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Court Room Observation

For the assignment of courtroom observation, I went to New Britain Courthouse. I had a choice of
viewing civil court, or criminal court. Naturally, I thought criminal court would be more interesting, so I
found the court room, 1B, and sat in the back to witness the different cases at hand.
In the courtroom, the first thing I noticed is that the judge basically acted the same way for every case.
What he said was pretty much the same, and asked the same questions each time such as if the
defendant knew their crime, if the defendant had ample time to discuss their situation with their lawyer,
and also if the defendant understood their punishment and if they were under the influence of any
drugs or alcohol at the time their sentence was being read to them. As usual, there were prosecutors,
defendants, their clients, and also a recorder. Also in every case, two officers stood by the defendants, I
guess for either protection, or just in case if the defendant got out of line. There were two people in
court that I've never seen before, one was sitting to the right of the judge, and didn't really do anything,
and the other person stood up by a stand not far from the judge, and at each different case, explained
details of the case and the suggested punishment by the state.
During the time I did my observation I watched about 10 cases. All of the cases I saw were different, the
ranged from a speeding ticket with a hundred dollar fine, to probation updates. Some cases dealt with
disorderly conduct, which was a domestic dispute between two men, and some resulted in community
service. Out of all the cases observed, two were very interesting. The first one was about a man who
violated his probation by two counts. He was 26 years old, and stated that he had been addicted to this
drug, which was not mentioned, for over 10 years. The judge gave him drug treatment for 21 days, and
if he left before completing the drug treatment, he would be sentenced...
A Peek Inside a Philippine courtroom
We had to sport that dignifying stance of a law student. Our decency and courtesy have doubled or
tripled its form and showmanship. Kidding aside, we only have to bring ourselves in there, follow certain
courtroom standard policies, and a little dress code too. So long as we dont make too much noise, we
are off the handcuffs and the scorn looks of the detained prisoners, as well as the prying eyes of the
police officers and the terror nudge of our professor-judges.

This summer, we were set to accomplish 60 hours of court observation. I wasnt quite sure then if the
idea of it sounded like a treat but we were practically without a choice. That task technically is part of
the requirements of the Practice Court subject in our fourth year. Yes, we were obliged to observe
various courtrooms in Regional Trial Courts and Municipal Trial Courts. The task sure did gave us quite
an idea how a typical courtroom in the Philippines is like, and how a typical day transpires inside the
court.

A typical courtroom is indeed like a sala, that Spanish word for living room. No wonder it is referred to
as the judges sala. Some of which weve visited are neatly clad and organized from the gavels spot to
the end pew. Some have lockers where files are well-kept, while there were some who you could
mistake for an archive section in a very old museum or library. There was one in particular wed fondly
call a kindergarten or prep classroom, with a pink bamboo bench in front, the row just next to where the
lawyers are, and some cute decorations and posters all over. Another court had a collection or
motorcycles in it, we would jestingly guess if those were for attached properties or just a hobby of the
police officers. And that microwave near the judges desk, we couldnt figure what really was that for.
Yes, we were never really that observant. Whatever the courtroom looks like, wed say it does speak
much about the judges personality.

Furtively, we dare anticipate no less but to get to witness hard-core courtroom drama. Ergo, the ones
weve witnessed were not made for Hollywood films. Not that we were desperate to witness one nor
disappointed though because there where days during that 3-week stint which were quite eventful and
exciting enough. I wouldnt forget the day I sat beside an accused in a murder case. Later did I figure
that the young man, looking like in his early twenties, beside me in that packed pew who I was stroking
arms with, was the accused himself. I was too stupid then, but maybe just unmindful as what is
characteristic of me, to notice the handcuffs on him and that yellow-coded shirt of a detained prisoner.
While the medico-legal expert witness was testifying about how the victim could have been possibly
strangled, I could care less making faces and whispering remarks on my classmate seated at my back.
Only when she gave me that glaring warning look did I realize that the edgy young man beside me was
the accused in that case. And so from then on, I had to learn to tame myself. I wouldnt forget the stare
he gave me at one point. In those uneventful sessions, we would often find ourselves giggling over some
little or major bloopers --- from the judges scary demeanors, the prosecutors and lawyers weird antics,
to the various faces and emotions of every witness who boldly takes the winess stand.

As was our objective, we had a take on the different courtroom processes: arraignment, pre-trial, trial
where there is presentation of evidence or witness, promulgation of judgment, hearing on motions,
amongst many. The new process, called a Judicial Dispute Resolution, which entails a practical way of
resolving cases through mediation and compromise, is now being highly-encouraged and practiced by
the courts. There were times as well when some of our professor-judges would take us to their
chambers after the session to enlighten us on some matters.

The court observation activity didnt literally give us a blast but it sure was a worthy venture for lawyer
wannabes like us. Wed quite miss those friendly court personnel who kindly accommodated us during
those visits, and who never tired in sparing for us those court calendars before we could think of taking
them off the bulletin boards . Thus, the 60-hour task in a span of three weeks was a mission
accomplished.