Today I got to meet a judge! And this judge wasn't behind an intimidating desk in a quiet courtroom. She was just like any other person at our church. She's a real human being, not some scary enforcer.
I learned a few things from her today.
1. She was happy to answer questions about the court system as long as I didn't talk to her about a particular case.
2. A trial can be delayed by the defense for up to five years in California. The prosecution can't delay very long. So what seemed to us like a very inefficient system might just be the defense buying time to build up their case. So the birth family's murder trial may just be delayed because of their own lawyers, not because of the judge, the DA, or the court in general. Oh, and yes, they can all be tried for a crime at the same time with the same conviction, especially if it may be gang related. It doesn't matter if one of the group pulls the trigger, and another just helps him escape. They are all looked on as part of the same crime and can be tried together. That's something I'll have to drill into my kids' heads before they think of hanging with gang members or other questionable people.
3. Judges don't often see the good results of their rulings. They see when things go wrong, but rarely do people come back to tell of how well things have worked out. It's no wonder people involved with my kids looked at everyone, including us, in a negative light. We are thinking of going back to some of the legal team and social workers who have been involved in our foster/adoption. They need a bit more encouragement!
4. The Prop 36 program that the kids' birth mom is on is awesome. It is designed to help people with addictions to get the support they need to get off drugs and not just spend time in jail. The judge who runs it really cares for the people and wants them to succeed. Our new judge friend encouraged us to go to that court sometime to see how it's run. It has an upbeat feel, and people are applauded when they do well. She said it would be a great experience. I think it's really helped the birth mom. Even though she wants to have the freedom to not have to go through all the classes, tests, and check ups, I hope she will stay with it as long as possible. She really does well with the extra support.
5. Judges don't always like to have to make certain decisions, but they have to uphold the law. It doesn't matter if they think something, like foreclosing on an elderly woman's home or sending someone to jail for a minor third strike, is not moral or the best thing for those situations. They don't have as much leeway as one may think. The only way they can challenge a law is like everyone else, at the ballot box.
6. Even though I may not agree with this judge's political bent, she really has a good head on her shoulders and cares for people. She is very friendly and likeable. My view of judges is changing, just by meeting this one.
I'm so glad I got to meet this judge today at church. I really learned a lot.