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May It Please The Court. . .I’m Not Wearing Pants

April 2, 2020

I’ve spent more time in courtrooms than I can honestly remember. In fact, a judge once said, “Your parents have been in my courtroom I don’t know how many times.” She didn’t mean it as a condemnation of us, my lovely wife and me.

Courtrooms are just like you see in the movies. It’s often very formal. I try to wear a suit every time I go. I will typically wear a shirt that is not white. I wear a white shirt every Sunday to go to church. I rarely get the opportunity to dress up in a colored shirt and tie.

I have a set of silk suspenders. When I walked through the metal detector, the brass fittings on my suspenders would set off the alarm. Eventually, I was simply asked to lift up my pant legs to show I had nothing strapped to my ankles. Or maybe the baliffs simply wanted to see if my socks matched. They didn’t say.

We don’t go to church anymore, of course. I haven’t put on the suit in over a month. Strange how court was still linked to church, even if in a negative connotation. I don’t wear the suit to court either.

I had court yesterday. Both my lovely wife and I attended. And as you may have noticed in my opening paragraph, I was there for the sake of one of my children. It was a scheduled meeting. We’ve had one each week for the past four weeks. The first was via a phone call. The second was supposed to be via video, but they couldn’t get the video to work. The third, I went in person. Today’s was via video; WebEx.

WebEx, like most video conferencing software allows you to show multiple people on screen. In the upper left was the “host.” It was an empty courtroom. No one was visible, but we were assured that somewhere off camera was a court reporter. The judge appeared to be broadcasting from her living room. A light behind her kept making her image artifically bright or dark as she moved closer and farther from the camera. She was dressed in normal clothes. No black robe.

My child appeared with staff in another window. The prosecuting attorney was in a suit and tie. He had chosen an unfortunate camera angle. His head was in the lower quarter of the screen. The upper 3/4 was a blank wall. But, he was definitely the best dressed.

I was wearing an pressed shirt but no tie. It wasn’t a white shirt. My lovely wife wore a knit top. We both wored jeans. It didn’t matter. No one was going to see them anyway.

I don’t know what kind of pants the defense attorney was wearing. Perhaps it was Bermuda board shorts. It would have matched the t-shirt he was wearing. For all I know he might not have been wearing any at all, although I think that might have been too much even for him.

None of us stood when the judge entered the room. She wasn’t announced. She was simply there like most people who pop into a video conference.

We all spoke deferentially, of course. My child was very respectful. We were all respectful. But, we were also all very unsettled. It’s hard enough being in a normal courtroom, with its formal setting: wood panelling, high ceilings, the judge seated literally above the rest of the courtroom. The setting is both intimidating and formal on purpose.

But, today that wasn’t the case. We might have been members of a work group gathering for a project meeting. The judge read the charges and spoke in the formal language of the court. It was incongruatous given the decidedly informal setting.

And yet, there we were. The proceedings completed and we scheduled the next project meeting. I flipped to a new window on my PC and brought up my work calendar to find my availabilty and schedule the next meeting 45 days out.

It is definitely a brave new world.

Stay safe.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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