Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No Reading Allowed

I've not been able to get around to visiting blogs much in the past few days but I should get back to a more normal schedule next week. Monday and Tuesday I put in eight hour writing days finishing up an article on Charles Darwin. Wednesday I spent most of the day in court or dealing with court related items. After nearly three hours in court, however, all they did was end up giving Josh yet another court date on November 2. That means another lost day of work for both of us, and no doubt more expense.

After the few times I've had to be in court I've seen enough to realize a few things. One, the courts are overloaded for two main reasons: 1) they deal with plenty of petty things that really should not be clogging up the courts at all, and 2) they are so inefficient that they end up seeing every person who comes through the court multiple times. Most of today's actions seem to be delaying tactics, putting things off until later.

I also came to another realization today. While courts are supposed to represent rationality they are, in fact, bastions of irrationality. They assert power in all its irrational forms. Here's a good illustration, although just a minor one. I'm sitting in the back of a large courtroom that has about fifty people in it. Most people are fidgeting. Almost everyone looks either sullen, bored, or terrified. The judge is way up at the front dealing with lawyers and one defendent at a time. The woman in front of me is sitting quietly next to her son reading a novel. The novel is down in her lap. The bailiff comes marching up and tells her she's not allowed to read in the courtroom. It could have been me. I had a book with me but hadn't started to read yet.

Can you imagine much of anything more asinine? Or irrational? I could see not wanting someone to play a Gameboy in the courtroom, or be talking on their cellphone, but what possible harm could occur from someone reading quietly in the back of the room? I think this, more than anything today, showed me how profoundly silly the justice system is in this country.

Anyway, now I've got to get ready for the my Louisiana Book Festival presentation this Saturday. No rest for the weary.


Laurie Powers said...

That is absurd. I've never heard of that.

Cloudia said...

Once again your ability to look penetratingly at alien cultures brings insight. Remember, "The law is an ass."
Best of luck to your boy and


Anne Vis said...

I am lucky that I have never been to court I guess ... I already figured it resembles something like you describe ...
I also wonder how often "justice" is done, looking at the large number of innocent people being locked up and the serious criminals walking around freely ...
Best of luck with these trials!

Lisa said...

The judge should be the wise one that looks at a case and give out judgement. But as it is now, the judge is an overseer looking at if all "i"s are dotted and all "t"s crossed. That is why it takes time and multiple dates.

Thumbelina said...

It's just pathetic Charles. Silly rules made by silly people. And because we respect rules, we follow them but how daft.

Sorry you had a 3 hour wait to be told to wait. That's the court system. Here in the YUK too. Asinine is a great word.

the walking man said...

In Detroit we lump all offenders with similar cases and assign them to one counsel who advises his clients that if they plead guilty the judge will fine them with no jail time. It is not uncommon for thirty offenders to be standing in front of the judge who polls them for their plea. when all goes as arranged and there is thirty guilty pleas all are sentenced to the same fine and terms of probation.

We learned early on that the assembly mine was good for more than just making cars.

Unknown said...

I agree that this is irrational. Our judicial system is in bad need of a huge fix. If the courts were run more like a business, there'd be less ineffiency.

Charles Gramlich said...

Laurie, I've actually had it happen to me once before in court. I was reading when the judge wasn't even in the room and was told I couldn't do that.

Cloudia, agreed, and it makes an ass of us all.

Anne Vis, thanks. I don't see a lot of justice done around here that's for sure.

Ocean girl, I suppose so, but it is certainly a waste of time, energy, and resources.

thumbelina, it's just achingly ridiculous.

Mark, I almost wish they had that here. They have it for traffic stuff. It's just part of the money making nature of the business.

Gaston, down here it looks like it's already too much money based. Especially the traffic division, which is all about generating revenue as far as I can see.

ivan said...

As a barrack room lawyer, I have found that remands and remands can work for you client...No LLB here, just a B.A.A. in journalism. And that degree taught me to dance a case around and arond, adjourn it around and around, over and over again till the system gets tired of it and spits the accused out out of sheer dross in dealing with that particular case and its endless remands...At least it used to work for me and my clients. Time intensive, yes, and you surely don't have time with your present commitments.
But I have found that if you dance it around long enough, they will tire of it and might even throw out the charges...It's a gamble.
...And what do I know? I'm just an old Airman and a barrack room lawyer.

laughingwolf said...

our courts are similarly fup duck, charles :(

writtenwyrdd said...

