I really don’t mind. I’ve taken enough civics and history classes to appreciate a person’s right to be tried before a jury of their peers. (Although the definition of peers is another question entirely. I’m not entirely certain how I could be considered a peer of a gangbanger).
At one point in my college career, I even considered becoming a lawyer. I took the LSAT. I had an internship at a legal aid clinic. I attended public trials at the courthouse. And I am exceedingly glad that I decided that the law was not for me. But the stories … the stories were amazing.
For instance, during my stint at the legal aid clinic, I was responsible for taking the initial calls with potential clients. I would get their story (or, more appropriately, their side of the story) then turn it over to the power that be for further review.
My personal favorite was the guy who called to tell me that his wife and his MIL were abusing their children. He told me that the children were not attending school. That they only had one set of clothes. They weren’t being fed. And the wife and MIL never allowed him to see his children.
I’m really concerned at this point but I have a few more questions before I send this directly to one of the supervisors. And the more questions I asked, the more the story changed. Turns out, they were no longer attending school, their old school that is, because the children had been enrolled at a private Catholic school where the MIL was the principle. They were wearing the same outfit every day – it’s called a uniform. They were no longer being fed … their standard diet of fast food and were instead expected to eat balanced meals at home every night. And the best part? The wife and MIL weren’t allowing him to see the kids because the judge had issued an order against all unsupervised visitation.
I also spent time in the courthouse watching lawyers in action. Most court cases are open to the public and you could go sit and watch the proceedings. I heard everything from fraud to construction nightmares.
I remember one case where the plaintiffs were suing a contractor for shoddy workmanship. The contractor was on the stand and the lawyer was showing him pictures of his work. The conversation went something like this:
Lawyer (holding up a picture of crown molding that was installed upside-down): Is this your work?
Contractor: That’s the crown molding that I put up but I didn’t put it up that way. They must have taken it down after I left and reinstalled it upside-down.
Lawyer (holding another picture of a door that hung lopsided): Is this your workmanship?
Contractor: I recognize the door but I put it on correctly. They must have broken it after I left.
Lawyer (holding up a picture of a roof with a hole in it with the contractor standing in the middle): Is this your workmanship?
Contractor: I’ve never seen that roof in my life.
At this point I gave a short laugh. I mean, the lawyer was holding a picture of the contractor on the roof and the contractor said he’d never seen it before.
But a cardinal rule of courtroom watching is to never interrupt the proceedings. And I had just broken it. The judge from his platform in the front of the room booms out, “Young lady, approach the bench.”
I’m looking around to see who he is talking about. Then I realize it’s me. Crap.
I get up and approach the judge. The judge asks, “Why are you here?”
I’m totally thinking that I am in serious trouble. I’m going to get kicked out of the courtroom. Or put in jail for disrespect (er, contempt? Obviously I haven’t watched enough legal dramas). Whatever it is, it’s not going to be good.
I replied, “I am considering a career in Law …” and the judge interrupts me, saying, “That’s very admirable. If you have any questions, please see me after this case.”
Wait, what? You called me to the front of the room in front of everyone just to tell me that it was alright for me to be here and you would be willing to subject yourself to the questions of a college student? I’m pretty sure everyone had a laugh at my sigh of relief.
I don’t remember how the case turned out. I think I had to leave to go to class before it was over. And I wasn’t ever brave enough to go back.
But if I ever find myself retired and in search of non-tv entertainment, I’m totally going to go find a courtroom and continue watching the proceedings.