A Day at the Courthouse

“That’s us,” Angelica said coming towards me. It was 11.30.

I followed her into a small wood-paneled room. We sat facing the judge who was busy writing. There was a uniformed lady officer to his left, who was just sitting there in front of a computer, doing nothing. An officer who looked like a security guard was passing papers back and forth.

We sat to the left, the plaintiff’s side. There were two computers with large screens in front of us. Office Jackson occupied the table in the center facing the judge. The kid sat to the right, the defendant side. A man was sitting with him was his dad. A woman sat behind him. I guessed them to be the parents.

“Give me a minute,” the judge said and smiled.

Surprisingly the judge looked very friendly. I was expecting him to be stern and a brute with aggressive demeanor.

In a minute the judge was ready. He pulled a paper from the pile in front of him. He read the name William Guthrie and asked him his age. He was a teenager.

The Judge read the charges.

“My son is a good kid. He was tired.” William’s Mom shouted.

The Judge pounded his gavel and ordered everyone to be quiet. Everyone looked at the Mom who was wiping her eyes with a handkerchief.

“Well, young man,” judge said, turning towards William. “Two of the charges against you are more severe that the other three. Do you have an attorney?”

He sounded like a friend and as someone who cared. It was the first time I knew that the kid was charged on five counts — hit and run, no driving license, no plates, no insurance, driving at highway speed in a residential neighborhood. Now I understood why it was not my decision to drop the charges.

“No,” the kid answered.”

“In that case according to the law, it is my duty to appoint one for you. Do you want an attorney?”

The kid answered in the affirmative. His mother seemed agitated. She asked the judge if parents could decide that.

“Parents can advice, but it’s the young man’s decision.”

The judge asked the kid again if he wanted an attorney and received an answer in the affirmative.

The judge then turned to all of us and apologized for the inconvenience he was causing us but it was the law and he was doing his duty. After consulting with Office Jackson he selected a date four weeks out. He passed a note to the kid with the name of the attorney that he should contact.

Once outside the courtroom, Officer Jackson apologized to me saying it was unusual that day that we had to wait for almost three hours. He offered to validate my parking ticket but Angelica had already done that.

I walked back to the parking lot, shivering in the cold, hoping the next time would be swifter and warmer. And it was. The second time around we were done by 10 am. The attorney for the Kid bargained and the judge reprimanded the kid. All charges against him were dropped, I didn’t understand why. The judge ordered him to pay me the damages.

What if he didn’t pay? I didn’t know what my recourse was or whether it was worth wasting my time thinking about it.

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