Rituals of the Courthouse: A user’s guide by J.W. Hardin

Greetings! J.W. here,  writing from Hell where I was sent by John Selman with a very ungentlemanly shot to the back of my head. (Just behind my right ear).  As you may know, after my career as a psychopathic racist killer where I notched 41 souls I was incarcerated for eight years of hard labor.  During that time I read the law and when I was released headed down to El Paso where I hung out my shingle and passed my last days practicing law.  I represented my cousin, “Killin’ Jim” Miller in a wrongful death case and saw him exonerated. Unfortunately,  Jim wound up on the wrong end of a rope a few years later.  But,  I digress.

Gawnews delegated me the task of explaining the “Rituals” of the Courthouse.  Given my vast experience on both sides of the law, and my current perspective (abiding in Hell so I have no direct vested interest),  I consider it an ideal assignment. Let’s talk about a few of these:

The Courthouse Shuffle:

John Q. Citizen finds a mistake on his tax bill.  It came from the Treasurer’s office.  He goes there, he waits in line, he gets to the counter…”Oh no sir, if there was a mistake made, it was in the Assesor’s office.  You need to go there. NEXT!” He goes to the Assessor’s office. “Sir, it looks like there might be a mistake on the plat and you need to check your deed and the plat in the Recorder’s office.  He goes to the Recorder’s office. “Sir, it looks like there was a judgment against you in 2009 that was just put against the deed. You need to go straighten that out in the CLERK’S office.   John goes down the hall,  now it is 4:30.  The office is closing up.

This is time honored.  Another version is a person who discovers that someone stole something from them. They go to the prosecutor’s office for help.  “I can prove it ! ” they say and are hopeful.  They go to the Prosecutor’s office. If it is on certain days they discover there are pretrials going on and the hallway is jammed with criminal defendants and criminal defense lawyers.  They make their way to the window. “I would like to meet with a prosecutor.  Jilly Joe Junker stole my lawn mower! I have proof! She’s trying to sell it on Craig’s list” says the unhappy citizen to the receptionist.  “I am sorry, but no one can meet with you now and by the way did you get a police report?”    “No”.   “Ok, first make a police report. Then when you get that done bring it back to us”.    John Q. goes to the Sheriff’s office and makes his report.  “Can I get a copy of that?” He gets a copy and brings it back to the Prosecutor’s office.  “Oh that is Jilly Joe?  she has a case tomorrow…why don’t you take your report to the Court so they know about this new case.”  You are sent to the Court but you don’t know which one…so you go to the ‘first’ one.  “I am sorry,  that kind of case would be in Circuit 3”. So you go to circuit three.   “I’m sorry maam, but you are not a party to the ongoing case so I really can’t let you have the file or put anything in it…who told you to come here?”   And so it goes.

Pass the BLAME ritual:

When you have complex multi-faceted society with many working parts, one thing you discover when things go wrong. IT’S NOBODIES FAULT!   Need proof you got a judgment against some ne’er do well?  It’s not on the books yet.  Check with the court…”we sent it to the Clerk to record”….Check with the Clerk…’we never got it’ back to the Court…”Here’s a copy you can walk it down”  You walk it down.  “It doesn’t have the judges’ seal so we can’t take it since it’s not original”.  Back to the Court.  “The original was already sent down”.

Your client has a court date on Wednesday.  You call and ‘bump’ it to Friday because the client is in the hospital.  On Thursday even though it’s bumped,  a “Failure to Appear Warrant for Arrest” is issued.  You call the court and file a motion to withdraw the warrant.  The motion is granted. “Oh yeah…I remember you called we’ll withdraw the warrant.”  You and client show up on Friday morning and conclude your business. That evening at 9pm your client is a passenger in a car pulled over for speeding. There is a warrant check. He is arrested and spends the weekend (it always happens on the weekend) in the Michael Becher Adult Correctional Facility.  On Monday you call to try and get him released.  “Oh my! that warrant was withdrawn on Thursday!” says the Court staffer.  “We sent it down to the Sheriff”.  You call the Sheriff’s office.  “We didn’t get an order to withdraw it!”  You call the Court.  “I will hand walk it down to the Sheriff”.  Etc.,


You have been called as a juror.  You show up to do your civic duty.  You wait what seems an interminable amount of time.  You see folks in suits come  in to the ‘counselors’ tables with heavy files. Then they leave. Nothing happens. The court staffer who is very polite comes and assigns you numbers and puts you in the jury box with 11 others.  More jurors are in ‘the gallery’.  You wait and chat small talk with your fellows. They come and play a video for you. It’s a very corny video from a former Indiana Supreme Court something or other that seems like the epitome of everything you have been warned about concerning lawyers and the judicial process…in a way it’s condescending and smarmy and ‘happy faces’…thankfully it’s over in about fifteen minutes.  Now you wait some more.  Now out comes the judge …you have to stand up when he/she comes out.  The judge is friendly and courteous and assures you that ‘we have been busy getting ready’.   He introduces the lawyers and tells you what the case is about.  You are delighted to hear it’s a criminal case instead of some boring ‘home improvement’ case or a car wreck.  The lawyers ask you a bunch of dumb questions.  You keep your mouth shut.  God knows you are not going to tell what you really think about all this. You just want to do a good job. Now the defense lawyer is asking questions.  GEESH! what a smarmy guy HE is!  Now they write on little pieces of papers and the judge takes them and excuses some of your fellow jurors.  It’s like “SURVIVOR” on Television except nobody is eating bugs.  The trial begins.  There is interminable boring testimony on procedure. Punctuated by long ‘breaks’.  Finally there are a couple witnesses with interesting stories to tell.   I kind of believe them.  Now the lawyers make their closing arguments. WHAT A BUNCH OF SPIN CRAP!!!   You go back with your fellow jurors.  First rule:  Nobody comes to a verdict before we get a dinner out of these dummies!  You get dinner. You vote.  The judge comes back and tells you what a great job you did.  The lawyers that won come back and congratulate you on how smart you are. The losing lawyer may show up and tell you how dumb you were.  IT’s OVER!


These are but a few of the time honored courthouse rituals.  As you can see, it’s much like going to a foreign country and trying to figure out how it all works. By the time you figure it out (if you ever do) you never want to go back again.