“Bad Guys” and “Good Guys”
July 30, 2017
I’m nearing the end of my time here at Branch 43 and I don’t want to leave! I have made so many wonderful connections here and learned more than ever imagined I could as an undergrad student just observing court. As usual, I got to do some new things this week including accompanying Katie on taking some photos in a nearby neighborhood for the discovery for an upcoming trial.
Not only this, but I had to run some orders to the judge’s chambers for Judge Kuzas to sign a few times. One morning I also had to fetch a public defender from Branch 44 across the hall in lieu of Katie or Barrington to represent a different Cook County public defender who pressed charges against a former client for assault. This happens more often than one might think. People who have been in jail for a long time will mess with their attorneys on purpose (which can mean a myriad of explicitly sexual or otherwise vulgar things) because picking up a misdemeanor case means a trip to court, stretching their legs, sometimes seeing their friends who are locked up as well, etc. Gross, but effective!
There are often short bursts of free time where a file is being brought over from the police station while we are waiting for a defendant to come out of lock up, or waiting until the judge gets back from a brief recess. During one of those today, the prosecutors and the PD’s were discussing the details of the case about to be brought in front of the judge, off the record. For them, it was a normal conversation at work about work. But it stood out to me so much because they were essentially performing an informal version of what they were about to do on the stand in front of the judge, without all of the legal jargon. Each side essentially stated their case; the state’s attorneys provided aggravation (he has a record) while the PD’s presented their mitigation (he’s not a bad guy, you’re not supposed to go to jail in branch court, this is a minor, non-violent offense), and all without the judge present. I can’t be sure if the nature of the relationship between these public defenders and prosecutors is replicated across the Cook County system, but it made me think about how these informal interactions affect their “performance” when the judge steps up to the bench.
Allegra is a sociology major from Chicago, Illinois.