“Please remain seated, Superiour Court C 25 is now in session”. Mr. Garcia’s voice called the court to order. I always liked it when he did that.
Last month, I had the honor of serving jury duty in service of Superior Court Judge Colaw in Santa Ana. After the trial was over, I asked the judge it would be OK to bring my daughter back for a visit. The judge in his usual warm and graciously manner, welcomed the visit.
About three weeks later, the Child and I arrived at C 25 near the end of lunch hour. As the lunch break ended, we entered with a number of lawyers who had business with the court. Mr. Servando Garcia, the court attendant, came over to greet us. Mr. Garcia is an interesting individual, tall in stature, intimidating, if he needed to be, but at the end of the day, my experiences of him was that he was a warm spirit with a huge heart. Today, a gracious handshake greeted me and I was very happy to see him again. The child, upon meeting Mr. Garcia, immediately went into shy mode.
Mr. Garcia called the court to order and the trial resumed. The Plaintiff was in the witness-box being examined by his attorney. A few minutes into the examination, Judge Colaw interrupted the proceedings and pointed out that there were guests in the courtroom. He asked us to rise and introduce ourselves. Consider this a shy teenagers worst nightmare. I presented myself as a former juror in a recent case and left my daughter to introduce herself, not wanting her to miss out on the experience. The Judge commented how embarrassed she looked. I responded that as her Father it is my job to embarrass her several times a day.
The judge offered me the opportunity to have my old seat back in the jury box. Just a little giddy, I accepted. Juror seat #1 was awesome. I could lean back and position myself so that I could see the witness and the lawyers just by moving my eyes. My fellow jurors commented one time about how “chill” I looked sitting there and wondered how it was I could be so relaxed and not go to sleep. The Child sat in the seat designated for Juror #2. The Judge then asked the two lawyers to summarize their case for us so we could follow along. This was a high point of embarassment for The Child. Both lawyers graciously presented their client’s position in this case. The matter had been going on for about 4 years, so they were happy to have their day in court. The lawyers did not seem put off at all by this interruption, in fact, they both seemed to rise to the occasion. Then the plaintiff’s examination continued. During this time, the judge took occasion to explain to “The Student” as he refered to her for the record, about what was happening and why. This embarrassed her further. It was explained to her how the lawyers had both agreed to let the Judge decide the case rather than a jury. He explained about numbering evidence before the trial and how it is moved into evidence for his consideration in the matter. He explained the court reporter and how she does her work. The Judge had an amazing way of keeping things moving and yet making sure that teaching occurred.
Probably a half-hour later, the defense had the opportunity to begin their examination. I leaned over to “The Student” and said that this was going to be good. I just had a sense. It was. The Student was able to repeat the first few shocking questions back to her mother when we sat around the dinner table that evening. Cross-examination was put on hold for a short recess. During the break, the court reporter came and took our names to they could be entered into the record. The Student and I were allowed into the Jury room (been there, done that) where we looked out and spotted the Honda Center, Angel’s Stadium, the Tower of Terror and all the major structure in Anaheim. After a few minutes we were invited into the Judges chambers. It was impressive. The walls were covered with either books or pictures. There was also a beautiful hand-made wooden ship model that the Judge’s father had made. We sat for a few minutes and the Judge and the Student chatted. They talked about being a judge, being a lawyer. The Judge was complimentary to the lawyers that were litigating in his courtroom. He spoke about the increasing number of women graduating from law school. He was very encouraging to my daughter and I was appreciative. We tried not to stay to long in chambers, so as to respect the Judge’s time.
We took our seats in the jury box and within a few minutes, Mr. Garcia called court back into order. There were a few calendar items the judge had to manage. It was fun to have him ask for summaries and to hear the concise response of the lawyers and they justified their needs for continuance. Court dates were being set at the end of May and into October pending appeals. The Judge continued to teach the Student during this time.
Around 3pm there was another break before the trial resumed. We decided at this point to take our leave of the good Judge and Mr. Garcia. We thanked them as we did the lawyers that were outside the court. We talked about the 90 minute visit for the rest of the night and reviewed things with Mom around the dinner table. It’s funny because she had an idea what court was, from TV, but there was so much she didn’t know. I guess that’s a good way for a teen-ager to have her first experience in court.
I am very grateful to the kind and wonderful people of Orange County Superior Court C 25.