Thursday, October 27, 2005
Law & Order
The court-house in Justice Land, NJ is a modern building. When I walked in the door I had to remove my keys, wallet and glasses and put them in a plastic cup and drop them on to a conveyor belt. Had to do the same with my briefcase and then was made to walk through a metal detector - I set the alarm off and had to stand aside while this Deputy Dawg-type waved his magic wand all around my person. Satisfied that I was not carrying explosives, a gun, or a cake with a nail file in it; I was ushered to the elevators. Second floor: family court.
A well lit marble hallway with big windows that looked out on Justice Land greets one. Long uncomfortable benches are provided for the flotsam who are surrounded by men in expensive suits and (mostly slicked back hair), I assumed these were the lawyers and attorneys.
I walked up to a cop in the hallway and asked where I needed to wait for my time before the judge and was pointed to one of the uncofortable benches.
So I sat down and immediately realized that if I did not know any better, I'd have thought I was back-stage at the Jerry Springer Show. The place was lousy with cousin loving-sister marrying-Nascar t-shirt wearing-tobacco chewing-Corvettes up on cinder block on the front lawn-New Jersey style trash! And that was just the attorneys!
Seriously, I sat next to a woman who looked like she was decked out ready to turn tricks on a street corner and I heard her tell the man sitting next to her that she really was a good mom, and she was going to tell the judge that her daughter could come home with her! Meanwhile, across from where I sat a guy in a Harley t-shirt, that barely concelaed his beer-gut was telling someone that his wife deserved to be hit; but he never laid a hand on her!
Convinced that I truly was now in the bowels of hell, I sat and waited, and waited, and waited.
Finally, this official looking guy comes out of court room A and says the name of the kid I am there on behalf of. I walk up to him and a guy from Children's Services also joins us.
Official looking guys says, "OK, here's the deal gentlemen, the judge wants both of your agencies to come up with a plan for this kid and present it to the court, you have ten minutes to achieve this. If you don't have a plan, the judge will order one."
The guy from CS looks perturbed and before he can say anything, the kid's mother, father and brother walk over and announce themselves -- good god, I think, get a load of this crew-- mom is in spandex and a tye dye poncho, dad is a big grinning idiot with summer teeth, and junior, well junior weighs about 300 pounds and has either found internal happiness or he's stoned out of his gourd-- regardless, I pull the family unit aside, make 'em an offer they can't refuse and mom says, "Anything to get my baby back home with me."
I go up to the CS guy and tell him and he says, "Well that's more than my agency can do..."
We are called into the court room.
All rise for the honorable Judge Venus De Milo Flytrap.
The judge is a very striking woman and she immediately gets down to business telling the assembled why we are here, what's at stake and what's going to happen.
My heart is pounding and my palms are sweating when she makes me and the guy from CS stand and swears us in; it felt funny saying "I Do" with my hand raised ... visions of all those film noir court scenes flashed through my mind ... delusions of Clarence Darrow joined the merriment ... even the musical number from Chicago where the attorney sings and dances with the defendant...
Back to earth; Judge Flytrap questions me and asks what I can do for little Damien, my client, who is here because he allegedly did something bad to another kid. I explain as calmly and truthfully as I can exactly what my agency can and can not do concerning this child's situation. She seems pleased with what I tell her and then turns her attention to the guy from CS.
CS guy said, "Your honor, inasmuch as the defendant is getting services from another State agency, we have nothing to offer him at this time."
Judge Flytrap suddenly takes off her glasses, and stares down CS guy and gets all Julia Sugarbaker on him and says softly but sternly, "So you are telling me that you work for child services and here, in my court room, is a CHILD who needs SERVICES and you have nothing to offer??"
CS guy goes all Jackie Gleason and humanah humanah's and finally, with the Judge's wise guidance comes up with a ton of great things that can be put on place for little Damien.
That done, we sit back down and the Judge turns her attention to the family and pretty much reads them the riot act concerning their son and tells them that if any of the orders she dictates are not followed, to the letter, by the family, their son is going away to a juvenile center.
All in all it took a little over an hour.
Outside in the courtroom the mother of little Damien came up to me and said this, "Thanks for coming today, say could you help me get a phone?" Yes fans, that is what she asked me! I told her to call Verizon and that I would be sending her some papers to fill out, certified mail, and would expect them back soon...
Finally free of this Judicial nightmare, I walked outside of the court house to the parking lot and took a cigarette out, lit it and walked back to my car and thought ... now why did I pick Social Work as a career?