Georgia Criminal Appellate Law Blog Offering Insight and Commentary on Appellate Law and Criminal Trial Practice

Thoughts on a Day in Court

Posted in Trial Techniques, Writing

Yesterday, I spoke on my aversion for offices and love for working pretty much anywhere. Here are a few more details. This morning, I had calendar in Gwinnett County, Georgia, which is pretty far away from where I live. Since I was taking over for another lawyer, I had to file a document known as a substitution of counsel. It’s a document that lets the court know that a new lawyer is taking over the case. After the substitution is filed, previous counsel no longer receives court notices, orders, etc., and all of that starts coming to me. Halfway to court I realized that I hadn’t printed out this document. And the court doesn’t have e-filing in criminal cases, which meant a brief detour to an Office Depot print center before arriving at the courthouse.

Speaking of courthouses, there are 159 of them in Georgia. Depending on where the case is, you can either walk into a historic architectural wonder or something thoroughly modern. I don’t know what the word is for the Gwinnett County Courthouse. I call it the Mall of Justice.

You might also call it Spaceship Court. Once inside, it feels more like an airport than a mall. Each floor is kind of a long corridor with skylights and big windows on each end. The courtrooms themselves are completely windowless, which is a feature I’ve noticed in modern courthouses. Older courthouses (I was in one yesterday) tend to have darker more windowless hallways with big windows in the courtroom. But back to the airport motif, all the courtrooms in Gwinnett County are even numbered like gates in a terminal. Today, I was in courtroom 3C. Of course, in a criminal calendar the flights go no place good.

The waiting area has a nice shiny hallway, which is likely a perk of inmate labor. Just before court started, the deputies unlocked the courtroom. A great perk of being a lawyer is that we get good comfy seats in the courtroom most of the time. We are allowed to cross the bar and hang out in the jury box. You’d be surprised to know that jurors sit in jury boxes a small percentage of the time. The rest of the time, at routine calendars and motions days, the lawyers occupy the jury box. Seats for the general public are generally wooden pews. This jury box had a cool little metal bar at the bottom as a little foot prop. The seats also swivel and rock back and forth. I’ve had great stealthy cat naps in jury seats in my career while waiting out a civil calendar.

When I was in Brooks County, Georgia, a few weeks ago, the jury box was made up of wicker chairs that swiveled and rocked and made me crave a mint julep. Most counties what have modern courthouses also retain the old courthouse on the town square as a place for wedding receptions or pottery classes and the like. Gwinnett is a perfect example. After court, I needed to run to an Apple Store to get something fixed. On my way out of town and out toward the mall, I passed the historic Gwinnett County Courhouse.

Most of the courthouses I work in are exactly like this building. And the older buildings are way more fun. Before they renovated the Pike County Courthouse, a big chunk of the ceiling once fell on me while I was arguing. In a novel, such an event would be symbolic of something ominous. And here’s fun fact, it was on this courthouse square that Larry Flynt, the founder of Hustler, was shot on the way back from lunch during a hearing on an obscenity case. And while I waited for an opening at the Apple store to have a person look at my tech, I took out the mobile office and knocked out some work on a case for next week.

I’m trying to cut back on my coffee intake. So, I opted for an overpriced mineral water while I waited. And this is what a day of working on the go is like. Many days will often go by where I don’t even see my office. But there’s always adventure to be had in some courthouse, old or new or in the pdf pages I read on a tablet or with the person on the other end of a call I’m returning.