Courthouses have the capacity to be very interesting places. They are sites of intrigue and drama, heartbreak and hope. They are also sites of some very awkward interactions, one of which I will share with you today.
About a month ago I was spending all my volunteer time following various judges around. Because the court I volunteer at handles more criminal hearings than other courts in the county, I spent most of my time listening to hearings regarding these matters. Like most people in general, judges vary greatly in personality to professional style. Some would simply give me a nod as I quietly slunk in through the back door and sat down next to them, others would wait until a lull in hearings to say hello while a special few would completely stop what they were doing to talk to me. Now the first two aren’t all that exciting, no matter that they are perfectly nice people, but the last left an impression I still feel twinges of embarrassment about today.
So I quietly walk in through the back of one of the hearing rooms and take a seat next to the judicial assistant who smiles at me and asks me to pass her a file. The judge (let’s call him Judge A) is currently mid sentence with someone about what the terms of the sentencing will be and all that when he suddenly sees me, stops talking stands up, turns to me and says, “Good morning! I’m Judge A!”
“….Hi! I’m Leslie, it’s nice to meet you.” I reply, slightly stunned, at this point I considered this completely unheard of.
“Leslie, how are you doing today?”
“That’s great, do you want to go to law school Leslie?” He asks, completely unfazed by the fact that people are staring.
“Yes, I do.”
“That’s great to hear.” He replies, and then turns to the front of the room and says, “Everyone, this is Leslie, she’s a volunteer here and will be helping us out today.” He smiled, sat back down. At this point the room has about 15 people in it counting the bailiffs, and all I can think is, Oh my God what just happened? Now everyone is staring at me.
I try to sink a little lower into my chair and hide behind the computer. The man who was having his case heard before I interrupted him was staring at me, and I would be lying if I wasn’t unsettled. Any man with a forehead tattoo will do that to you. Finally he says, ” That’s great, what you’re doing Miss. Don’t get in trouble like me, just keep clear of all this.” He shook his head and moved on with his hearing.
The next person approached, an overweight woman with possession with intent to sell charges, she admitted her guilt and accepted her punishment. When the judge asked if she had any questions she said, “No sir,” looked at me and then said, “I shoulda just got a job. Be smart.”
Ok then. Does anyone else find unwarranted “advice” extremely uncomfortable?
This was my first time being public introduced to a room of people in such a way. It has easily made my top ten most awkward moments. More so because these people felt the need to give me their two cents or thank me. Even a month later, I still don’t understand the point of that. Brownie points maybe?
Anyways, the judges I had the pleasure of meeting were all very nice people, but the one that publicly embarrassed me was definitely the coolest I have met. Maybe he was bored, maybe he was excited to see a “young person” interested in law, but he took the time kind of self narrate what he was doing and why the entire time I was in the room. When we had a break he asked me to come visit him in his office and ask any questions I would like about law school or his profession. That day was definitely one of my most educational days in the courthouse.
And as for the people that tried to give me life advice? Well, I never planned to join a gang or sell drugs, so seeing what they’re going through just gave me more reasons why I won’t be taking up either of those things as hobbies.