Friday, November 19, 2010

Courtroom Drama

Yesterday was a very exciting day, when I was expecting it to be boring. Before I tell the tale, you should know a little background information.

First, there is a huge huge huge trial going on at our local Federal courthouse. It's in the news and everything, whoo. This means a huge media presence. It just so happens Lola had to go to court to observe for her CivPro class, so I offered to tag along with her.

Second, a couple weeks ago I attended a lecture given by one of my professors. He'd written an article about the whole foreclosure mess and what is being called "split note theory." It was gaining a lot of media attention, and the lecture was really interesting. I felt all riled up.

So we arrive yesterday at the Federal courthouse and the place is completely deserted. Thursday at 3 is the time to be there if you want to see nothing. Although the security guys were very nice and chatty with us. While waiting for them to unlock the court, we parked ourselves on a bench. The big trial had been over for hours (well, for that day anyway) and it seemed like everyone had gone home. The judge we were observing had only this one motion hearing and she was done for the day. I watched as a young guy in a suit walked down the hall, looked over at us for a second, and then walked into a room marked "Private." I heard him say "Are you ready?" The door closed, and about five minutes later it opened again. Out walked the defendant in this big huge case, in handcuffs. The guy in the suit, who I am assuming was counsel, walked with him as he was led away by a guard. I guess they waited to take him back to the jail until after the circus had gone.

It was sort of like seeing a celebrity. He looked me right in the eye and it was a very unsettling feeling.

After that a bailiff came by and unlocked the courtroom to let us in. We sat down and a few minutes later an attorney came in. He asked if we were with opposing counsel's firm. We told him we were students and asked if we could get the info on the case since we had a few minutes. He began describing the facts, which were all about the exact topic that my professor had written in his review article. What are the odds? So we already knew about it, and that doesn't happen a lot in 1L.

Opposing counsel (plaintiff) came in. They presented their arguments, and I have to say the plaintiff's counsel was very very good. He argued well. I recognized much of his language from the lecture, and I was pretty sure I had seen him there. It turns out he is a major player in this particular theory, and my professor quotes him in the review article.

After the hearing we asked if we could get some info from him, identified ourselves as students of Professor K, and he was very nice. He gave us some documents to look over and told us Professor K is considering getting a pro bono clinic related to foreclosures going at the school. I am definitely interested in that. We were so lucky to get to attend a hearing based on subject matter we are familiar with.

Plus, there was some drama which I won't go into, out of respect for all parties. Let's just say, lawyers are remarkably civil to each other and to judges at times when I would really want to scream and stamp my feet like a toddler.

The day ended with some shopping, which made it a very good one.

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