Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Day in Court

If you want an education in civics, they say it's a good idea to sit around a court building for a day. I don't know about that. What it does for me is shatter any illusions I have in my 40s about our legal system and society.
Firstly, we're searched when we enter. I've always thought of courthouses as bastions of liberty and justice. How much justice can one expect when one is treated like a criminal upon entering a building? I know, I know, a few crazies have made this a necessary feature of our life. But, even when I cooperate, I don't have to like it, do I?
Next I walk through the halls, following signs and directions to the specific courtroom. I am joined by dozens of my fellow citizens. I wonder if you would be surprised by these people? "Red and yellow, black and white," young and old, varying degrees of ability. All are welcome to apply for redress, to appeal for relief, and that's a great thing about this country. But... I'm sorry, but first impressions count. I do not complain about the clothes people wear at church. If you show up for worship in a halter top and cutoffs, or a suit and tie, you belong, and I'm glad to see you. But, in a courthouse, well, there really isn't the grace of the house of God. Courthouses are about dignity. Did you really want to wear that jacket with "40 ozs to Paradise" emblazoned on the back? Did you really have nothing better that a UofI sweatshirt and grey sweat-capris in your closet? Dear pregnant lady, skin-tight leggings and sweater with a hot pink sweater/vest tied under your baby bump really weren't called for. And, you ma'am, you're an attorney, for crying out loud. Are you sure you should be wearing a miniskirt slit up the thigh and a tight angora sweater? Clothing makes a statement. The statement these people made was, "What difference does it make?" We are at a time in our history when that is a dangerous question to ask.
If you're going to have to spend time "sitting tight" (which I learned is the legal phrase for "wait here a little while") in the hallway outside the courtroom, it really isn't fair to call your friends and air your progress for all to hear. I mean ALL. C'mon, I was more than 200 yards away! And, if you are two attorneys discussing your clients, who are involved in a divorce, you should use a quieter voice when you discuss the Mrs. half. And, if she's your client, lowering your voice when you say, "Even *I* don't want to talk to her!" when it can be heard through the brick walls of the ladies' room would be wise.
Attorneys should not assume that all of their clients know all the details of the legal system. (Many of us do.) And, when your client asks questions...and asks them again, because you're using acronyms and technical jargon, loudly, in the middle of a hallway, attorneys should not lose their patience and stomp off. If they do, clients should fire them. On the spot.
Attorneys should also not joke with the guys at the courthouse coffee shop that their fees are based on how many bottles of bourbon it takes to get them through the case.
Judges should not have temper tantrums. If someone has asked for a judicial change, and it is possible, it should not be taken as a personal affront. Holding up court proceedings and making plaintiffs and respondents wait because you're having a snit is not dignified. Judges should always be dignified, even if their feelings are hurt.

But, when things turn out to be going "your way," our court system can be fine. Just fine.


Laura said...


This has been our world too since Ben entered our lives. Sometimes I laugh and think, "What am I doing here?" everytime I have to be searched to enter the building. I am used to it now. But we go to court to help and be supportive of our loved ones that have to depend on this system. And we hope and pray that one day things will get figured out and it is something we can live with that won't destroy us. I am praying for all of you. Rely on God's mercy and strength to see you through.

elephantschild said...

If people are stupid enough to have private conversations, cell phone or otherwise, loudly enough that I can hear them from 200 yards away, I have no compunction at all about eavesdropping. Their stupidity, my free entertainment.

Was the courthouse coffeeshop any good? :)

Melody said...

Well...the courthouse coffeeshop was more of a kiosk. The coffee was OK; not my usual "stuff," but, OK.