Posted by: chlost | March 2, 2011

Reality is not a show

There are many very popular television dramas which are set in courtrooms. These shows portray the legal world in a very unrealistic manner. Believe me, court is boring for the most part.  Witnesses don’t suddenly admit to the crime, thus setting a defendant free. Lawyers don’t have stellar cross examinations most of the time. Juries don’t always get things right.

I don’t watch lawyer shows.

But when anyone asks me about court, I will ask them if they ever saw the old sitcom “Night Court”.  That show was the closest I’ve seen to being realistic.

Some days are more eventful than others. Today I arrived at the courthouse at 8:30 and did not leave until 4:45. No lunch. I handled 7 cases. That is not much for a normal day of court, but these cases were all hard, complicated, and very emotional matters. For the most part, it is the same lawyers handling all of the cases-like night court. The cases are called one right after the other, with little time to talk or prepare. After a while, you learn to think on your feet, shoot from the hip and argue just about any side of a dispute. There’s always another side.

The eventful part today had nothing to do with the cases. The cases that we handle become disturbingly similar after a while.  Today it was the people “in charge”  who made things more eventful than usual.  Judges who are having a behind-the-scenes battle of self importance.  One got very upset that the other’s caseload ran over from the morning to afternoon and impinged on his afternoon cases. All of the people in the earlier case were involved in the afternoon cases  and couldn’t be in his courtroom when he wanted them. Apparently there was a temper tantrum in chambers which included very bad language and yelling.  Same judge threatened to find a social worker in contempt for not doing her job. Same social worker angrily tried to justify her work (at least she had the sense to make her comments outside the courtroom, after the hearing was over).

Then there was a bailiff who refused to take a document from an attorney to hand it to the judge. The bailiff just sat in his chair and said “I’m not allowed to do that”.  Picture the rage in the judge as he again asks the bailiff to do this, and then  clarifies that he is refusing to do it. Then you might imagine what a fight is yet to come when the judge gets hold of a sheriff after court.

In the middle of all of that drama, of course, are the people who are not in charge. The ones whose lives are in the hands of the court.  The kids. The parents. Today was a day for child protection cases.

In most of these cases, the parents have lost custody of their children and are trying to work to have the kids returned to their care. Their kids are in foster care or living with other relatives. In some cases, the kids are still with the parents, but they are being supervised by the court. In most of the cases, the kids are there in court, too if they are over age 12.

Parents who have drug and alcohol addictions. Parents with mental illness. Many with both addictions and mental illness. Picture Charlie Sheen or Lindsey Lohan- I am dealing with people who sound exactly like them-except none of the people I deal with are rich. All of them are so poor that they cannot feed their families without assistance, have no medical insurance to get treatment, and have long ago lost driving privileges. A lot of them have lost their place to live.  Often their children also have chemical or mental health issues. Some of the children have been abused-physically, emotionally sexually, by relatives, parents, neighbors. Some have also abused others-siblings, neighbors, classmates.

That is my world. Their world.

It ain’t Ally McBeal.



  1. You are so right. That would actually make a good reality show to be able to see how the real justice system works. I have said this before, but I truly admire you for the area of law that you have chosen to practice in. I know it must just be a terribly emotionally draining experience to have to deal with those types of cases day in and day out. The system has to have lawyers doing what you do and I would bet that you are very good at what you do. Your chosen area of law is not filled with sexy, slick, glamourous case or clients….but everone needs representation so it is awesome that you have dedicated your practice to this area. Ally McBeal is not worthy to carry your briefcase! Have a great day! 🙂

    • The reality would be mostly boring and otherwise not something that viewers would want to see. On many days, there is a lot of waiting. Boring……..

  2. I can understand you not watching shows about lawyers/court. I hate to see the way therapy and psychologists are portrayed. Nothing like reality!

  3. I’d forgotten all about Night Court! Those were the days…

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