Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lessons from the Bench

Criminal court at the County Courthouse at 8:30am is a crowded place. The lawyers on both sides are huddled in small groups and pairings, the guards watchful on the sidelines. The French interpreter is present, flanked by her two oldest children dressed in their very best. Heads turn from the first moments; kids in here? 

Aragorn and Lily take it all in, as I had hoped they would. Everything is new, everything is fairly solemn and formal. The bailiff announces the judge's entrance and all rise. My offspring are still and absolutely silent throughout the proceedings (they'd better be, the bailiff would have them out of the courtroom in two seconds otherwise and they know it.) The books they've brought along for the first half-hour wait are closed and forgotten. 

Things were rather noisy in the courtroom and it was hard to hear the discussions at the bench over the whisperings of the attorneys. My initial disappointment at this later gave way to appreciation: they can always read accounts of what happens in a courtroom, the visual was what would be most powerful here today. The sight of prisoners, young and old, male and female, being brought out in shackles, brown granny flip-flops and orange jump suits, made, I hope, a lasting impression on young minds. The friendly solemnity of this particular judge, and the kind sollicitation of both a defense attorney I'd worked with in the past and the public defendant in this case, did much to make my children feel at home.

My assessment of the whole experience? I will admit to unabashed motherly love and pride in my children. I had so much fun having them with me. They were perfectly polite, showed an interest in everything taking place and thanked me oodles afterwards. A good day.

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