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Courtroom Career: Observations from my Daughter

Courtroom Career: Observations from my Daughter

I am not sure which of us was more excited or more nervous.  My daughter was coming to court after school to watch me.  This was the first time in her 14 years that she had taken interest in what her mom does.   After watching me spend atypical evenings and weekends working on what I described as a “big case,” her curiosity was piqued.  She was asking questions about what made cases hard, how the process worked, what I liked about trial.

Day three of trial arrived and so did my daughter during the afternoon session.  She observed over 50 binders stuffed with exhibits in use between the judge and the lawyers sitting at opposing sides.  She saw the 5 posters resting on easels in the jury box that I had used in my opening statement and which served as a silent and constant reminder of the theme of my case.  She took in the seriousness of the room.

When Anna and I processed later what she thought about seeing a live courtroom, I was impressed by her astute observations.

How Awkward.  What most stunned her was that estranged spouses had to sit in such close proximity to each other.  They had to spend a lot of energy to not look at each other. Not only that, but then negative statements were made from the witness stand from one to the other.  The discomfort was palpable.  She felt the sadness in the room.

How Disjointed.  She was most annoyed at how evidence and testimony is presented in the courtroom.  Barely a question is asked, before the lawyer is interrupted with an objection.  Then argument is made between each lawyer and finally the judge makes a determination regarding whether the witness may answer the question.  At that point, no one even remembers what the question was.  My daughter observed the difficulty that ensues in understanding the story.  With constant interruptions there is no flow which can hinder the ability to process the facts.

How Frustrating.  As the day in the courtroom came to a close, Anna watched as the judge and lawyers found 2 more days on our calendars to complete the trial.  We would finish in 60 days time in the middle of April. She saw my shoulders slump at the prospect of this significant delay.  She watched my client rush out of the courtroom in a flurry of tears.  How will anyone remember what already happened?  What happens in the meantime?  They have to still be married after that??  The questions came in a flood.

Litigation is often viewed as the pinnacle of a case.  People desire their “day in court.”  But as my fourteen-year old daughter observed, it did not seem worth it.

The disparity between expectation and reality was disappointing. Families experiencing divorce need healing most of all. An adolescent’s perspective  reminds us that the courtroom is not the place that promotes it.

Angela Dunne

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