For part of my Thanksgiving break from school, I decided to treat myself with a little day in court. Ever since I thought I wanted to become a lawyer (11th grade: don't judge me!) I knew court was the place for me. I've adjusted that a bit (to my supreme delight), but I still love the scene.
I talked the li'l bro into it, so off we went.
Following the advice of my 60-100wpm instructor, I hit up the information counter to find some juicy cases. Criminal? Heck ya!
Her: There's Family Law too...
Me: (repeating self) Just criminal sounds good.
Her: Okay, you've got Departments 4 and 5. Both start about now.
Me: Thank you. (in head: YeeeeehAW! Here we go!)
I peered through the window in Dept 4, but the seating area was M.T. Not good. I didn't want to stand out like an...um...law abiding person in the midst of the (alleged) unlawful. Dept 5 was filled--much more promising.
Triple podium booth thing set up, two clerkys on the right. Bailiff with a belt sporting some serious hardware (one of which I like to imagine was a tazer) meandering about, court reporter with related equipment (squeee!), the People (skinny bald man with large white mustache--looked like a shriveled turtle), and the court appointed defense attorney (or whatever you call them).
Oh yeah. And a room full of people. And they were all innocent. It was rather amazing, really, that that many people could be called in to court like that, and all 100% hadn't done that thing for which they were accused.
(yeah, I know. guilty ppl wouldn't show up, they would just pay or go to jail. leave me my Shawshank Redemption moment)
Judge pops in and we get underway.
First case: Welfare fraud and perjury (meh, not too exciting)
Next: Petty theft from....Wal Mart. I would find that this was to become a theme. In fact, let's just get Wal Mart out of the way now. These two hoodlums (hey, I can only tell you what my eyes tell me) apparently drove to said retail outlet under a suspended licence, stole stuff, and attempted to abscond. My fevered imagination can only begin to fill in the holes on this. And it wants to. Oh it wants to. But onward!
Two girls (ahem: young women) are called up. Judge seems surprised to find they have the same last name.
Judge: Are you two related?
Them: tee hee....yes
Them: tee hee...we're sisters
Guy behind us that has decided to audition for the role as "Peanut Gallery": They're SISTERS!
Me: (thinking: Duh. That's what she just said....)
Judge: You're both too young to be getting involved in a life of crime.
See, they got hit with petty theft AND burglary. Burglary, huh? I wonder what they took. I am beginning to find out that is the problem with hearings...there aren't any details. In fact, the judge even says not to tell her details because it won't affect their case in the slightest. Dang.
After a couple more cases are pulled up about Wal Mart, I realize the reason is one of three things:
1. Walmart is the only significant retailer in the area.
2. Walmart is huge, a lot of stuff must get stolen.
3. Walmart is good at catching the bad guys. (and upon discussion with li'l sis, who works there, I'm going to place a whole lot of weight on that last one, though I suspect it's a bit of all three)
And all of them get the "Stay away from the Walmart! Don't shop at the Walmart. Ya hear me? Don't go go near the Walmart!" speech. I could barely keep from giggling when I considered the line from Oh Brother, Where Art Thou where the guy says "And stay out of the Woolsworth!" after he kicks out Everet for fighting.
We had 3 or so spousal abuse cases, though strangely, it was mostly the women beating up on the guys. I wonder if that's an area phenomenon. One guy wanted to take it back, saying that it had all happened when he had four beers in him (only 4? really? He was a big guy...). The People wouldn't drop b/c the statement he had made to the Sheriff when he called was completely different with what he was saying. After discussion with friends, we decided there was a lie by omission: only 4 beers. Who knows what else he knocked back? I guess he had to be sober enough to call tho...but then again... Drunk Dial: Sheriff Edition! (I see a whole new reality show...I could help write!)
Makes me wonder how much money the county is going to lose prosecuting this guy when both of them want it dropped. But hey. Goes to show: Don't Drunk Dial the Sheriff.
We have Marijuana Man. And of course, what did he do?
Oh come on, YOU know!
He played the "medical marijuana card". Literally.
Peanut Gallery: Of COURSE he does...
The Peanut Gallery was there b/c he had missed a payment on his DUI class and they had dropped him. But oh. He wanted to go back. He BEGGED to go back. "I must finish this!" He says with earnest sincerity, "It is my heartfelt dream to finish this course and get my licence back!" The judge gets a tear in her eye. "Go forth young man and conquer!" She says, " I believe in you!" or some such dialogue.
Last type was the guy they pulled up on charges of trespassing and (get this) loitering. As my sis says "I will loiter...if I have time." Then it comes out that this guy (who must be at least 18 if he's in reg court) loiters and lurks and stuff around the house of a man and his daughter. His 14-year OLD daughter. Not cool. That's at least 4 years, and at that age, 4 years is a LOT. Man-boy is ordered not to loiter, lurk, or otherwise tarry at said household.
Of course, as they are getting down to the last couple, the bailiff and the judge start giving us the eye. "Why are they there?" they wonder. The bailiff even comes over and says in a not-stage-whisper "Which case are you waiting for?"
Me: We're just observing...(Please don't give us paperwork!!!)
Him: Oh. (obviously disappointed he can't give us paperwork in triplicate that will ask us to divulge our blood type, name of our first born children--or prospective children-- the serial number on our home fax machine and financial information to determine whether or not we can get a court appointed lawyer. Sorry Bailiff, I know that's all you live for.)
The judge finishes up, then goes over the names of the ppl who didn't show up to make sure she can legally slap warrants on them. Every time she mentions a female name, she stares straight at me, no doubt waiting for me to jump up with the clarion call "That's MEEEEE!!!" When this doesn't happen, she asks us what case we're here for. Bailiff-man, happy to get *some* mileage out of us, pipes up "They're just observing!" I think I see confusion pass over the clerk's faces. "Oh..." the judge says.
I don't think ppl observe very much.
We left right about then.
Me: Thanks and all...Great job Judge! You really nailed that loitering case! This will make excellent material for my blog and all. (I actually only said the first word of this--probably a good thing)
All in all, great and productive use of a free morning. :)