I certainly don’t view the world through rose colored glasses. As a matter of fact, I bet that most of you would agree that I am a pessimist of the highest caliber. Some might think that my pessimism was born from my profession and—although I readily admit that being an attorney hasn’t helped my attitude—those of you who know me well know that I was cynical in my bassinette.
Lawyers aren’t exactly the worst sons of bitches in the universe (thank you Enron, ginormous evil banks, Bernie Madoff and Kanye West), but when it comes to “What Does Your Parent Do Day” at school, I’m not real a hot ticket when faced with doctors, nurses, firefighters and policemen. Actually, I think that one of the parents even works for the movie studio, so I’m completely screwed.
Lawyers have a crappy reputation. We’re greedy ambulance chasers, sharks, pot stirrers and bottom feeders. Hell I’m not going to lie to you, a lot of us actually are, but bad apples don’t screw up the whole bunch and whatever that saying is. Lord knows I’ve tried to lead by example. I’ve tried so hard to take care of my side of the street while studiously ignoring the flashy letter writers and the obnoxious commercials. God it’s hard to keep my mouth shut.
It’s one thing to deal with all of the absurdity of the profession, but one thing that helps to keep a lot of attorneys focused is the sanctity and dignity of the Court. The Court is supposed to remain impartial in spite of the various legal circus acts going on around it. Those famous scales must be balanced at all times.
Who does the public typically associate with the Court? Judges, of course.
Judges are supposed to be impartial and above it all. Yeah, right. Still, they’re at least supposed to put on a damn good show of it. Dignity, people dignity!
...which is why my blood boils, my eye twitches and this weirdo vein in my head throbs at the very mention of the bane of justice, the bullet in the head of integrity and the death knell of the nobility of the legal system: Those Godforsaken finger snapping, head cocking, sound bite dropping donkey voiced television judges.
The trailer trash of the judicial world.
Without digressing into a civics lesson, judges are appointed or elected depending on the State in the Union. I am also familiar enough with the political and judicial systems to know that one can appoint or elect someone to a position who appears perfectly normal only to have said person go just as crazy as a fruit bat after a couple of months in office (some only make it mere days). The problem is that I don’t see how in the world Judge Judy and Judge Jerry and Judge Whoeverthehell could have possibly appeared normal and dignified for 5 consecutive minutes, much less the time it would take to claim an actual judge seat.
By the way, that’s the grabber and claim of legitimacy on all of these parade of morons court television shows—yep, somewhere around the opening credits, the dude that does all of the movie trailer narration promises you up one side and down the other that the judge is a real judge, the parties are real parties and the decisions are real decisions. One thing I’ve noticed on the scant few introductions I have listened to before quickly changing the channel is that they don’t claim the bailiffs to be real bailiffs. I suspect that real bailiffs would be way too tempted to open fire on the proceedings. I would watch that.
Although it seemed innocent enough at the start, the whole mess began with Judge Wapner and his trusty sidekick, Rusty, on The People’s Court (dun dun DUN). There were really only two types of cases: (1) Photographers being sued for gloriously screwing up wedding pictures; and (2) Dry cleaners being sued for gloriously screwing up various items of clothing (often wedding dresses). Don’t mess with a bride.
Wapner was a crusty old fart, but he was more like the grandpa who could say whatever he felt like saying because he was old.* I’m sure that watching the re-runs would feel like a slow and torturous death now, but it was uncharted territory back then and its late afternoon run time made it the undisputedly preferable choice to sitting down and doing homework.
When it comes to the cases on the legal shows today, producers drag the bottom of the talk show leftovers pond. They aren’t picking cases for merit. They aren’t even necessarily picking cases for salaciousness. They are picking cases that will give their particular trailer judge the most opportunity to butt in, cut people off indignantly, pontificate, berate, cock their big ‘ol head like a clucking chicken and maybe even snap a “Z” if they get on a roll.
First of all, a court that does not show respect to those coming before it cannot demand respect for itself. It’s a simple enough rule and they even teach it in preschool: If someone is speaking, don’t cut them off. I can assure you that Judge Gotagavel would take great umbrage if Caitlynn (being sued for injury to personal property for destroying her fellow stripper’s hair pieces) interrupted him to explain how Tammy brought it on herself by jamming Caitlynn’s pasties in the coin slot of the soda machine. His “Honor” isn’t exactly presiding over a cotillion or anything, but common courtesy is due in all venues.
I have never watched Divorce Court and I never will, but I’ve read about the areas that the program covers and I don’t know how cast and crew can bear looking at themselves in the mirror. I hardly know where to start, but let’s just dive right into the middle, shall we?
Domestic Violence. Domestic Violence is an abomination and I will admit to you that my problem with this particular issue spans beyond the dumbass court shows. Domestic Violence is something that people need to be educated about. It is something that people need to be angry about and it is something that people need to hop on the bandwagon to eradicate. Domestic Violence is NOT something spicy to be gawked at for entertainment value and TV ratings. I don’t give a crap how much these trailer judges squawk that, by “shining a spotlight on the issue, they help to bring awareness to the problem.” All it really means to them is that they get to holler more and drop more sound bites so they look super cool. Woo to the hoo.
Child Custody. Child Custody is a terribly sensitive issue. Even if a child’s dumbass parents don’t think that custody is a sensitive issue, I can guarantee you that their child is quite worried about it in one way or another. It’s still hard when mommy and daddy fight—even if they don’t live together anymore.
Mom wants to take out child abuse charges on Dad because the kids got a little too much sun when he took them to the beach over the weekend. The merriment of children’s holidays are being hacked to pieces so that parents can get equal time for themselves regardless of what it does for their kids. Kids are afraid to talk to their parents for fear that some innocent comment to one parent will be turned around and used against their other parent.
It’s a frigging nightmare when it’s conducted behind closed doors, but no, let’s compound the trauma by throwing it into the most public arena possible! Ooh, let’s also make sure that it’s recorded for posterity so that our child can watch us act like rabid, retarded possums over and over and over again. Yeah, that’s gonna be a therapist’s retirement plan right there.
So, boys and belles, I am more than used to talking to brick walls and tilting at windmills in this profession, but at least think about changing the channel if one of these shows comes on, or at least try to remember that we aren’t all as bad as the worst example showing before you on your TV screen.
Here endeth the rant.
*Holy cats! I just googled Wapner and the dude is still alive! Wow.