I had to go observe court today and lived to tell the tale. After being told what not to wear, I decided to make up my own “going to court outfit.” It was classy with a capital K. Let’s just say I was pretty proud of myself. I was thinking I was so clever and giddy, I sent the text below to Torture Queen, aka: TQ this morning before work:
Last night I told my Mom what I planned on wearing to work to impress TQ. I don’t think she believed me. Keep in mind I get to work at 7 am long before the public is even in the building. I was digging out my rattiest pair of denim carpi pants, I had a funny t-shirt my Mom sent me about sarcasm and glitter but couldn’t do it as it would have messed up my hair taking it off. I found an old pair of crocs and a funny ‘Maxine” t-shirt. It’s great when you realize that the t-shirt you want to wear won’t work and your husband encourages you by digging around for something just as tacky for you to wear. I love that man. Last night he suggested big hooker earrings but in my excitement of the morning I forgot about them. More brownie points to Mr. B for suggesting it. I put on make-up, did my hair and grabbed appropriate clothes to change into later.
When I got to work, I quickly threw on a feather boa, my tiara and grabbed my wand. Mr. D was already at work and was caught off guard for a minute and asked what I was doing. I explained about going to court and wanting to surprise our fearless Supervisor. It was time for TQ to come in and she just stared at me for a minute. Then she muttered, “I should have known from the text message this morning.” She also wondered why I was already in the office. We get to work about the same time and usually walk in together. She mentioned she was surprised to see my car but not me. She then insisted on a picture of my lovely court outfit. Of course I was feeling purtiful and special and agreed. As my co-workers trickled in they just gave me odd looks. I had to run and help with mail in Central Services and made it back upstairs just in time for our morning meeting. TQ had me show off my pretty outfit. When I went to see Ms. M so she could see the whole outfit in all it’s glory she just stared at me for a minute. I think she was taken away by my beauty and forward fashion sense. I reassured her that I had big girl going to court clothes. She seemed relived by that. There were quite a few comments about fashion police and so on and so forth. People started arriving and it was time for me to change into my big girl going to court outfit. Below is a side by side of these outfits.
Finally, it’s time to go to court. My stomach is in knots and I don’t have to do anything but watch. Ms. M already had a chair ready for me, which I thought was sweet. I watched her put files on the Judge’s desk. She explained to me that each Judge does things differently and what her Judge preferred. Each “bucket” of files was for something different; one was for people who were “walk in” type of folks, one for folks who would appear from the jail via video and finally one was for the folks who would be transport from the jail to appear before the Judge. Then we looked over our list of who would be appearing and she has a nice system. For folks who would be in the courtroom, she highlights it one color, folks on video another and finally transported folks another. They are all in a random order, so the color coding helps when you are dealing with one group of folks. Ms. M shared her highlighters with me and I got to color in my stuff too. We got to be twinsies!! She took me into her Judge to let him know that I would be hanging out with her during this stuff. He was very warm and welcoming and made me feel at easy. At least he didn’t tell her, “Nope, send her upstairs she can’t watch.”
It’s almost time to start and Ms. M is explaining the buttons on her desk. If folks have stuff on their laptops they want to put on the t.v. screens she presses buttons. I was so temped to just press all the buttons and see what happens but my luck I would short circuit something. I had my bottle of water and hard candies and a pen and notepad and the list of folks and I was ready go to. I knew a couple of folks from the County Attorney’s office who were there working and that was nice, put me at ease a bit. I was ready to see how this all worked. I asked Ms. M if I could look at the folks at the podium. She assured me that I could but to keep poker face and not frown or smile during proceedings.
The Judge walked in from the magical backroom and Ms. M asked everyone to rise. Then the Judge welcomed everyone and told them they could sit down. The whole process is very fast or it seems to me it’s fast. Probably because I didn’t know what to expect nor knew some of the legalieze type speak. We started with the “walk ins” The Judge grabs the first file and announces the case number. The Attorney and client a podium before the Judge. I was girl geeking out at some of the names of the Attorneys. These are folks that I have sent emails to about trials and now I get to see what they look like and what they do!! As different attorneys went up I would think of their email in my head. I know I’m weird. Once the defendant and attorney approach that podium, Ms. M starts making notes. She notes the time started, that the folks who are supposed to be there are there, what the outcome is from the Judge and the ending time. She highlights stuff to remind herself of stuff. A girl after my own heart. I love colored pens. Then she starts going into different screens on her computer updating things as well. She is FAST! I thought I was doing good getting my stuff highlighted before we started.
The process seemed to be similar for everyone. The defendant and attorney would go up to the podium and the Judge would welcome them. Then the Judge would ask questions to make sure the defendant was clear thinking, knew what they were pleading to, happy with their attorney and weren’t coerced or promised a new car or something if they plead. Then the Judge would talk about the case a bit and each attorney would offer to help the Judge out with information. I can’t remember the term they used. So the attorney would recite how the person was charged, “So and so on X date were you at such and such? Were you doing this or that? blah blah” They person agreed that yup, it was them and they did it. Next it was time to talk to “The State” the fine folks from our county attorney’s office. I told Mr.Bernie it reminded me of a debate team table. There was the county attorney and his two legal gals. They had computers, files and so on and so forth. So as “The State” he would stand up and say, “This is what we think should happen to this person.” “Let’s hold sentencing this day.” “This is why we feel this way.” “Let me tell you how we see it.” It really was pretty cool to watch.
The video thing was not working, so we moved on to the folks who were transported. One got to talk and do his bit and then it was video time. It was kind of what I have seen on YouTube, a bunch of folks in jail jumpsuits, an attorney standing at a podium in front of them. Then they would each go up as the Judge called their name. The State and if their attorney was present, would go stand in front of the video camera in the courtroom. Nobody was rude or icky. It went smoothly and was better than YouTube.
Finally we were on the rest of the transported people. In the last 40 minutes I really, really had to use the bathroom. However, I didn’t want to leave in the middle, I didn’t know if I could. I had been writing Ms. M questions this whole time and she answered them. Ok, well not all questions, sometimes random things popped in my head and I wrote them down and passed them to her.. Forty minutes and it seemed like it was never going to end. I wrote her a note about my issue, she just nodded and smiled. I kept looking at the time and it was standing still. I started to get antsy and even looked at my friend from the County Attorney’s office with pleading look. She felt bad for me, I could tell. Everything was clipping along until this moment. I don’t know how those courtroom folks stay there without a break all day. We there from 9:30am-1 pm. I was very ready to go back up to my office and not see people and not have to think about anything.
When it was done, I thanked the Judge and Ms. M and flew out of there like my hair was on fire. It was really, really a lot to take in. I will be going back another day, probably not tomorrow as I have two trials to pull with my new year of jurors. . If I have to work in the courtroom, once I learn more I can do it, but here is hoping that I won’t have to. Just observing and highlighting stuff mentally wore me out! But yea for highlighters!!