Thursday, April 10, 2014

What I Learned In Municipal Court

I spent the morning in my township's municipal court under the best possible circumstances: I was a guest of one of the Officers Of The Court. She'd invited me down to see what proceedings were going on and I went because, from what I'd heard, it could be quite entertaining. Here's what I learned:

  • This particular judge, rather than being scary, was a very reasonable man who, I believe, was merciful in his judgments. He advised most of the plaintiffs to go visit the prosecutor down the hall to see if their matters could be taken care of simply and possibly bargained down to a lesser infraction. I kept thinking that if I had to go before a judge, this is the guy I'd want to be in front of.
  • Many of the cases seen today were tickets given to people who illegally park in handicapped spots. That opened my eyes because so many times I've been tempted to park in those spaces, figuring I wouldn't get in trouble. Apparently people do.
  • A few of the cases were of motorists who were pulled over for not having their driver's licenses. It turned out that in at least two cases, the motorists had never had a driver's license, either in this country or in their country of origin. This reinforces for me the fact that we really have to be careful on the road – not only for texters and distracted drivers, but for those who get behind the wheel with very little training. How dangerous and nervy!
  • People do not dress well for court. Whereas Baby Boomers and older showed up in business attire, the 20 and 30-year olds showed up in jeans and sweatshirts. To me, this was sloppy and showed a lack of respect for the court. Do people really not know how to dress anymore?
  • EVERYTHING in court is videotaped and recorded to protect those involved. If you're in a courtroom, assume that everything you do and say is being recorded.
  • People who don't show up for court are in the most trouble. Those people really ticked the judge off and he issued many bench warrants imposed hefty fines on those people. I got the feeling that if those people had just called the Court, the repercussions would not have been as severe.

It was rather interesting to see our judicial system in action, but honestly, I think I would have been harsher on several people than the judge was. If you're going to be stupid enough to drive without a driver's license or if you roll your eyes at a judge and show disrespect for the Court, I think they should throw the book at you. I have to wonder if some law enforcement officials are so afraid of litigation against them that they don't use their power to the full extent that they could.

If you find yourself in court, here are some links on how to behave properly because how you present yourself can affect the outcome of your case:

Going to court offered me a quick glimpse into our judicial system and gave me a little insight into what's going on in my town. I will probably take the kids there on a morning that they're off from school because it would certainly be an educational experience. Call your local municipality and find out when the court is open to the public. You just might learn something about our legal structure and the people who test the limits of our judicial system.

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