Just A Little Patience

Doctors have patients. Public defenders have clients, who have none.

Here's what to do...

If your mother is arrested
If your father is arrested
If your brother is arrested
If your sister is arrested
If your son is arrested
If your daughter is arrested
If your man is arrested
If your boyfriend is arrested
If your baby daddy is arrested
If your girl is arrested
If your baby momma is arrested
If your friend is arrested...

(I'm phrasing it each of these ways so that no matter who got arrested you might find this page when you google it),

It's nice if you can go to court and show your support. I firmly believe that it humanizes your loved one so that the judge sees more than just a docket number or a charge, but an actual person with a family that cares. And I believe that in some cases this might make a difference in whether someone is released or held in jail, whether someone is believed or disbelieved.

But when you come to court, behave yourself. I don't know what to tell you to behave like. Like you would behave in a library? Maybe you've never been to a library. Or maybe you've been there and you didn't know how to behave. Like you would at church? I can appreciate that not everyone has been to church and that different behaviors are appropriate in different churches.

So, let me lay it out for you.

First, dress nice. Dress like you would for a job interview (but not an interview to be a stripper), or like you would for a funeral, or for anything more serious than a nightclub. In particular, no clothing with logos or musicians (I see waaaay too many Bob Marley t-shirts in drug court) or cute little sayings like, "Don't be Jealous" or "Rock out with your cock out."

Before you head to court, speak to the lawyer if possible. Find out what courtroom to go to, and what time to be there. Ask the lawyer if he or she thinks it's a good idea for you to be there. (On occasion it's a bad idea. Like if it's a domestic violence charge and you still have a black eye.) Ask the lawyer if there's anything you should bring with you. (If you have anything that might be evidence, he may want you to bring. Also, you may need to bring bail money.)

Most importantly, once there, sit quietly and patiently. Expect to be there a while, you'll be pleasantly surprised if it goes quickly. You can bring a book or newspaper, but be prepared that there some judges who don't allow any sort of reading in their courtroom.

Leave the kids at home. Yes, I know you're probably thinking, "Maybe if the judge sees that he has these little kids, he'll let him out to take care of his kids." Most judges are really thinking, "God, what kind of parent brings their kids into this building built for dealing with criminals?" or "What kind of parent wants their kid to see daddy in handcuffs?" or "I really don't want to let him out to keep doing these kinds of crimes if there's a next generation that's going to be learning from him at home." I know it's hard to find a sitter. I know you think your kid is cute and well-behaved. And you should feel free to ask the lawyer if you're unsure, but in general I think you want to keep criminal court an adults-only affair.

Don't eat, don't drink, don't chew gum. Don't sleep. Don't snuggle, kiss, or make out with anyone. No, this is not cute. Turn off your cell phone. And anything else that's going to make any noise. This most definitely includes that annoying nextel walkie-talkie beep.

And I'm really really serious about the "sitting quietly and patiently" thing. There is nothing worse than someone who lets out a big sigh after each case is called. Or does that clucking the tongue thing. Or rolls his eyes. Or sighs and says, "Oh god!" Or throws up his hands. Or slams down his hands. Or makes any sort of visible reaction to each and every case name called, obviously frustrated that each case isn't his loved one's. And if you really can't control your eye rolling and sighing, at least sit toward the back of the room so you're not doing it right in the judge's face.

I think that most of the people who do this think that the judge couldn't possibly hold it against their loved one because the judge won't be able who they're there to see. He can. It's obvious!

First of all, the judge can tell which case you were waiting for when you spent all day rolling your eyes and sighing and then finally one case is called where you sit up and act interested.

Now, I'm not saying that most judges are going to say, "Gee, I was going to give you five years in prison, but now I'm going to make it ten because your mother sighed all day." But I do think that it can be a factor, either conscious or subconscious, particularly if the judge is undecided or, for example, wavering whether or not to give your loved one a break.

Second of all, you went up to the court officer or the court clerk twenty times and asked when your man's case was going to be called. You don't think the court staff talks to the judge? You don't think the court staff can move your loved one's case to the end of the day because they're sick of your attitude?