Jeez, that is stupid. I bring a book anyplace I think I'll be waiting, too.

Unfortunately, the times I've been subpoenaed to testify I was working in law enforcement and had to sit up front, in uniform, so I had to just sit there looking interested in the activities until my case number came up on the docket. Boring!

Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, I've considred that, but I fear the system may have more patience than I have. Plus I'm an anxious type and worry excessively.

Lauhingwolf, I think most court systems probably are considering that humans made them up.

Writtenwyrd, I could see that for the police and lawyers up front, and for the people in the front rows who are about to be called up to speak into the microphone, but at the back of the room it just seems so silly.

cs harris said...

It's amazing you were able to write with this going on in your life.

The legal system in this country is scary. I liked Australia's system better.

BernardL said...

Witnesses are not allowed in the courtroom until their testimony is due and jurors are not allowed to have anything but their complete attention on the trial. Whether a visitor reads or not seems like a personal deal with the bailiff or judge's rules. Never heard of that happening before. First time for everything. I have seen people reading their own notes and casework over in court.

LoveRundle said...

They are overloaded with petty things. Luckily the last time I had been called to court to wait for being part of a jury, I've been in a main room where reading is allowed. It's such an all day thing, so I bring three books normally.

I was inside a court room once, waiting to be called for the jury and the woman beside me was reading. It was my first time so I didn't bring a book because I didn't know it would take so long.

I consider your post a warning about reading.

Anndi said...

I'm amazed that people can't read in court... truly amazed.

I'm keeping you and your son in my prayers.

Scott said...


I think some peole just enforce stupid things because they can, or think they can. Good luck with the whole legal fracas.

Good luck with the book thing this weekend,too.

Scott said...


Happy belated B-day my Brother!

Lana Gramlich said...

Regardless, happy birthday (& many more,) you wicked talented, handsome, sweetie-pie studmaster. ;)

Steve Malley said...

Didja know that Louisian's legal system is the only one in the land *not* based on English jurisprudence? Y'all go back to the Napoleonic codes, which I suppose means that woman should have been knitting the names of traitors into a scarf....

G. B. Miller said...

BTW: Happy Happy!!!

And yes, I can sympathize with the rampant stupidity of the court system (the state worker than I am).

Seems that the higher up the food chain a government worker is, the stupider they get.

Greg said...

that is pretty stupid that you can't read a book in court. maybe if more people read, less people would end up in court.

good luck with the presentation!

SQT said...

Unbelievable. You can tell the court system is run by a bunch of petty tyrants.

Barbara Martin said...

Remands are good when the client needs time to prepare a defence, but if not, then they will certainly seem to be a royal pain.

Travis Cody said...

I went to court one time and I agree with you that some of the things that happen in a court room don't make a lot of sense.

For example, there were three cases before mine that involved defendents that had trouble understanding English, and there were no translators available. The two spoke English reasonably well had their cases dismissed, and the one who didn't speak it at all had her case continued.

I guess the judge read something in the complaints that influenced his decision, but it just seemed ridiculous to me.

Charles Gramlich said...

Candy, I don't think I was a very focused writer for sure.

BernardL, that makes sense about the witnesses and jurors, of course. I certainly saw people reading case notes and stuff, though, so reading a book seemed a bit weird.

Christina, yes, whatever you do, don't read around the law. Not allowed!

Anndi, thanks, I appreciate that much.

Scott, I think you're exactly right. Thanks.

Lana Gramlich, oh, go on! No seriously, go on!!! ;)

Steve Malley, I did know that, although I'm not sure what difference it makes. I know it affects marriage and divorce issues. I wonder now if knitting would be allowed.

G, thanks. And the less imaginative.

Greg Schwartz, that thought occurred to me, but I do think the law would like to keep folks ignorent. That way lawyers and courts make more money.

SQT, and oh how they enjoy it.

Charles Gramlich said...

