Thursday, April 17, 2014
I Took My Kids To Court Today
In a previous post, I wrote about how I was recently a spectator at our local municipal court (http://isithotinheremmm.blogspot.com/2014/04/what-i-learned-in-municipal-court.html). Now, we're talking basic traffic court, not anything bloody or prurient. Well, given that it's Spring Break here and the kids are off, I took them to watch the Court.
The teen went reluctantly, since anything that takes away from his computer time annoys him, but the 8-year old jumped at the chance to do something out of the ordinary. The kids and I made a deal: they would not talk in the Court (a big no-no since everything recorded can be used in case of an appeal) and if they were antsy, we would leave after about an hour.
The first row in the courtroom is reserved for prisoners, a fact that excited my daughter with the prospect of seeing dangerous people. Thankfully, there were none, but before the session started, she and I had a discussion of why people might be in prison and why they might need to appear in Court. The judge was the same on who presided the last time I was there, and I was even more impressed by him this time. He started the session by announcing that in the courtroom were two lawyers-in-training and named my children; this made my daughter happy and embarrassed my son (thus, making me happy). This man does not strike me as someone so intoxicated by power that he abuses it. His judgments seemed fair. I especially loved his announcement to everyone that being summoned to Court does not make you a bad person – it just means that there's an allegation against you that needs to be heard.
Once again, most of the violations were minor, although we were surprised to learn that one man was given a ticket for not getting the snow off his car this past Winter. I know it's against the law and it's nice to hear that someone actually got called for not doing it. Also interesting were the many tickets against local businesses for everything from false burglar alarms to having uninspected vehicles on the road. The judge, who did not have a translator available, too great pains to make sure that anyone who did not speak English well understood the charges made against them and what their options were.
The kids got restless after about an hour (it was hot in there) and we left. I wish we hadn't because my friend who works at the Court had offered to introduce the kids to the judge. On the way out to the car, my daughter and I recalled the last time our family had been in Court – 7 years ago when we appeared before another judge when we re-adopted Diva. That was one of the happiest days of our lives.
I'm glad the kids got a chance to see our judicial system in action. They now know what a courtroom looks like and that appearing before a judge is not a scarey thing, like going before the Almighty Oz in the Wizard Of Oz. They saw him as a human being who is trying to make a correct judgment based on the facts given.
Municipal Court is a great, free place to take your kids that will make a permanent impression on them and give you wonderful opportunities to discuss a variety of topics (justice, government, whether laws apply to all, etc.). If you can, grab your kids and head to your town hall. You won't be sorry!
Thanks for reading! Please check back in with me in a day or two and remember: you can also find my words of non-wisdom over at The Geek Parent (www.thegeekparent.com). Namaste!