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I Tried It: An Inside Look at Sitting In on a Courtroom

Let me start by saying, sitting in a courtroom was the last thing I thought I would be doing during my winter break from school. This whole thing started with a conversation with my grandpa about possible careers for myself. I just posed the question, “I wonder what it would be like to be a lawyer?” We talked about how hard you have to study and how long it takes to become a lawyer. The next day, my grandpa texted me and asked “Sam, would you like to check out a court room?” I said, “Sure! Sounds fun!” I must say, I have the most creative and awesome grandpa ever.

So, we arrived at the courtroom around 10:00 am. The courtroom was bustling with activity. The security men took our bags and put them through the metal detector. You could tell who the lawyers were by their suits, briefcases and serious demeanor.

First, we went upstairs and walked into a district courtroom where arraignments were taking place. Arraignments, for those not addicted to Law & Order, are when the defendants are informed of the charges against them. There was the judge, sheriff, and attorney in the room. The judge looked like the kind you see in the movies. She was an older, yet pretty, white woman. She had her hair in a bun and her glasses rested on her nose. She seemed like a very tough, intelligent and professional woman. The kind of woman I’d aspire to be!

The judge was actually speaking to the prisoners through a web cam. I could see the prisoners in their orange jump suits on the T.V. screen. She discussed bonds, terms and conditions for pre-trial and recommendations for them. Many of them could not afford a lawyer, were unemployed, on supplemental security income (SSI) or had a history of drug use. It showed me just how hard it is for people to get back on their feet once they get out of prison. Even worse, when people are labeled as felons, re-entry into society without being discriminated against is nearly impossible.

After seeing the arraignments, we decided to check out a different courtroom. This one was larger and looked like it was used for more serious offenses. It was the traditional courtroom you think of when you imagine one. The judge’s bench was in the center with tables for the counsel to the right and left of him. The bailiff stood against one wall to keep order. I was sitting in the separate group of seats where the public sits.

We waited for a little while and watched the lawyers prepare. A very upset woman approached the stand. She spoke Spanish so I listened to her translator. She began to cry as she explained what happened. Her boss had violated her and was putting cameras in the bathroom of the workplace. He was there and so were his wife and daughter. The judge found him guilty and sentenced him to 12 months in jail with a six-month suspension. He tacked on a two-year probation as well. I couldn’t believe I witnessed someone get sentenced to time in jail. They took him straight there from the courtroom.

The main takeaway I got was that the courtroom would be a really interesting place to work. I think a law related job would be exciting because you would see different cases every day. This experience has led me to research careers outside of just becoming a lawyer. I didn’t realize how many jobs there are that keep the entire criminal justice system running. The atmosphere was tense and serious, yet exciting. I would say you have to put your emotions and beliefs aside with this kind of work. To be a lawyer, you may have to defend someone who could be guilty. Being a judge would be difficult because of the decisions they must make. The decisions they make have permanent effects on people’s lives. However, the criminal justice system keeps society in some order. Still, the criminal justice system is very flawed. We need people that will work to make it better.

I’m not an expert and I only spent a small amount of time in the courtroom. However, it was a memorable experience and I’m glad I tried it. It sparked a new interest in the criminal justice system for myself and broadened my career choices. If you are interested in a certain field, I would challenge you to get some first-hand experience. It will help you find your passion and allow you to really envision yourself in that field. Always remember that you can do and be anything you want to be. 

I enjoy writing for Her Campus, studying Sociology, cooking, and listening to music. I have an appreciation for learning about the world we live in and how to make it a better place for everyone.  I hope you enjoy my articles! 
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