Television shows such as, Law and Order and Aly Mcbeal have forced me to perceive court as a grand building with a large staircase and marble floors. A novice to the court system, I was unpleasantly surprised to find out just what court was like. The lack of free parking and immense amount of eight dollar parking in downtown Atlanta gave me an initial feeling that it was going to be a day of hassle and inconvenience. After realizing I was not on an episode of “Special Victims Unit,” and there was not going to be sudden dramatic music, and many “I objects! ” I settled in, and watched the unassuming traffic violations unfold.
Therefore, contrary to my expectations, I found myself in a laid back environment where competence is deemed unimportant to the judges, lawyers, and employees that I encountered. Caught up in my fantastical, idyllic court world, I had very high expectations of how my first court experience would unfold. I dressed up for the occasion, wearing a business casual outfit with heels. As soon as I walked into the Municipal Court of Atlanta on Garnett Street, I was suddenly shocked back to the real world as eyes of sweat panting wearing, baggy panted individuals stared at me as if I was wearing my birthday suit.
My glamorous perceptions were instantly retracted, as I walked through the security line, and saw halls of people waiting for their turn to hear their lawful fate. Not understanding my court etiquette, I asked an employee what my boundaries were as a simple observer, and his answer was, “Just have at it, miss. ” With no shame, I entered the elevator and with purpose chose the third floor. The lackadaisical surroundings were something I was not expecting, as I sat down in the back corner of courtroom 3C without anyone asking what my intentions were.
The first type of court I experienced was Municipal court. The courtroom was packed with tired individuals waiting for their chance to leave as fast as possible. I sat in the back row corner next to a man playing tetris on his cell phone. A lawyer was explained every detail of the proceeding events, and continued to asked if anyone had any questions. Majority of the people in this courtroom seemed to be lower class, reason for this probably being because they could not pay for their ticket, thus seeing what alternate way to pay off their fines such as community service.
The second court I attended is what outraged me the most. This courtroom was dealing with general city ordinance violations. This includes physical assaults on people, theft, damage to property, drug offenses, etc. The first thing I noticed while walking into the courtroom were the two massive flat screen televisions hanging on the walls. These televisions were not serving any purpose other than to display the time and date. This outraged me because I think it is incredibly unnecessary and lavish to have them because that money could be allocated for a much better cause.
Not only were there two TV’s, but the judge had in front of him two computers where he was looking up the defendants information. To me, this caused more confusion in the courtroom because he continued to look up the wrong person, and ask how to spell names, and so forth. It seemed to me that the technology was getting in the way of the real issue, and without the computers and televisions the proceedings would have gone along much quicker. I understand developing with the modern world, but in this case I found technology to make things much slower and more of a hassle.
Also, all the lawyers had their personal laptops out “reading” information. I do not understand the need for all of the technological jargon, except as a way to hide behind getting to the real point and coming up with resourceful decisions. The second observation I made while sitting through these court violations was the incompetence of the public defenders. The public defenders all clad in nice suits and unhappy faces, to me, seemed as though they were getting absolutely nothing accomplished.
They continued to bring their clients into a room, talk for about fifteen minutes, then send their client back out to sit down again. After having this small meeting in the back room, I would think once presented to the judge they would have things figured out and everything would go by quick. This was not the case at all. One hundred percent of the time it was a person’s turn to go in front of the judge, the judge would postpone the hearing for another date. This appalled me especially since most people’s dates had been postponed at least once.
I was blown away by the incompetence of the judges and public defenders because they literally got nothing accomplished other than pushing back the date. What I noticed was everyone looked so unhappy and angry to be there, but if they just got the point and appointed the punishments and consequences of a person’s actions then they would be able to spend less time in the courtroom. The judge seemed very fed up, and would not let anyone talk for the most part.