My Court Observation

My court observation was at the New York City Civil Small Claims Court, Kings County. The court is located at 141 Livingston Street and Smith. I arrived there at 6:15 pm to observe the proceedings which were scheduled to commence that evening at 6:30 pm. I went to room 409 part 45. When I entered the only two people present was a court male officer and another gentleman. I introduced myself to the officer to explain the purpose of my visit then, I asked if I could take notes by seating in the front row. The officer gave me the okay to do both when a petite woman of around 5’01” walked into the room wearing a black rope kind of limping from her right leg and flanked by a second court officer. As she was walking by, the judge very politely greeted me with a smile which I corresponded back to her twice as she kept walking to the bench while taking a second look at me and smiling again. Once seated, the judge began inquiring from the court officer about the calendar of the cases which he answered that he was waiting to get it and proceeded at the same time to informed her that I was here to observe the trials. I immediately introduced myself to the judge and when I finished to do so guest what?? The judge invited me to come up to the bench and SEAT NEXT TO HER in the witness box if I wanted to because she “Didn’t care” WOW!! What are the odds for that to happen in a life time for a law student and especially, while the court is in session?? Knock yourself out, people. Anyway, I was shocked at the honor and privilege to received such invitation especially, from a judge who was invested with the power of the state to ruled over personal disputes as well as having the power to send someone straight to jail, if need be. Well, the only thing that I could come up to say was “Are you sure??”. LOL. Nevertheless, I stayed put in the first bench. Sorry people, no dice.

The court started by hearing six cases in total. The first one was Hernandez vs. Plaza Kia where the plaintiff is alleging to the court that he bought a car there which began giving him motor problems soon after. The plaintiff continued by presenting as evidence some pictures taken by him after he had taken the car to a mechanic. The judge at that point stop him in his tracks by asking him if he was an expert in mechanic or not to determine such malfunction. When the plaintiff replied that he was not the judge told him to come back with a mechanic to testify as an expert and proceeded to adjourned the case for a latter time. Meantime, the second officer observed that I was seating at the edge of the bench and leaning forward struggling to listen at the first parties talking to the judge when he addressed me by asking if I wanted to seat by the table where the attorneys seat. This is the forbidden zone control by the judge where the penalty for transgressors is to get arrested. I did agree as the only way for me to take notes comfortably and while walking to enter the first officer told the second “No Cheng” he could not seat in here!! Whaaat? After being invited at first by the judge to seat next to her now this officer who was present when the judge spoke to me was denying me such privilege?? Well, court officer Cheng did not agree with that and corrected him by telling that the judge had invited me at first to which the first officer “sucked it up” and now I was able  to sit where our associates seat! Nice.

The second case was index 569 where the plaintiff was suing the defendant for relief at law for damages made at the plaintiff side walk house. A man wearing a suit standing where the defendants do before the court attempted to interrupt the plaintiff in several occasions while she was making her point to the judge. This action made him earned the wrath from the judge who warned him not to interrupt the plaintiff again and what it was more she ordered him not to have his hands crossed over at the height of his waist. Then, he speaks up to the judge by telling her that he was not the defendant but… the defendant’s attorney!!! HA,HA,HA. The judge was not informed over this because according to him he had just being retained the day before by the defendant and therefore, he had come to the proceeding to petition the court for an adjournment for him to know all of the case facts. My view is that he could had this “Kodak” moment with the judge being avoided if he had only identified himself since the beginning.

The other 4 cases were not as intense as the first two. The third and fourth cases involved an accident, the fifth an adjournment, and the sixth a plaintiff suing for a bill received from Verizon. This one is funny but I am going to leave it for my presentation at class. By the way, the judge name is the Honorable Odessa Kennedy. The first officer refused to give me his name but not his shield number which, I declined as a response. The court finished those cases by 8:25 and on our way out was when I found out the name of the judge and the case index numbers from officer Steve Cheng, who was the one taking care of me including going to the third floor to obtained copies of the cases. Bravo for him. The Small Claims Clerk’s name is Mrs. Ward, who was kind enough to stayed on the phone today with me and assisted in verifying the names that I could not heard clearly in court and in addition to confirmed the parties index numbers for me. Did I mention how perplex she felt when she mentioned how surprised was for her that no one was calling while she talked to me for about 15 minutes?? This was mentioned by her in disbelief after she acknowledged that usually the phones are “ringing off the hook” when I contacted her at noon. I know why? There is a season under heaven for everything people. That is why!


1 Comment

  1. Kerin E. Coughlin

    Sergio, thank you for this extremely COLORFUL summary of your experience! It sounds like you had a great day. I look forward to learning more about it in your memo, and especially in your oral presentation!
    Prof. C.

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