March 11, 2009

It is hard to write about court because I have such mixed feelings about it.  On one hand, I think it is very necessary to have this as part of the checks and balances of the system.  I also think it is fascinating and am quickly finding that I really enjoy interacting with my attorneys and see some potential for personal relationships (I hope!) forming.  And it can be a great source of accountability.  I rarely have concerns about the job that I am doing, but it is nice to have a powerful, neutral party telling some of my parents the same thing that I have been telling them – get your stuff together – now!

Yet there are some horrible things about court.  My biggest complaint is that it is a time sucker.  This week and last week, I have had 3 court hearings during the week.  If there is a morning hearing, I am there at 8 am and usually leave around noon.  There is 4 hours that is not effectively used.  A huge frustration and typical cause of this is that defense attorneys do no contact their clients until we are at court, so I get to hang around as they finally talk to their clients.  Ugh.  And then, the courts are just congested and I typically just spend tons of time just sitting and waiting for my hearing.

Another frustration is the variability of the bench.  Rulings vary dramatically depending on who the hearing is in front of.  That doesn’t seem right.  And then, to really get me hot, sometimes the person on the bench has no clue about social work and services, but still orders ridiculous things to happen that are often not possible, and worse, not appropriate to the situation.  It is frustrating to be ordered to do something in my field by someone who is not experienced or trained in it.  It would be nice to be treated with some respect that would acknowledge that I may have more insight into a situation because it is my area of expertise – just like I would not tell a lawyer what would be the most appropriate legal action to take, because I am not a lawyer.  This seems to be more of a social issue, where society does not value the field of social work and somehow thinks that lay folks know as much or more than the professionals.  This is insulting.

Finally, most of the defense attorneys, I recognize are doing their job for similar reasons that I am: wanting to represent and protect the vulnerable.  Therefore, they are level-headed, respectful, and fair.  While I may not agree with them all of the time, I believe they are doing what they are because they have a basic foundation for social justice.  But there are some for which this is not the case.  They are bullies and they are greedy.  I am currently working with one of the few private attorneys (who has an awful reputation for bankrupting her clients – and I think it will happen in this case too) and I don’t know if I have met a more disrespectful person in my life.  I understand that attorneys need to present a strong case for their clients, but writing condescending emails and purposefully avoiding eye contact is unnecessary.  (BTW, being disrespectful to me is one of the quickest ways to getting on my sh*t list and my standards of “respect” are not necessarily that high).  I wonder if she knows what her reputation is and if and how that feeds into her demeanor.

Oh, and one final thing about court.  I have to dress up for court – nicer than if I was just in the office or doing home visits, and I am starting to run out of outfits.  I know this should indicate that I can go shopping, but I hate going shopping.  I just wish that I didn’t have that worry about what to wear so frequently!