top of page

Letters: Visting an ‘old friend’

Some of my California memories hug me like an old friend.

In 1981 my wife, Cathy and I joined 94,000 of our closest friends at the LA Coliseum to see the Rolling Stones with the J. Geils Band, George Thorogood, and Prince. Prince opened. He and his obscenities were booed off the stage in a barrage of thrown garbage and bottles. He later changed his musical approach. A nice older lady watched over our car in her driveway for $5 during the concert. The ‘thank you’ bouquet that I sent her was undeliverable because that house had been vacant for months before the show.

We drove with friends in an RV to San Francisco early one Monday morning, after a 1983 Sunday night concert featuring The Police at Fresno’s Radcliffe Stadium. We had breakfast after midnight at Madera’s Walt’s Truck Stop. In San Francisco, we stopped on the wharf facing the bay as the sun rose over the city behind us, shooting streaks of sunlight between the tall buildings over the waters, while mouthwatering odors of baking sourdough bread wafted across us. We also spent a night parked at an abandoned gas station. Loud banging on the door awoke us the next morning — a demolition crew was there to blow up the place.

My family and I were stuck in LA freeway traffic in 1992, during the riots following the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King. Angry people violently roamed the streets of the smoke-darkened city. The president was on the radio pleading for calm. But jammed drivers behind us were pointing forward and laughing. I learned why, when a Corvette slowly drove by us with a license plate that read “ANARCHY.” My license plate promoted “CIVILAW.”

I, as a lawyer, was arguing a case before three appellate justices in a divorce matter involving title to farmland bought during the marriage. One of the justices asked, “Mr. Wieland, if my wife and I bought farm property and then got divorced, do you think that I could convince her that she had no community property interest in the land?” I simply said,” Your honor. I would not presume to become involved in the court’s personal problems.” When everybody stopped laughing, we moved on.

My last jury trial, before becoming a Madera judge, was in Hanford. I defended 10 clients, including a union, in a six-week jury trial involving an ugly 18-month union strike, racial and sexual epithets, and claimed violence. The one plaintiff, a former union member who crossed the picket line, had one attorney until the first day of trial when a second lawyer was added. They hoped to double attorney fees that my guys would pay IF we lost. Our judge said, ”Mr. Wieland, plaintiff now has two lawyers to your one. Is this a fair fight?” I said, “No, your honor, but if opposing counsel would like a brief recess to add two more lawyers, that might be fair.” They should have added the lawyers.

— Charles Wieland,




bottom of page