I sat in one courtroom for three hours this morning. There was a woman across the aisle from me, obviously waiting for someone's case to be called. For three hours straight, after every single case was called, she sighed or said, "Oh my god!" or threw down her newspaper, and made her entire body language show frustration. After every fifth case, she approached the court clerk and talked to him. (I couldn't hear what she was saying, but experience tells me it was probably something along the lines of, "I've been waiting here all day!") To which the court officer thinks, "And you'll be here waiting the rest of the day too if you don't leave me alone and let me do my job."

A colleague sitting next to me leaned over and whispered to me, "What defense is his lawyer going to use? His mother didn't raise him right?"

And I just knew that the louder and louder she sighed, the more and more likely it became that her loved one's case would be called dead last.

But I didn't say anything to the impatient woman. I thought about it, but decided it wasn't my place. It wouldn't be polite. And my mother raised me right.

11 comments:

  1. And I'd say that judges are definitely more perceptive than they appear. Their little city courtroom is their dominion and little things don't always go unnoticed.

    Nice post.

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  2. In an effort to make sure more Googlers find this site, some alternative spellings:

    "If your babydaddy is arrested"
    "If your babymama is arrested"

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  3. No offense, but I was surprised to see some of this on your web page. It doesn't sound very "public-defender-like", but I do recall feeling much that same way towards the end of my tenure at the PD's office, right before I was completely burnt out.

    That being said, you can offer this advice until you're blue in the face, and it'll still never change. The courtroom experieince that you describe is identical in every criminal court in Any City, USA.

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  4. this is hilarious. mostly because it's true.

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  5. Great post!

    I will have to consider your recommendation to leave the "Rock out with your cock out" shirt at home.

    For now...I will pomise to wear it beneath my dress shirts.

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  6. Well, I won't take any offense if none was intended, but I really think that even though I can like my clients, warts and all, I'm not naive enough to believe that the judge or court staff will.

    I often give my clients on how to behave in court. I think that I can better advocate for a client who can his present himself better. And, truthfully, some of my clients have never had someone to teach them how to behave respectfully. I'd rather they hear it from me than from a judge.

    And the same applies to their families too.

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  7. I guess I wasn't all that clear. It wasn't the general advice that surprised me, but some of the characterizations in your post, including the "baby's daddy" reference and the idea that you couldn't relate to your clients in order to advise as to how to behave (ie. library or church since they've never been).

    And, I truly meant no offense, I was just surprised to see portioins of your post, especially from this blog. But, I may have misinterpreted it.

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  8. First of all, a surprising number of people actually find this blog by searching for:

    what to do when my baby daddy get arrested

    I wanted to cover all my bases in hopes that they find it. And baby daddy isn't a derogatory term, a lot of my clients use it. It can be important way of distinguishing a girlfriend from a wife from a person who had your child. (And much shorter than "the woman who had my baby.") Similarly, it's a fact that people in this country divorce and remarry and have mixed families, but I wouldn't consider saying "step-brother" derogatory. It's a fact of modern day families.

    In fact, even Barack Obama, US Senator for Illinois, has referred to his wife as his "baby momma."

    Finally, when I talk to my actual clients, I can relate to them in terms of telling them "It's like church," or "It's like the library" or whatever is applicable to their lives. Because I get to know my clients. But, unfortunately, I can't get to know every person who reads my blog to give them similiarly personalized advice, so, therefore, I won't leave it at "It's like church," since, again, it's a fact of our modern society that many people, particularly in urban settings, have never set foot in a church. So, rather than presume that everyone has, I will make my advice broader so that it will hopefully be helpful to more readers than just those that have been to church.

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  9. Great Blog. I found you through Angry Pregnant Lawyer. I am a former lawyer turned college professor. During my solo practice days, I did A LOY of assigned counsel (public defender) work. I agree with your analysis 100%. In fact, I used to tell my male clients that unless a rapper has died, there is no need to wear your pants at half mast!

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  10. Great post, but you may have overlooked the part about family members not trying to speak to (or yell at, as the case may be) the judge, even when they think that what their loved one did is not actually a crime.

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  11. I found your site while I was googling angry-burnt out- public defender, and I love it, I'd also like to add to the above post not to speak to or yell at the complianing witness even if he is a g.d.-ugly-rat fink-lying-scumbag-a&^ kissing-mother-f*&^er. It was a bad friday in circuit court...

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