The creation of this blog comes after a recent event in my life that basically sums up my issue with law school, just, as a thing that purports to create lawyers. It all started with a class. The type of class that many law students take in their final year because it’s small, it’s an easy A, and it requires (according to the official syllabus that I use to determine which professors would be lucky enough to earn my registration in their class) minimal outside work and no exam. Of course, the actual lectures feel like this:
One day our professor decided to spring a new assignment on us out of the blue: attend an arraignment session and describe what it would feel like from a victim’s perspective. For anyone who doesn’t know, an arraignment is basically a proceeding in which a defendant appears in front of a judge, hears the charges against him, and enters a plea. The whole thing takes like 3 minutes tops in most cases.
Now aside from the annoyance of having an assignment sprung on me when there’s a about a billion things I’d rather do (again, sex with a cactus), and a few things that I actually needed to get done (call my supplier), this assignment posed a far more awful and embarrassing obstacle: I’d never been inside a trial level courthouse. Here I was, a 3L, and I had no idea how to find one, get to one, what to do once inside one (other than treat it gently maybe?). Obviously admitting my lack of knowledge and asking was far too logical and embarrassing. So I Googled, found a trial courthouse near campus, and figured I’d go the day before it was due because . . . let’s be honest.
So I show up at the address I googled looking all professional, and pretty cute that day since I’d woken up with enough time to shower and do my make-up. Usually I look like a cross between a hobo with insomnia and a roughed up hooker. After getting an appreciative honk and “Cross the street slow mami, you make it look good” from a kind gentleman, I strutted my way in, and asked a Julia Stiles look-alike security guard where I could watch an arraignment. She gave me a once-over, looking a little bored and way too attractive for her chosen profession, before pointing at two doors down a short hall. “There’s two divorces going on. You can just walk in and sit down.” I was confused, but had too much momentum and nervous energy going to stop myself from picking a door, and finding a seat on a bench in the small gallery.
My first thought was, “The public can just walk in and watch your divorce? That’s terrible.” My second thought was, “This is strange. Where are all the criminals?” At that point I was already in there and too awkward to leave. It was me, the divorcees and their lawyers, the woman who was typing up the transcript of the proceedings (there’s a name for that job I think), and a cute law clerk who was not(!) wearing a wedding ring. I had apparently walked in during a recess, and after suffering through the husband’s horribly awkward jokes about marriage being the biggest mistake a person can make, second only to spawning children (funny right?), I realized that no orange jumpsuits or Lilo in a cute polka dot dress were coming through this courtroom, and made my quiet exit.
Just as I was walking away I heard the door open behind me, and turned to see the law clerk leaving too. We exchanged smiles and nods, and I was pretty sure he thought I was cute. Now I faced a dilemma, flirt or ask for help? I decided to do a mixture by creating a wide-eyed lost student character. In my head it sounded cute.
Clerk: Are you just here watching today?
Me: Yea, I was going to, but, um . . . where are all the criminals?
Clerk: [confused almost horrified stare]
Me: . . . I mean . . . I was assigned to watch a criminal arraignment, but I don’t see anyone in handcuffs.
Clerk: You have to go to a *criminal* court to see arraignments. We don’t do those here.
Me: Oh, that explains a lot. And, um, where can I find the criminal court?
Clerk: It’s not the criminal . . . there are numerous. . . you . . . the criminal court in this area is a higher level court, they don’t do arraignments. You have to find one in your area.
Me: Oh, I see. This is an assignment for a criminal justice class at a local community college that I attend. At night. I don’t really know how court’s work because I’ve never been in any kind of criminal trouble. Or had to get a divorce. So there’s just been no opportunities you know? So, how do I find one of these criminal courts?
At this point I basically gave up on the idea of asking him if he’d want to go for drinks sometime. Also, my anxiety had caused my overactive sweat glands to kick in and my make-up was now dripping down my face/neck area. Not my best look. He directed me to an office where I could get the information I needed and I booked it out of there.
On my drive back to school I started thinking, shouldn’t this have happened already. Shouldn’t, at some point, a teacher have taken us to a criminal court. Yes, criminal law is only a fraction of the types of law that a person can go into. Yes, I have been to other types of proceedings and have been in other types of court, but come on. And that’s the major problem with law school. They philosophize about the nature of law and they debate the effects of political leanings on particular judges’ theories of statutory interpretations, but they never take you to a goddamned criminal trial.
P.S. I did eventually complete my assignment the morning of the day it was due. It was super boring, all motor vehicle violations and minor drug charges, no amputee-loving serial killers or Lindsay Lohans anywhere.