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Practicum III

THINK PIECE ON COURT OBSERVATIONS

The first time I was able to observe a court proceeding was when we
were required to attend by our Practicum II professor. I was excited then
because I have high expectations in my mind influenced by, well, movie
scenes. I went to court early in my formal attire, as required, but when I
was there together with my classmates I was dismayed to find a small court
room which was easily filled by the parties in a case, expectators, lawyers,
court employees, police officers and us, students. The room was warm. It
was crowded, not only with people but also of court files place on the
corners of the room. I remember only being able to sit after the parties on
the first case left. I found myself sitting with a detainee who was hand-
cuffed with his fellow detainee. Not that I mind but I was just glad I did not
wear my orange dress that time.

At one of the recent court proceeding that I attended which involves


a case for acts of lasciviousness, the complainant was at the witness stand
testifying in Tagalog and showing the court, using her hands, what the
accused did to her. It was translated by the interpreter as holding my
breast which I think was not the correct word to describe what really
happened since the word hold connotes a different meaning. It was
suggested that the correct word should be kneading, which I found to be
funny as the word is usually associated with making dough or bread. The
Judge noticed that we were students from UNC so she asked us what the
correct word should be. One of us offered the word squeezing and the
judge asked the lawyer if the translation was to her satisfaction and she
accepted the word. Having the correct translation of words is of great
importance as they sometimes change the meaning of the sentence. This
reminds me of the story a lawyer once told me. He was cross-examining a
witness and he asked the witness what her relationship with the accused
was. The question was traslated as Anong relasyon mo sa akusado? and
the witness answered mayo po or none sir, as translated by the
interpreter in English. The lawyer was dumbfounded knowing that the
witness is the mother of the accused, so he repeated the question. The
opposing counsel objected on the ground that the question has already
been answered but the lawyer reasoned out that he was merely asking for
the record. The judge overruled the objection and the examining lawyer
was able to proceed. It was translated differently this time as Kaano-ano
mo ang akusado? and the witness answered Aki ko po pero mayo kaming
relasyon. It appears that the witness understood the word relasyon very
differently.

Back to the court observation, while the complainant was testifying I


noticed that a man keeps commenting and laughing on his seat. I thought it
would go unnoticed but the Judge called his attention and reprimanded
him saying that it was not a laughing matter and that his liberty depends on
the outcome of the case. As it turns out, the man was the accused in that
cace.

At another date, I learned about the term second call which allows
the case being handled by the lawyer to be called again for a second time
after all the other cases has finished. This is a remedy for tardy lawyers or
for those lawyers that are attending a hearing in a different sala. I came to
know this because a lawyer asked me to go to the court to ask for a second
call since he was still attending another hearing in a different branch. I did
not know how to use the term yet and I dont want to speak in court so I
relayed the instruction to his client who when called, told the judge second
batch instead of second call. In the end I still had to tell the court what
time the lawyer was coming because the client pointed at me. The court
room during that time was filled and my classmates noticed that the
complainant and the defendant in a certain case were sitting next to each
other. I wonder how they were able to control themselves.

I find arraignment to be a very brief proceeding yet one of the most


important part in a case. There are several cases set for the day and each
case usually do not take long and most of them tend to be re-scheduled for
non-appearance of either party or their counsels. It is somewhat
disappointing that even the simple cases take several years to be decided.

There was a particular court where I observed which although it was


a small room like the others, the room feels more like a court in the sense
that it is more presentable. The walls were newly painted and although it
was crowded, it was not warm. The judge and the witness both had
microphones so we can hear them clearly. I just hope all courts were like
this.
On that court, the defendants counsel was insisting to conduct an
occular inspection for some reason but the judge kindly denied the request
commenting that a 180 sq. meter lot is easy to imagine and thus there is no
need to conduct an occular inspection. The judge also took notice of the
length of time that the case has been going on and commented that if it
were a child it would already be in college. The remark was funny but it is a
sad truth in our judicial system.
By the time the plaintiffs counsel finished examining the witness
based on his judicial affidavit, it was the defenses turn to cross-examine
the witness but the counsel for the defendant requested the court for the
cross-examination to be had on a next setting maybe because he was
unprepared but since the judge refused to grant the resetting he had to go
on with the cross-examination. He came up with immediate questions
despite lack of preparation. The plaintiffs counsel did not re-direct after
that.

I also noticed that court employees were going in and out of the
courtroom and the judge does not seem to mind while during my first time
observing, I had to endure hunger because I thought we were not allowed
to go out once the proceeding has started. It turned out that people are
free to come and go as long as they are not distracting the court
proceeding. However, the court takes the policy against the use of
cellphones and distracting ringtones seriously.

In all these occassions, I was hoping to witness heated arguments


between counsels; with loud voices and all but it I guess those things only
happen in the movies and I know the court will not allow such conduct
from the lawyers. As I have observed, the counsels seemed relaxed in their
seats and were just using their normal voices, as if reciting in class, when
talking to the witness and the Judge. I did not notice any tension in their
voices unlike me who struggles even in a simple class reporting. One of the
counsel even appeared in court without carrying any paper or records with
him. It is as if their jobs are so easy though I know that that is not the case.
It may be because they have been seasoned with practice for a long time
but I think one should always be ready with references just in case. I also
commend the lawyers especially the counsels who stood in court as
opponents for remaining courteous and friendly with each other. They even
buy each other cigarettes even after contradicting each other in the court
room. I guess lawyers learned along the way to not take things personally.

It is always a learning experience whenever I get to observe in court.


No matter how boring the cases may be there is always something to pick
up. By just listening, I am able to get new information which may not be
available during school lectures. I am able to witness how lawyers act in
representation of their respective clients and the order of the proceedings
in actual. I am also welcomed to the reality of our judicial system which
although is not perfect but as they say, it does the job.