By Wyatt Earp | June 8, 2005
Did you ever wonder why you rarely see court proceedings during cop shows? It’s because the viewers would start taking their own lives five minutes into the program. Why show Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs sitting in a cramped courtroom for hours when Michael Mann could have them shooting from their moving vehicle? Those who have suffered through jury duty know from experience that life imitates art.
Let me tell you how court works in the City of Brotherly Love. Brace yourselves.
Police personnel and average citizens are required to be in court by 9am. Of course, defendants and their weasel-like lawyers show up whenever they damn well please. This carelessness would usually annoy the judge on the bench, but since they don’t show up in court until 11am or so, the bad guys get a pass. (Keep in mind that the victims who had to take the day off have now been sitting patiently in their seats for two hours for no good reason.) Finally, the judge with the God complex arrives with a flourish, and life can begin. The court crier calls the cases in order (the city averages forty to fifty cases per room per day) but don’t get excited; even if you are case number one, the judges hear the cases involving private attorneys before anyone else’s.
In an infuriating custom, after the list of cases is called, the judge almost always “takes a break.” Because they need one after sitting in their own courtroom for an hour, right? It is about this time that civilians begin wrapping their heads in duct tape; lest they explode. The break usually occurs around 11:30am, which gives defendants two and a half hours to check in. Unfortunately, if they are not present by this time, many courts give them an extra hour or so to show up. The maddening part of this is that if a victim is two hours late, the judge will usually dismiss the case!
After the break has ended, the courts can finally get to the business at hand. It is now about noon, and most judges take an hour lunch at 1pm. Do the math. There is no way on God’s green earth that forty cases will be addressed in sixty minutes. If you are one of the unlucky saps who still haven’t been heard by lunchtime, let your babysitter know she’s getting some overtime. It’s gonna be a really long day!
So, there you have it, kids; the joke that is the Philadelphia Criminal Justice System. Citizens beware: become a crime victim at your own risk.
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