The law and Judge Creaner’s nose

It was onto the shoulders of Charles M. Creaner, judge of the fifth judicial district, that the promise of greater efficiency in the courts fell. Elected in March 1850 Creaner’s first court session in Sonora was in July. While he was not a cultured or scholarly man, Creaner was evenhanded and over time developed into a fair judge for those days. But he hailed from Texas and was said to have a fiery temper. Everyone who appeared before him was exceedingly careful not to provoke old Creaner.

Sonora CA 1852 by George H. Goddard

The Bummer from ‘A Peep at Washoe’

A prominent attorney and politician, Benjamin F. Moore, a tall, spare man with graying black hair, haughty in his carriage and who considered himself a gentleman of elegant leisure, had many appearances in Judge Creaner’s court. Moore’s legal education was somewhat deficient, however, as was his overall intelligence, but he had committed several speeches by notables such as Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun to memory and, when the occasion warranted, he would usually win the day with his eloquent pontifications. Once, when another attorney told him that his address to a jury was ridiculous, Moore replied that the jury was made up of a dozen fools and that he had said what he did so he that would win his case. And he did win it.

But one man Moore wouldn’t trifle with was Judge Creaner. Once, when Moore was defending a man for robbery and had offered testimony toward an alibi for his client that Cleaner threw out, Moore replied that any old cow would have the good sense to not make such a ruling. It was known to all the lawyers in Sonora that when the judge was angered the end of his nose would markedly rise up in a sneer, and Moore’s comment comparing Creaner to an old cow brought the tip of the judge’s nose very high. He yelled several times at the reckless and unthinking Moore before the attorney stopped his ongoing diatribe. “Did I understand you to say that an old cow would have more sense than this court?” the judge asked. Moore quickly realized what he had done and immediately denied that he had ever said such a thing. Judge Creaner then went on with the trial. Later, when a fellow attorney accused Moore of telling a lie when he’d denied comparing the judge to an old cow, Moore freely admitted the falsehood. “Of course I lied,” he said. “I had to lie, or kill old Creaner. I’d play hell making apologies to that old nose.”

 

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