Monday, July 17, 2006

A Day in Court

I spent the morning with some friends sitting in the General Sessions Division I court. Nope, I'm not in trouble, we were just there to support a young lady we know through a women's shelter here in K'ville. She's a 29-year old addict who has been on the streets for a while and is in the process of trying to turn her life around. She's been clean for about 2 months, and was in court today to face some possession charges and a failure to appear charge.

My friends and I know her through one of the outreach ministries of our church. We take dinner and activities to the shelter on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, so we can have a chance to talk with the ladies there, sit down and eat a meal together, play some games and have a little fun. It has really been a wonderful time - the ladies at the shelter have responded to us, we've made some friends, and unfortunately, we've seen a few leave and not make it through the program. Sometimes the call of the crack is a lot more appealing than the Hope of The Rock.

Anyhow - E had called to tell us she was going to court and to ask if someone could come and sit with her - I don't think she expected 7 of us to show up! We filled up an entire row. Mr. Steele, the court officer, shushed us pretty much immediately, and then, not being satisfied with our shushed-ness, reiterated his shush with a threat to remove us from the courtroom. We got the point. Kathleen, or as she is going to be known from now on -The Defiant One- received a phone call, and her phone was promptly confiscated. We were all a little fearful that she was going to resist and be arrested, but she finally complied. Maynelle was egging her on. Mr. Steele was pretty stern. He made a lady with a baby leave, because the baby kept cooing. I did manage to keep the Moleskine out without having it confiscated, but I guess that's 'cause it didn't make any noise.

The Honorable Judge Chuck Cerny was presiding. He was 45-ish, amiable but firm. Traffic violations were first on the docket, and it was interesting to see how adeptly he handled all the cases. He was very pleasant to all the defendants, heard their cases and promised to check up on all of them. He wasn't quite so kind in the arraignment docket, but he still seemed fairly congenial. That didn't stop him from sending E off to booking in handcuffs with the ever disagreeable Mr. Steele. That was mostly a formality, to make up for the earlier failure to appear. She was to be released on her own recognizance.

Just as a history and civics lesson, it was interesting. It was kind of like a microcosm of society in one large room. People from every walk of life were all on the same level playing field there. There was a guy facing possession charges who looked like he just parked his Beemer seated right next to a woman facing possession charges who looked like she hadn't eaten or bathed in a week. Hmmm...maybe WE aren't so different than matter which side of it we are on.
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