Denver Bar Association
April 2004
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New Judge Brings Bop and Boogie to the Halls

by Greg Rawlings

by Greg Rawlings
The Docket’s Denver County Court Correspondent

The ever zaftig world of Denver County Court has been abuzz lately with the antics of recently seated Judge Harold "Hap" Hartman, a/k/a "The Dancing Judge." Known to twirl provocatively down the long, lively corridors of the Courthouse’s first floor in his judicial robe and tap shoes, Hap never misses a beat. In my interview with Judge Hartman, conducted to a backdrop of Brazilian percussion, he claimed that his life was radically changed by a midnight showing of "Singin’ in the Rain" at the Mayan.

"Twenty-nine years of being just another tedious working stiff. First the PD, then the CA, then night court magistrate . . . then this Judge thing . . . then I saw the light, then, well, then I heard the beat . . . Gotta dance! Gotta dance, gotta dance, gotta dance!" Rising from his ergonomically correct chair, shining tassled tap loafers a veritable blur, he executed a dazzling series of arabesques across his office, barely missing the water cooler and his life-size cardboard stand-up of Gene Kelly. I walked away in awe.

Even the usually reticent County Court Presiding Judge, Silent Ray Satter, was drawn to comment on the "New Hap."

"Geez, can’t even get the guy to bike to work like I do, like a number of us do—regularly, I might add—but he’ll dance a blue streak down to the coffee cart. Go figure. Still, gotta admit, the man can cut a rug."

Judge Harold "Hap" Hartman

I had started to leave when an obviously pensive Judge Satter motioned me back. "He does owe the City 28 bucks for that over-sized stapler he obliterated trying to springboard over the clerk’s desk in 109. Word is, it was a crisp 360 spin, landed as soft as a baby’s hiney. Plus, he’s dropped 17 pounds since this dancing bug hit. Shoot, maybe I’ll use those samba lesson coupons I accidently bid on at a silent auction."

The Judge’s bailiff, Barry, was less enthralled with his new boss. "If I gotta hear the soundtrack to ‘Oklahoma’ or ‘West Side Story’ or whatever one more time, I’ll run screaming onto 14th Street. I didn’t count on this. I’m only three years from retirement and I get this guy. Trust me, I’ve lodged a complaint with my supervisor. Career Services is next. I mean, how much can one man take? I do admit that he brought me donuts with bright green sprinkles on St. Patty’s Day. But it’s gettin’ to me, you see. I’m on edge. Help me, please help me."

After backing from the room with one hand ready to push 911 on my cellphone, I continued out into the sunshine. Gazing reflectively back through the security guards and the metal detector, I espied a sharp black flash spinning like a top across the rotunda. The Dancing Judge! Denver can only be a better place, I reckoned, with this lively terpsichorean on the bench.


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