Thursday, February 20, 2014

Order in the Court - Hear ye...

Yesterday I visited the 1:30PM traffic court of Judge Joel D. Berg at the McHenry County Government Center.

Court started on time and was preceded by thorough announcements by the bailiff regarding seating and preparation of requests for public defenders. All was in English, which was probably hard for a number of defendants.

Judge Berg took attorneys with cases first. On the one hand, I understand this. Their meters are running. They want to get back to their offices. On the other hand, why, in every courtroom, should Joe Common Citizen (or in some cases, Joe Not-the-Citizen) have to cool his heels for an hour.

Yes, "hour". Attorney cases took from 1:30PM to 2:30PM. Maybe courts should be set up so that those without attorneys don't have to show up until a 2:30PM call. Except that's when traffic-case trials seem to start. I didn't wait for them, but some Algonquin PD officers did.

As in many other courtrooms, it was nearly impossible to hear what was said between Judge Berg and the lawyers and defendants at the bench. And it's not because my ears don't work.

When Judge Berg spoke up in a normal tone of voice, which was rare, I didn't have any trouble hearing. In the rare moment when an attorney spoke up, I could hear him.

Except when clusters of attorneys between the railing and the bench were chatting away. Not once were they admonished to quiet down.

Except when attorneys stepped to the aisle and called names of their clients. Not once were they asked to do so more quietly.

Except when attorneys conversed with their clients, during court, in the general seating area. Not once were they interrupted.

I suppose it would be rude to stand up, wait for Judge Berg or his bailiff to recognize me, and then say, "Your honor, with all the attorneys talking in here, I'm not able to hear what you are saying." Would that get me ejected from the courtroom? Or maybe cited for contempt and tossed in the pokey?

Personally, I seem to hold the Court and the Judge in higher respect that many of the attorneys in court yesterday. There is the matter of courtroom decorum that many McHenry County lawyers ignore.

Court Security Chief Marvin Fell is probably the one to crack the whip for courtroom control. Each judge probably directs his own bailiff, but Chief Fell ought to be setting the standard and working with the Chief Judge, all the judges, and the Court Administrator.

One simple solution would be to amplify the conversations at the bench. Let the public hear what's going on. The judge expects the public to sit quietly and wait their turns. Why not let them hear what is being said? Right now it's like watching TV with the sound turned down!

1 comment:

Big Daddy said...

They do the attorney case's first because attorney's charge 300 to five hundred an hour. The court wants to save the client money.