a dress code so you don't distract from the actors.... I'll admit that I've thought about how horrible it would be to have a low onstage.... With nothing to treat it with. Ek. I think I'm going to let myself run a little higher to avoid problems.
Anonymous said…
I went to watch a trial last year and they were cool about it, no hassles or anything like that. Come to think of it, I went twice as it got continued the first time. Perhaps the good thing about my situation it is that I will be there with the lawyers I work with if I need some "backup". I went to a mediation once as well, on one of the more intense cases in my career. Pretty much you hang out and kibbitz while the mediator runs back and forth between the pltf's side and the defendant's side. It was like a 5 or 6 hour deal so there was lots of kibbitzing.
Bernard said…
Mike, I'm afraid I couldn't stand bail for someone like you, who's engaged in criminal, court-disrupting activity. :-)
Trev said…
Thanks for the huge welcome comment on my site, much appreciated. Luv the content of your blog my friend. I was once asked if mine was a pager while working in the hospital by a young egocentric doc, I said, "yes it is", he replied, "why aren't you important", I said, "well I'm awaiting a kidney transplant" The look on his face was priceless.
Meri said…
Unreal. How do people not know what the term "Insulin Pump" means?

Is the world really THAT unaware that they can't put two and two together? Insulin...for diabetes...plus pump...must be medically necessary. It doesn't take a genius to figure that one out!
Melinda said…
I laughed and cringed reading your post. I am in court sometimes daily, (as an atty) and can relate. The bailiff who did not get what your instrumentation was, is more common than we would like to admit. It reminded me of the time my CGM kept going off . I was in court with a judge I knew pretty well, and opposing counsel. The funny thing is I kept ignoring the beeps, by hitting escape and of course the beep would periodically reappear. It annoyed me so much, I have really shied away from my CGM, even though I should use it . I hope this time around, I can be taught how to deal with the beeps, because they drove me crazy.Not to mention, that , like you the CGM would give a reading of 55 and the bg monitor reading was 70. Other than that, I have never had a problem. The guys at the security check in sometimes give me a hard time. When I tell them it is a pump, I don't think they know what it is.
Type 2 in Ontario said…
That "hawk-eyed baliff who took an issue with someone not watching the judge's every word" is more common than you might realize. The bailiff is mostly parrotting the judge's orders not to allow anything but his/her own voice to be heard in "their" courtroom. Sometimes that judge's robe brings them special powers that makes everyone else not in that robe disappear.
I've spent some time in courtrooms for various (non-legal) reasons and it isn't all Perry Mason drama in the average remand court. There are hours going by with people not being present and cases being carried and dismissed and rescheduled ad infinitum, while I've had to sit patiently waiting for my turn or the turn of whoever I'm with. It gets boring after awhile! Once in a small town courtroom (where perhaps the judge is also the mayor or some other town official ?) the bailiff took offence that I would DARE work quietly on a notebook or even a crossword puzzle. This sort of "disrespect" was not allowed and I was asked to leave! And it was the bailiff who was creating the disruption with his questions to me. I had not uttered a word or squeaked a tune or beeped any warning. But I wasn't watching the judge 100% of the time or hanging on his every morsel of wisdom. Apparently that is a No No and my disrespectful little self was summarily dismissed! Hey, at least they didn't confiscate my puzzle book!
I thought you were VERY polite to what was likely a power-hungry bailiff and I'm pretty sure I could conjure up a few shekels for your bail next time your CGM misbehaves - but beware of those disruptive pocket puzzle books! .
"D" as in "D" said…
You ATE glucose tabs in the COURTROOM? Well, that's contempt right there, my friend. I'm surprised you're "out" to tell that tale...

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