Sitting in a three-quarters full courtroom for the first time, I have to say that I'm generally surprised with the way things are flowing.
I expected things to be different, how different I couldn't say, but in general, the folks here in the courtroom are quiet, focused and I'm guessing still half asleep given the dreary and early Monday morning start.
Unfortunately, nothing relating to humor has yet to be witnessed. Of course the courtroom isn't supposed to be humorous, but sometimes, like on the show "C.O.P.S.", there’s at least a schadenfreude quality to the overall appeal and perceived characterization of the various defendants, charges and pleads in the face of what seems to be un-negotiable evidence.
The judge has impressed me so far beyond the mental referent present inside my head; I suppose I was expecting Judge Judy. He is slightly older than middle age, with mostly grey hair but quite a bit of close kept hair still exists on his tan head. His demeanor is calm, and his tone implies no element of overbearing certainty which keeps the rhetoric and question/answer exchanges amiable. This definitely keeps the defendants more at ease, considering their slightly subterranean matters of legal consequence at hand.
One short and fat attorney approached the podium with determined familiarity to all things court, judge and jury. Both the judge and counselor exchanged their seemingly forced pleasantries before regressing into chatter of "Spring Breaking" and the nine holes of bad golf the old attorney had recently played. I couldn’t tell if his client pleaded guilty or innocent as the jarbled conversation between judge and attorney ended almost as soon as it started. The judge mentioned a fine amount which the lawyer repeated as he stepped away from the podium and walked towards the exit. The experienced attorney then turned around and quickly returned to the podium, tilting his head awkwardly and looking down as he spoke to the judge to clarify the forgotten fine amount. The short and squatty attorney then hurried out of the courtroom.
A little baby in the pew in front of me was wearing a Super-Man long sleeved shirt and some kind of stripped pants with cargo pockets. The infant has behaved quite well for well over an hour now, but a boisterous outburst earlier quickly gained the attention of a tall testosterone yielding female bailiff who spoke to the two young ladies in front of me with an authoritative and intimidating tone. The bailiff told them that the baby must leave the courtroom if the whining continued. The bailiff’s message must've really inspired the toddler because he's still here and behaving adorably . . . oops I spoke too soon.
One surprising event was the total and casual dismissal of a marijuana possession charge. This seems to infer, at least to me, that marijuana is old news and no longer seen as the evil gateway drug the old propaganda piece “Reefer Madness’’ would want us to believe. Certain segments of society had once worked so hard in an effort to create a perceived and shared truth about the controversial plant. The decision and apathetic concern displayed by the judge indicates to me that things have changed, and the truth is still to be defined. Depending on what truth you believe regarding the marijuana plant, it is now obvious, at least to me, that the interlocking directorate charged with forming these truths has much work to do in order to reach their goals.
As the courtroom thins out and my date with destiny seemingly closing in, I have to say that as I was excited to be in a real functioning courtroom for the first time, I have no disappointments or gripes about what I've witnessed. Maybe my experience is just a best case scenario, but overall the process is much more efficient than I had expected, and the court's defendants considerably better behaved. In other words, if you're looking for something juicy to blog about, traffic court may not be the place to gather material.
Photo: Chas S. Kuhn