Its 4:00am, 32 degrees outside. The plan is to leave at 5:00am, be at the courthouse by 8:00am. An attorney’s clientele can be all across the state. The drive normally is two hours, but you want to beat early morning traffic. It is imperative to reach the courthouse and meet with your clients on time. You want to discuss the contents of their hearing, it can be a long day in juvenile court.
In matters of custody, juvenile court is handled at the state county level. Federal Law rarely plays any part in family custody battles. As written in the 10th amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution, nor prohibited by the states, are reserved by the states respectively…”. Each state has its own custody laws that vary in severity of child custody requirements or loss of parental rights. For today, its only the preliminary hearing for the case in question. The trial will not occur until after the hearing.
After a long drive, and a stop for breakfast, we arrive at the county courthouse. Like many courthouses, the entrance security requires you to go through a metal detector. You place your phone, wallet, keys, or whatever else into the plastic bowl, and place any bags you have into the conveyor belt to be scanned. Some courts require you not to have a cell-phone on the premises, but if you are an attorney or an attorney’s assistant, you can carry it without issue. Upon passing security, you drop off the case file on the 3rd floor for processing, once that is finished, you search for the residing Judge’s courtroom. The average case load is about 30 cases a day, you could be there for five minutes or five hours depending upon where your case is on the docket.
Walking in, you can see a row of pews leading up to the counsel table where the attorneys will sit. Raised above the the rest of the seats is the judge’s bench. For a normal courtroom, food and drink are not allowed, but if you are an attorney or an attorney’s assistant, you can take that cup of coffee in with you if you really want to. For some, visiting a courtroom for the first can be intimidating. As an assistant, you cannot be intimidated by the environment, you have to be confident and do your job with excellence.
We meet with the clients and discuss the contents of what will occur during the hearing. Once informed on how the day will go, we wait for the presiding judge to appear to start the day off. Roughly fifteen minutes later, we all rise as the judge enters the room. At the top of the docket, the judge calls forward the attorneys for our case. A little under a minute passes by and we leave the courtroom. As it turns out, the child’s Guardian ad Litem had just been assigned to the case in question, so they requested to postpone the hearing until a later date.
And just like that, our day in court is over. While it may seem like little was accomplished, were able to successfully make it to the court on time, meet with our clients, and reassure them that we are heading in the right direction with their case. For a first time visit, not much action, but an invaluable learning experience none the less. While sleep was lost, and coffee thrown away, we maintained a high level of professionalism; by providing the attention and care our clients needed for the long road ahead in their trial. All in a days work in a visit to juvenile court.
My name is John Pierce Lemire. Born and raised in a Christian home in Alabama, I have always had a strong passion for justice. Spending most of my education being home schooled, I had the opportunity to compete in Speech and Debate Tournaments across the country during my high school years. The invaluable experience I gained through Speech and Debate led me to pursue a career as a lawyer. Having graduated high school, I am now a Junior studying a Bachelor of Science in Economics at Auburn University At Montgomery, with plans to attend Law School and become an attorney.