March 2012 Archives

Not my first judicial rodeo

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by Raul Hernandez

It was time to do a court house blog, and here is why.

It's early in the morning at the Hall of Justice, some of the people who are entering the building and going through the metal detectors have an expression on their faces as though they have just landed on the moon.

And,  it's understandable. The sights and sounds of a place that seems to have its own language and ambiance can be overwhelming. All this coupled by the anticipation of many who will have to stand before a judge or others who are reporting for jury duty for the first time.
The people-filled hallways are filled with apprehension and some confusion. Voices mingle with footsteps, there is the occasional sound of fussy children or the rattling of a cart or two full of criminal case files and it is usually being pushed by a prosecutor heading to a courtroom.

People are looking for their lawyers or courtrooms.  Police officers, witnesses and others line the hallway walls or stand near the large windows or sit on the benches. Some judges are in their chambers wading through the legal paperwork or talking to lawyers about criminal or civil cases.

The first-floor jury room is filled with prospective jurors. The information booth where the three daily listings of defendants scheduled to appear in court is busy. Inside some of the courtrooms, Sheriff's deputies are answering questions, directing the people traffic and providing security.

On my Court Reporter blog, my role will simply be as the writer who puts the information together while staying away from comments that will compromise by neutrality as a newspaper reporter.

Hopefully, it can clear up a lot of misconceptions and ease concerns.

I am not new at this. I did a courthouse column for the El Paso Times for about three years when I worked there. I thought it was pretty successful. So I have a little experience in writing courthouse columns.

Basically, the Court Reporter blog will be quick takes on some of the notes left over from a trial or hearing. The column will be written to inform, educate and create a place where the voices of judges, lawyers, plaintiffs, defendants and others  -- can be heard, so to speak.
When a judge said something insightful or thoughtful during a sentencing for example or a defendant makes a funny remark or vise-versa, I might include it in my column.

Sometimes, lawyers or others will comment in a few sentences about a courthouse issue or problem. Occasionally, I want to include a question for lawyers or others in the public to comment such as what can be done to improve jury duty?

There will be simple explanations of legal terms along with news from other courthouses. Readers will get information about a new law or a state policy that will have an impact on the courthouse. I will provide links with some stories to legal or judicial web sites for further information.

Most of all, I want the column to be fun and informative but I never want to lose sight that there is a very serious side to the  justice system involving people's lives including victims of crime.

Abraham Lincoln once said "we are all ignorant but in different subjects." I want to add, "I am ignorant in many subjects" and every day I walk into the courthouse it's also a learning process for me.

I hope you enjoy my first column, and I look forward to getting your input via emails and phone calls.


The Court Reporter
Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at rhernandez@vcstar.com.