Barbara Martin, I could see how they definitely would be useful at times, but some streamlining and efficiency could move everything along much faster.

Travis, there's certainly no rationality involved, that is for sure.

sage said...

that is crazy and ain't the same everywhere as I've often brought books to court to read while waiting for someone's case to come up or to be called in a jury pool

Erik Donald France said...

Man, theatre of the absurd. I remember having to sneak peaks at reading material during jury duty. Little tin gods who must feel overwhelmed.

X. Dell said...

I got this ticket, some years back, in a Port Authority court in Jersey. Same deal as you described here. At one point, an indigent defendant couldn't pay a fine (over $500). The judge quipped, "You gotta pay, or you'll put me outta business."

Telling words. This court was clogged with people brought in on very trivial offenses, the fines for which ranged from $25-50. But these fines carried with them a three to four-point conviction, which could make a huge difference to their insurers. However, the court allowed them to plead-down to a vague zero-point conviction that carried a fine of $150-200.

Of course, after getting stuck in court for eight hours, with nothing to read, and nothing to do, a lot of people paid the fine just so that they wouldn't have to schedule another court date to defend the charge.

I was too cheap to take the deal, so I scheduled the second court date. The cop who issued the ticket didn't show up, and the charge was dismissed--a BS charge anyway.

My feeling is that your court is really sticking it to a lot of people, gouging money from them as a source of revenue, a selective tax designed as "making the highways safer," or some other platitudinous garbage. I share your outrage at this. But until citizens take collective action to expose quotas and cash-cow courts, I'm afraid it will continue.

Best of luck. I'd love to see you guys stick it to the man.

Aine said...

Yikes-- that sounded so absurd that I consulted my attorney (Jason, LOL) about it. He wasn't surprised. Apparently most judges prefer to have the entire courtroom alert for their needs. If he leaves, all must stand, etc. :P Power, indeed... Jason also thought that some judges are more strict about it than others.

I'd like to see Dumbledore deal with that judge!

Sphinx Ink said...

That rule does seem strange. It may only apply in that particular courtroom, or courthouse. On the other hand, it may have been made because the judge doesn't want people reading newspapers in court. Newspapers are noisy when you turn pages, obtrusive size-wise, and messy. The rule may have started as "no reading of newspapers," until someone complained it was discriminatory to allow people to read books but not newspapers. Result: no reading at all.

On the other hand, there may not be any rule about writing. Next time you go to court you could bring a notebook or tablet and try writing in court--if nothing else, set down what you feel and experience there. Could be the start of a scene in a story or novel.

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Charles,

I hear you on this one. Abuses of power from people who really have so little. Depressing. Rules like that really serve no one. I hope Josh is okay and not too traumatized by the experience. I think a colonscopy is probably less painful.

Shauna Roberts said...

How ridiculous. The Louisiana court system is really screwed up, based on my own experiences in a jury pool and other people's stories. It's as if the court proceeding is part of the punishment even though one hasn't actually been judged guilty yet.

Mary Witzl said...

That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. No reading in the courtroom? What else are you SUPPOSED to do there? That would absolutely have been me. And I would have SNORTED.

Charles Gramlich said...

sage, maybe it's just Louisiana. I've seen it happen twice here.

Erik Donald France, yes, I remember that as well where Jury duty was concerned, but just sitting in the back of the court?

X. Dell, I've been outraged since I moved down here at the money-making racket the police and courts have going. The plea it "down" think with traffic violations. It's just shameful.

Aine, I have often wished, most often in court or in dealing with police, to have supernatural or magical powers. The world would be a different place if I did.

Sphinx Ink, I did take a notebook, but concern over JOsh sort of kept me from having the objectivity I needed to write. I could probably have read though. But yea, when I've been called for Jury duty I often write down impressions of things to use in tales. I could sort of understand the newspaper thing.

Michelle, Josh is feeling pretty traumatized. He wants to get out of the city and he has become very cautious in all kinds of ways. Some are good but not all.

Shauna Roberts, guilty until proven innocent it seems, or guilty until you pay the court's price.

Mary Witzl, I probably would have asked why not? but the bailiffs I've seen don't have any sense of humor at all.