Where to begin… ? For some reason despite the massive amount of material on which to write about, I am having trouble keeping all my thoughts contained into the framework of a single post. In my last blog post, I attempted to summarize the role of the courts, their subunits, and a summary of how the various departments interact. While perhaps a languid necessity, I feel that understanding the hierarchy and interaction of the various courts and courts staff is essential to the understanding the specific responsibilities and duties that I perform in my internship, notwithstanding the importance of this information in appreciating how our legal system works. This one will go into a bit of my personal observations throughout my experience, especially about our justice system and crime in our society
(I should note-and this applies to all my writings and posts- is that I am an intern speaking from my experiences, my perceptions, and my understanding of the court system and our justice system. My thoughts, experiences, writings etc. are in no way meant to reflect, insinuated, infer, or otherwise suggest the opinions, beliefs, or perceptions of the court,the court staff, and the judiciary. I am simply and humbly submitting my thoughts and reflections which extend not further then my hand or head and speak solely for me. I do so with the greatest respects.)
So, as most of you know (hopefully) I am currently interning at, with, and for the 22nd Circuit Court in Downtown Ann Arbor. Also known as the Washtenaw County Trial Court, the Circuit Court has 7 Judges, each handling a specific area of the law, divided between Criminal, Civil, Domestic, Probate and Juvenile with considerable overlap among judicial responsibility. Having been there since June of this year I have had considerable opportunities to watch proceeding in each area of the law, and under each judge. These opportunities have been extremely helpful in my appreciating the extreme diversity of the law, the diversity of judicial review, and the unilateral consciousness, work ethic, and moral fortitude of all the judiciary in their consideration and execution of the law. While watching court Is an extremely insightful and interesting experience, I have been fortunate enough to not simply watch proceedings but participate in them both directly in the court room and in preparation for a docket of cases. The basics goal required in my job is simple: To support the Judiciary in executing their day-to-day responsibilities. Fortunately, while interning for a judge is certainly one of the most detailed and meticulous jobs one will ever perform in the legal environment, it also is one of the most diverse, the most interesting, and the most insightful experiences as well, allowing one the opportunity to read, review, and prepare cases for hearings, witness the inner workings of our court system, and seeing how the realities of our Justice System are far different then the perceptions.
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this experience and the greatest privilege I could have hoped to have in a professional setting is my proximity and relationship to the judges and their judicial attorneys. Not only am I able to witness and absorb the great insight of the law and of justice that is gained through both years of legal practice and these individuals years on the bench, but I have also been able to gain valuable insight and advice regarding legal education options and the direction that would be most interesting and enjoyable for me in the study of law (perhaps one of my greatest uncertainties) As if this were not enough, I also have been able to gain valuable networking and professional skills showing, (I hope) my consciousness, my determination,hard work, and my interest and passion for the law. Finally I’ve been able to see how fortunate I am, how many opportunities I have had and have, and how lucky I am that I have had every opportunity, every attention, and every advantage possible; something that is something that is atypical at the least and extraordinary at best. There are many times when I see a defendant or read a case file, usually about some 21 or 22 year old that is facing a lifetime in prison and I ask myself – Why? Why did he rob or shoot, or kill that man? Why did he rape that poor woman? Was it hate? Was it opportunity? What drives another human being to commit the most heinous of crimes?
To great extent, these suppositions go unanswered. For many individuals, crime is an inherent part of themselves, something that rather than repulsive, is looked on with indifference.. For some crime is entertainment, a way to amuse their sociopathic personalities. For others, it is the outcome of hate; hate of others, hate of society, and invariably, hate of themselves. For most it seems however, crime is simply another act of life; a way to escape from the limitations and boundaries set by society; a way to survive in a callous world.. When a person grows up in a slum with a missing father and a working mother it seems far easier to understand how such individuals turn to crime. When a person grows up in a culture that uses drugs, that sells drugs, that view drugs as the equivalent of aspirin, how does one not fall into that culture? It is easy to condemn from across the bar, easy to evaluate from our own experiences and pass judgment on those far less fortunate and able then us.
This experience has helped me to restrain that impulse; that rather than condemn, I try to stand in another person’s shoes and see the world as the world is for them; a view that often, far from optimistic, is one of depression, fear, anger, and the need to survive. I often wonder; could that have been me? Would I have done some criminal act? Sometimes the answer is no: that the crime committed beyond the heinousness and maliciousness of a normal human. More often however, the answer is less clear a kind of well, maybe but….” Or a “possibly. Though…” etc. This obscurity while perhaps being unsettling is insightful so, insightful as to the faults we all exhibit as humans: insightful to our shared need of physical and emotional stability and attachment, but most of all, for me, it is insightful as to the importance of treating each individual that comes into court, whether an attorney, a party, or an incarcerated, all of them, regardless of my personal views, need to be treated according to be treated with courtesy, respect, and a presumption of innocence, remembering and asking myself the question, what if that were me?