Essay About Court Clerk: Jennifer Stephens

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University of Richmond
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Justice is essential in city court ruling, and it is the mandate of the judge to ensure that it prevails. There are two main types of cases which can be presented in this court level, the civil and criminal litigation. They are prevalent, and it requires the wits and intellect of the judge to determine the circumstances reasonably. It is prudent for the judge and court officials to ensure that the right procedures are observed when deciding a case in a court of law.I was able to attend court proceedings at Guilderland Town Court on 19th October 2017. This court is located at Guilderland Town Hall 1st Floor along 5209 Western Turnpike. I arrived at 5:30 pm and noticed some security features in place. I went through the metal detectors, and I was instructed to place my purse on the crates of the walkthrough. My bag was, however, not checked. Most of the people going into the courthouse were not searched, but rather, the guards seemed to pick people at random. My aim was to make observations in the courtroom so as to come up with an opinion as to whether or not the system works.

The presiding judge in the courtroom was Judge Denise Randall. The courtroom had a traditional touch with the wooden panels and podiums for the judge and the clerk. Nevertheless, the room was bright and well-lit with white walls. The entire courtroom was filled with blue plastic chairs neatly arranged in rows in a very orderly manner. Almost all the seats were taken, and the courtroom fully packed with an estimate of around 80 people.

The bailiff called the court to order and introduced the judge, Denise Randall who was clad in a black rob. The judge then laid down some basic rules regarding the hearings. She spoke through an intercom and took her time to define the guilty plea, elaborate the credit card charges for paying fines. The judge made an announcement that priority would be given to those who used the public transport buses.

Over the three-hour period that I was in the courtroom, several cases involving people from diverse demographic backgrounds were heard by the judge. For instance, the first case involved and an older white male in his mid-50s, who was wearing jeans and red shirt. The man was bald-headed and accused of disorderly drinking in his backyard. This case was dismissed by the judge very quickly. The second hearing was a young female in her twenties with brown hair and wearing jeans and a nice jacket. This case was adjourned for some reasons; I was unable to hear due to the noisy nature of observers. For the third case, the client was not present, and the paid attorney gave reasons that the client was a student and requested for an adjournment of six weeks to go over transcripts. The judge granted his request.

The fourth hearing was a young woman in her mid-20s with blonde hair charged with drinking under the influence. She was dressed in a white dress shirt and blue pants. She pleaded not guilty and was given a hardship privilege to drive over the adjournment period of six weeks. The next case involved a white middle-aged man in his mid-40s who was returning on another appearance date. He was fined $500 plus a $400 surcharge. The judge also ordered impact motor vehicle assessment following the drinking under the influence of alcohol violation. The person who caught the judges attention was a white male in his early twenties. The judge was quick to commend his manner of dressing which was classy jeans and a sweatshirt before expressing how proud she was on his improvements. This defendant showed proof of fulfilling SPARKS treatment, was on probation and requested permission to travel to New Jersey which was granted.

Case 13 dealt with a Middle Eastern middle-aged female in her 40s. She wore black pants and a black jacket. Due to the language barrier, her attorney waived the right to the reading of the charges because the woman did not understand English. Her attorney signaled to her to accept a plea agreement which involved a $200 surcharge. This was the thirteenth defendant, so far, the District Attorney had not spoken yet. It is important to note that the DA was not around an in place, there was a stand-in for official purposes but with limited powers to avoid conflicting with the prosecutions original decisions. (Overheard an attorney telling his client this information.) During the 18th case is when the stand in D.A was called in for the case whereby a young black male in his late 20s, dressed very well in dress pants and shirt both of blue in color. His original charge was an order of protection. He was coming back to get accommodations to get his belongings. The D.A gave no objection, and the judge granted police escort for the man to collect his belongings. There was a total of twenty cases whereby paid attorneys were involved. The last case involved an older black man approximate age of 58, dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans. The charges were those of a controlled substances, heroin and cocaine found in a car he was a passenger of. This case was adjourned for six weeks.

Thereafter, the public attorneys took over for the unrepresented clients with stacks of manila envelopes. They call your name if you're present you are rushed off to another room. If you are not present, you are slapped with a bench warrant. At this point, there was less order in the courtroom, and the judge had to ask the speakers often to repeat what they had said. The Bailiff and police officer on duty were playing on their cell phones, talking to one another.

The most notable case for the Public Defender happened after calling a males name several times. The Judge was about to give him a bench warrant when everyone starts chattering, the bailiff and police officer join the conversation. What I heard was they forgot this gentleman was holding. Young black male in his 20s wearing Albany County orange was brought out of a door to my right. There was a full escort and bodyguarded the entire proceeding which was a 511A1 offer of a Vehicle and Traffic violation. He pleads guilty and received a $50 surcharge. It is important to note that most of the charges were larceny and DUI arrests. The larceny arrests were made from petty thefts at the Crossgates Mall. DUI charges were also rampant. For most of the cases, the judge adjourned for a later date while those who pleaded guilty were slapped with fines depending on the extent of the crimes committed. The behavior of the observers and the attorneys seemed very disrespectful to the court due to the conversations, unnecessary movements, and even unwarranted remarks.

The system seems to work but not with total impartiality. For instance, any client with a paid attorney could miss the proceedings without any consequence, but for those with public attorneys, missing proceedings was punishable. This indicates discrimination against those who are unable to hire a paid attorney. Nevertheless, I believe that the system works despite the total lack of respect by some parties in the courtroom. Most of the people left the premises satisfied, and the judge seemed to apply the law in a justifiable manner. In conclusion, the courtroom attracts people from all demographic classifications in terms of race and age depending on the interests with specific proceedings.

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