I’m sitting in a courtroom waiting for the jury to emerge with a verdict. Today is my fifth day of walking into the Federal Court of Appeals, showing my ID, opening my iPad, taking off my boots, and putting everything in a plastic bin to run through security.
The same routine happens at lunch. Morning and noon, the three men in black suits are always pleasant and never miss a step in the entry process. Every day as I leave, they smile and say, “Have a good evening.” I wonder if I came every day for a month if they would still make me follow all the rules. I’m guessing yes.
The courtroom is on the second floor, and I always choose the beautiful, circular marble stairway.
I listen to the plaintiff and defense teams for five days.
Mentally weary, and over-stuffed with information, I am fascinated by the judicial process. I notice the competency and arrogance of attorneys. I listen to both sides, watch the jury, assess the dynamics in the room, admire the knowledge and organizational skill of the legal teams, and enjoy the traditions and protocol.
Court begins at 9:00 with, BANG, BANG. “All rise. This court is in session.” The judge enters, sits in his big black leather chair behind a massive elevated wooded desk with an American Flag at its left, and says, “You may be seated.” BANG. The jury enters the courtroom. The exact routine repeats after mid-morning, lunch, and mid-afternoon recess.
Recess begins with the jury leaving and, BANG, BANG, “All Rise. This court is in recess.” Judge leaves. “Bang.”
Always, exactly the same.
A trial demonstrates the saying, “There are always two sides to a story.” The process helps me understand the value of a jury; six or twelve individuals can do what opposing parties cannot do; agree.
If we can’t compromise and create solutions, then we deplete our bank account and turn our future over to a judge, jury, and attorneys. It’s about right, wrong, win, lose.
While waiting for the verdict, my emotions fluctuate from elated to sad. I feel elated because my client was able to do the right thing, and attempt to right a wrong by telling her story. Sad, because I fear the jury will not grasp the intensity of the injustice and support her plight to help others not experience what she had endured.
The jury came in at 4:30 p.m. with no verdict. Maybe Monday.
Monday at 11:00 the Jury has a verdict. My breathing stops. The judge reads the verdict: Guilty on failure to provide accommodations and termination based on disability. Not-guilty on workplace harassment and termination due to retaliation for filing a lawsuit.
I was overcome with relief and gratitude, as was my client. We shared hugs and tears.
One lone, brave woman won a lawsuit against the Federal Department of Labor for failure, in over five years, to provide accommodations for her visual disability. Never underestimate the power of one woman with tenacity and purpose.
What during your week has activated polar emotions, caused admiration for another person or grew renewed faith in our democratic judicial system?
Until the next time: Live while you live!