The Ottumwa Courier

Court Calls

December 16, 2011

A surprising profile of trial

Court Calls

OTTUMWA — When most people imagine a court trial, they think of what they see on television— a handsomely appointed courtroom, equipped with hardwood tables upon which lawyers spread papers and set up computers. A judge perched on a sturdy bench — elevated to symbolize authority and flanked by flags that represent the court’s role in government. In real life, however, a trial environment is likely far more modest.  The divorce case I tried this week in Appanoose County was conducted in an office — from the judge’s desk, the “no-contact” parties sitting just 36 inches apart, and the court reporter tucked in by the radiator. It was a serious trial in open court, nonetheless, and it was the best we could do that particular day.        

Timing is crucial to achieving justice. Americans count on their right to a timely trial for peaceful dispute resolution. As Webster’s tells us, the trial is a “formal examination of the facts of a case by a court of law to decide the validity of a charge or claim.” Trials are scheduled well in advance so people can adequately prepare. Trial time is scarce and trial dates must be firm. In District 8-A some trials are currently being scheduled for dates 18 months into the future. Often cases are set two-to-three deep on the calendar, due to the demand.  

Visitors who come to court these days are often surprised by the circumstances of the trial in courthouses where dockets are jammed and space is limited. To find a place for trial, sometimes people are shuttled back to a judge’s office. Or, they may find themselves planted in someone else’s space: I once tried a case in a county supervisors’ office! Then there was the two-day trial in a fire station when a courtroom was shut down over a health threat. Perhaps my tallest task so far was to bring decorum and dignity to a trial I had to convene in a basement storage room.  

It takes focus, finesse, and resilience to set the proper tone and deliver due process in each case, despite the conditions of the day. Judges are wise to remember that, to the people involved, each case is “the most important case” on the docket. That’s a trial profile we are challenged to meet on time, on date, on site, in a busy court system.

Judge Scieszinski is one of the six district court judges who travel among the ten counties in the  8-A Judicial District. She may be reached at annette.scieszinski@iowacourts.gov.

1
Text Only
Court Calls
  • 0824 Court Calls photo Scieszinski -M -T The reach of sociology Every year Iowa judges are invited to speak in local schools, on college campuses and at civic events to help the community understand the role of the courts in daily life. An interesting trend on my circuit of judicial outreach is the demand for pre

    August 23, 2013 1 Photo

  • Good news By Chief Judge Mary Ann Brown The Iowa Judicial Branch dedicates itself to providing independent and accessible forums for the fair and prompt resolution of disputes, administering justice under law equally to all people. -- Iowa Judicial Branch Mis

    July 27, 2013

  • 0622 OTT Opinion Judge Lucy Gamon photo -T -L The judge as gatekeeper when the goal is justice "… no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Constitution of the United States, Amendment 4 It is 2 a.m. on a dar

    June 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • 0608 OTT Judge Joel Yates photo -L Who was James Otis? Most Americans can associate some names with our country's fight for independence from the English Monarchy, which began in earnest in 1775: Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and Adams. Few, if any, would credit James Otis. Here is why they should. It

    June 8, 2013 1 Photo

  • 0529 OTT Opinion Judge Annette Scieszinski photo A different kind of cyber threat The reality is, that in our country's culture, people depend on electronic devices. For many, it's become a 24/7 relationship. Sometimes I wonder where it will lead us, and if coming generations will be born with advanced dexterities to instinctively

    May 29, 2013 1 Photo

  • 0511 OTT Opinion Judge Myron Gookin -T -M We never really graduate It's May, and the graduation announcements are rolling in. It's a wonderful time to celebrate the educational achievements of those who are graduating from various schools. It did not take me long, however, to realize that learning does not end with

    May 11, 2013 1 Photo

  • 0425 Opinion Judge Mary Ann Brown photo -L Spring brings magistrate commissions Hopefully, spring color will soon be here. It seems like it's been a long time coming. This spring also brings with it the process associated with selecting judicial magistrates. Local commissions have begun the process of taking applications, interv

    April 25, 2013 1 Photo

  • The kind of judge I will be

    April 6, 2013

  • Selecting a new judge

    March 16, 2013

  • Symbolism and functionality

    March 2, 2013

Obituaries
Record
Facebook
AP National