Walking with My Father

Walking with My Father

Liam O'Brien, Staff Reporter

A winter morning with a little snow on the ground, we were up early and heading to the Public Defender’s office.

I walked into my father’s brand-new office, with its very organized hills of paperwork.  He first went to his computer and sent out a flood of emails.

The office was very quiet, and I could hear only a couple of keyboards.  Then the phone rang with an iconic ’90s ringtone, and the printer started.  The silence disrupted, we had to go back into the cold morning and get ready for court.

I headed into the cramped Prosecutors Conference Room. Some in the room were still drinking Mountain Dew or coffee, some holding bulging briefcases. Every time someone entered the room, they entered with a deep breath.

Throughout this day of chaos and constant movement, I got to see how hard my dad works to put food on the table.  I realized how blessed I am to have him.”

Plexiglass covered the main table in the room and divided it into six sections.  All eight people in the room were discussing pre-trial dates for certain people.

Typing on their computers and sliding pieces of paper under the plexiglass, everyone was talking.  It was chaotic, and I was lost in the conversation quickly. They were very fast and efficient.  Despite the chaos, some were able to crack jokes to lighten the mood.

On the wall there was a gigantic white board that included court date information — a date in March at 9:05 would have 33 people in the courtroom. Many in the room told me how hard my dad works and how grateful they are.

One more stop before court, the Probation Office.  There were three desks in an orderly line — once again, so much paper. It could easily double my height if stacked.

My dad went to the people he needed to see and dished out some paperwork and received more.  There were many hand sanitizer stations on the wall.  My dad printed more paper.

He said, “Do not put a paper clip on pieces of paper that are going down to the jail.”

The courtroom is one of the nicer ones I have seen.  There were the iconic 12-juror seats to the side; however, they were covered by plexiglass on three sides.  The gallery had many seats, but few of them were in use due to COVID-19.

Only seats with pink slips could be used.  There was a flat screen off to the side and multiple American flags and bald eagles.

The bailiff greeted me, took my temperature, and told me to take a seat at a chair with a pink marker.  I noticed that the bailiff and two others in the room wore American flag masks.  I was the only one in the gallery because of COVID.

About 15 defendants showed up and another five failed to appear.  The defendants were charged with different crimes, from reckless driving, possession of drugs, or burglary.  There were many attorneys representing their clients.  The judge, who sat high on his bench, had a medium-pitched voice that was still intimidating.

Every time a defendant was called up, the bailiff wiped down the chair the defendant was sitting in.  Court is surprisingly repetitive.

After court, my father met with many clients I was not able to see; however, I did get to meet with one of his clients who was an inmate.  My father and the inmate met in a jail attorney conference room.

Outside this room, I could see the visitation area where loved ones could speak to inmates with phones.  I also got to see a new feature in this visitation room that used a television screen, allowing friends and family to see the inmate from far away.

How fast the world adapts — video calls are the new norm.  My father handed his client paperwork for his upcoming guilty plea and talked about moving him to the docket on the same day.

I got to see another new norm in Zoom court, a session with the judge, attorneys, and defendants online.  It seemed to flow smoothly, without technical issues.

Throughout this day of chaos and constant movement, I got to see how hard my dad works to put food on the table.  I realized how blessed I am to have him.