I went to court yesterday.
I wasn’t summoned to attend as a juror, plantiff or defendant.
Rather, I went to support a friend who made a bad decision a while back and is having to answer for it.
Believe it or not, this was my first time in a courthouse. I’d never darkened the doors before, for even so much as a jury duty notice.
After a day to digest the experience, here are a few thoughts:
Courthouses are seemingly designed to be as non-stimulating as possible. Everything is neutral and bland- the architecture, the furniture, the finishes, etc. There are no seats in the hallways to rest on, no vending machine available for public use, no music, no artwork. The only vibrant colors I saw in the whole building were on the state and national flags. I began to think that the boredom factor had been turned up either to calm those who were nervous- or as a preview for those who might be going to prison.
The pros weren’t what I expected. Although I’ve never been to court before, I’ve watched tons of Law & Order (it’s on ALL the time), read multiple Grisham novels and have partaken in a few celebrity trials on cable. I’d seen plenty of D.A.’s, P.D.’s, Baliffs and Judges. But the ones I met yesterday weren’t exactly as advertised. The lawyers weren’t nearly as interesting or as sharply dressed. Instead, the words “ordinary” and “rumpled” come to mind. The judge was cordial and very even keeled- not nearly as grumpy or sarcastic as Judges Wapner, Judy or Joe Brown. And then there were the baliffs. Those poor guys seemed to have a gig equivalent to your middle school hall monitor. Aside from getting to announce the judge or escorting shackeled prinsoners, most of their day was spent asking the crowd to “shhhh”, waking up a couple of folks who dosed off, and running notes from the D.A. to the judge.
I’m glad I’ve never been before and I hope to never go back. The courtroom is a living reminder that people are broken and freedom is revocable. As luck would have it, my friend didn’t get his day in court when I was there. He had to return today and I wasn’t able to be there to support him. Fortunately, he acknowledged his mistake without receiving a punishment that would take him away from his family for a long time.
Now, let’s hope neither of sees the inside of another courtroom anytime soon.