A group of early-day Pendleton lawyers had a bit of fun at the expense of one of their own, according to a story in the Sept. 23, 1816 Round-Up Souvenir Program. What started as a practical joke devolved into two trials and many rounds of “spiritual sustenance.”
“Judge” Templeton, a justice of the peace in Meadows (now Echo) in 1877, was having a little trouble getting the Umatilla County court to pay him for services rendered after he presided over a trial for a suspected horse thief. The evidence against Tom Burns was so inconclusive that Templeton felt he had to let the man go. Templeton filled out a bill for presentation to the county court, but it was rejected for some triviality.
Templeton traveled to Pendleton and retained attorney Jim Turner to make out a proper bill and demand payment from the court. After what he thought was an appropriate lapse of time, he returned to Pendleton and requested his payment. Turner told him the court had yet to meet again since Templeton last was in town.
Disgruntled, Templeton adjourned to the nearest saloon and shared a few rounds with some of his friends. After he shared his troubles in collecting on his bill from the court, one of his companions saw the chance to have a little fun with Templeton and suggested that perhaps Turner was holding out on him. Templeton, incensed, declared he would arrest Turner for embezzlement.
Templeton strode to the county courthouse and, seating himself in the judge’s chair, made out a warrant charging his attorney with embezzlement. He appointed Ben Beagle a special constable to bring in the accused, and Turner arrived shortly after with Judge B.B. Bishop as his counsel. Turner pleaded not guilty, and told his side of the story from the witness stand. Templeton suggested that perhaps Turner wasn’t confining himself to the truth. Turner immediately called Templeton a “dam liar.”
Templeton promptly fined Turner $20 for contempt of court. Turner slapped a $20 dollar coin on the table, which his counsel pocketed, to the amazement of the assembled courtroom. Bishop then moved for dismissal, stating that Templeton had no jurisdiction in Pendleton, and thus could not try a case, much less assess a fine for contempt.
Templeton grudgingly had to admit Bishop was right. “Constable Beagle,” he shouted in his wrath, “adjourn this court, release the prisoner and when once we get out of this blasted courtroom I’ll lick the liver and lights out of him.” The court was at once adjourned amidst a roar of laughter. The lawyers, jury, judge and constable then crossed the street to Jacob’s saloon.
Instead of a fight, it was decided that Turner should be punished by spending the $20 coin on drinks and other refreshments for the lot of them. But that was not the end of Templeton’s troubles.
After several rounds the barkeeper, who had been put up to it, complained that he had been robbed and ordered all the doors closed and the patrons searched. After a diligent search, a collection of silver spoons, tumblers and other bar furnishings were found in Templeton’s pockets. A kangaroo court was immediately convened, with Turner acting as prosecuting attorney, S.L. Morris the judge, and Templeton providing his own counsel. In spite of a vigorous defense, Templeton was found guilty.
Templeton threatened a motion to appeal, which “Judge” Morris refused to entertain. But on a recommendation by the jury for mercy, Morris imposed a fine for petty larceny, $5, and ordered that it be spent on further supply of spiritual sustenance for the court officers.
And Templeton’s original bill? It was paid to him in due time.