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a day in court

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
a day in court

A day in court

When you walk into the courthouse you’re always forced to bear its more subtle means of oppression.

Quiet in the court. No drinks. Dress nice. Speak nice. Stand for the judge.

The court is a system that makes it hard to play in any way but their own.

If you can’t afford a lawyer or a paralegal you’re at a disadvantage.

If you represent yourself it’ll take your a-game to get anything accomplished.

And even then they’ll talk down to you.

Send you in circles.

To the wrong offices. Tell you the wrong things.

They’ll even argue with you over matters until you present case law.

Even if it’s a standard practise.

If you tend to visit the courthouse on a more regular basis, you probably witness these idiosyncrasies.

If you’re me and you visit the courthouse on a regular basis, you probably experience them.

 

My Day In Court

I walk in to the courthouse. I know the court security officer on the right hand side recognizes me. I know, because he gives me the look. He’s given it to me before – not a friendly smile.

A sort of empowered glower.

A I'm-gonna-annoy-the-fuck-outtah-you smirk.

As luck would have it, he’s the security officer I end up with.

Not because he was the first one available, but because the other one refused to take the next in line until the other officer waved me over to search my bag, inch by inch.

Nothing sharp. Nothing metal. Today he confiscates my bike helmet.

It seems to be their newest thing.

Maybe in case I start another “riot” in the court house.

He wands me even though the detector doesn't go off.

Even though the last person through did set it off and they just sent him on his merry way.

Before I leave he demands to know which court room I’m going to. Clipped voice, no nonsense face.

I tell him because I’ve grown tired arguing with them.

A couple security officers meet us up there, like they rode a magic elevator ten times the speed of the one we were on. Someone overhears them assign one officer to me – and me specifically.

My friends get the other guy, all to their selves for now. Lucky them.

And so begins the process of transferring every single other case on the docket to another court room.

Just in case we start chanting “cops, pigs, murderers” again. [and again. and again.]

I go down stairs and I’m met with another couple officers standing around looking uncharacteristically attentive.

Watching for any sign I have something sharp, maybe.

Or a whistle.

Or something.

I go back upstairs. A friend from downstairs joins me shortly after.

She tells me a funny story. She just walked through a huge group of court security officers downstairs. She asked why there were so many of them hanging around. “Is there a big case going on or something?” They tell her they’re here for something else.

They ride the same elevator and get off at the same floor.

We’re the something else.

It’s seriously ludicrous [and equally pathetic] how excited and stimulated these people get with our attendance.

My friend is laughing but shaking her head, maybe disturbed. I get the feeling she’s always surprised at how appalling these people can treat [us]. She still believes the system can work, even if it occasinally drives her crazy.

I, however, have no such faith.

So it’s no surprise that ten minutes later I’m sitting in the court room listening to court security officers and two OPP officers [who are there to testify against the person I’m there to speak for] gossip about us in the back row.

Someone calls them out on it, but they feign ignorance and continue.

It’s no surprise that I overhear one crown attorney explaining to the other who I am, how I’m usually the “instigator” and how I often disrupt the court process.

It is still a bit of a surprise, though, when the JP finally decides to attend and immediately attacks my presence.

He begins with the notion I can’t be there, and can’t speak on anyone’s behalf.

“You have no standing in this court.”

I could say the same for you, Mr. Baker, I'm thinking. What are you - a bored and retired school teacher who thought he’d spend his golden years getting his jollies from intimidating people over speeding tickets?

We argue. He relents when I point out there’s tons of precedent for friends and family standing in for someone when the chance of repercussions is minimal. I’m there to stand in for someone who isn’t comfortable doing it herself. I’ve been working on this with her for nearly a year with her approval.

That aside, he argues that because I was present at the offense my presence here is a conflict of interest. This one he does not budge on - though the crown appears not to care either way.

He calls my friend to the front and suggests she seek the services of a paralegal.

She asks how much they run, and he says he doesn’t know.

I answer based on my experience, in a non-disruptive whisper, because I want her to know what she would be agreeing to before she does. I want her to know that this JP wants her to pay several hundred dollars for a “crime” she didn’t even commit just because he holds a grudge against me.

I am scolded for my quick answer and he returns to tell my friend that just “having Miss. Mills involved in this case - that having her even just present -says something and puts you and your case at a high risk –“

High risk of what, we're not sure, because he doesn’t finish.

After a long pause to think about what he nearly admitted in open court he seems re-energized to redirect and berate me in a condescending tone I haven't really heard since I was four.

I’m not even on trial here, but he goes on for nearly ten minutes.

I know because eventually I check the clock.

He sees this, gets upset and sends me back to the body of the court: “I’ve had enough of you.”

But at least I’m no longer standing at the front of the room with people to my back - I'm sitting with people I came with, and trust, and I’ve long since learned how to tune out ignorant raving.

I have no idea how much longer he goes for.

I say nothing on the way out, but I get to the lobby and start to chat with people who were there.

They are surprised. Apalled. Astounded. Angry.

They are wondering what the fuck just happened, and why and how.

My shadowing court security officer comes over with my bike helmet, having retrieved it from the front security area.

“Is this one yours, Patricia?”

A parting gift to get me gone.

0o0

I want to note that you shouldn't be afraid of standing up for yourself in court when the risk is low.

Chances are that while you'll probably be treated like you're an idiot, you won't experience what I experienced today.

Use their assumption of you to surprise them. Take advantage of their superiority complex and give them a silent "fuck you" by refusing to adhere to the system of hierarchical and privileged bullshit they want you to - and then winning.

Also, while some would argue writing things like this probably doesn’t help things, that exercising your freedom of expression and voicing your frustration with the courts shouldn’t come at the cost of being treated in a respectful manner.

Respect is something they demand from us but rarely earn themselves.

I’m not going to respect a system that has shown itself to be inherently racist and oppressive. A system that will uphold the ego and status of a lying officer over anyone else. I’m not going to put my faith in something that treats me and my friends like garbage and allows itself to be levied by capitalism and corporations.

Fuck that.

I am going to stand up for people and friends though – especially when that system treats them like crap.

I’ll applaud people and their statements before the court if that is what makes them feel supported.

I'll call out to a single mother appearing for a bail hearing who is denied for the umpteenth time, is in tears and considerably stressed. I will tell her to stay strong.

I’ll call out a judge or JP who’s being abhorrently harsh or ignorant. Or a racist prick.

Because I choose people over the system.

And morality, not legality.

 


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kai (Trish Mills)
Hamilton and Toronto ON.
Member since March 2013

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