Archive | June 2012

Adventures in Court-Sitting, Part II: DC Superior


“beacon of justice” by Author

On an extremely hot early summer morning, I embarked on my second day of courthouse self-orientation observation tours, this time the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.  In short, it was an exercise in re-orientation and sampling the nuances of DC’s trial court.

This wasn’t the first time I had visited the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse, but every time I go I am amazed by the controlled chaos inside.  The courthouse is very reminiscent of a busy commuter train station.  There is a grand central lobby with a giant message board listing all of the judges and their courtroom numbers.  From that lobby you see wide hallways leading to rows of courtrooms, with plenty of seating for anyone waiting for their cases to come up, and each room’s daily docket is usually taped on the wall next to the door.  On a normal day, there are dozens of people milling around, conferring with their families and/or attorneys or simply waiting around in silence.

The courtrooms themselves are unique in that the gallery seats are nothing like church pews, but are padded with arms like in a movie theater.  The room setup is circular, with a large round lit structure on the ceiling over the judge’s bench, which makes it look like you’re looking up inside the Hirshhorn Museum’s “donut hole.”  I sat in on a morning criminal docket, so I saw a few shackled defendants being led in and out of the holding room for scheduling hearings and guilty pleas.  There wasn’t much else for me to see that morning, but it still was worth my time.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.

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Adventures in Court-Sitting, Part I: Fairfax County


“anti-occupation forces” by Author

As a new-ish solo practitioner, I am constantly looking for ways to increase both my experience and exposure in the field.  Recently, I had a morning scheduling conference for a divorce case in Fairfax County, Virginia, and since those proceedings normally last no more than 10 minutes, I decided to make the trip out there worth my while by watching random court proceedings.

I took in a sampling of cases in General District and Traffic courts in order to get a feel of what these proceedings are like since I have never practiced in them before (I already have some limited experience in Circuit and Juvenile and Domestic Relations courts).  This is what I learned:

* Cops don’t recognize the popular concept of “rolling stop.”  Neither do judges.

* If you ask a witness a question, don’t interrupt him before he fully answers.  Judges don’t like that.

* General seating in a courtroom can be really tough on your back.

* Never, ever let someone use your driver’s license to operate a vehicle, even if it’s your our own brother and you love him dearly.  You might end up with a criminal record without actually doing anything wrong.

Besides that, I did get one very important lesson reinforced out of watching other lawyers practice law in front of judges.  Even if s/he disagrees and rules against you, a judge will always appreciate a good advocate.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.

Easy does it — Virginia’s new divorce decree


“shattered sign” by Author

There has been a lot of big news lately — the seemingly endless presidential campaign, dying musicians, the life and times of the Kardashians.  So I may forgive you if you have not heard of this little tidbit from March: it suddenly got a bit easier to get a divorce in Virginia.

In popular culture, divorces always seem to happen in a courtroom setting.  A courtroom divorce is an easy setting for drama, whether it be an episode of Dynasty or a long-running TV show featuring a judge addressed by her first name.  In real life, divorces are messy and time-consuming, and if the parties can avoid court, they are often advised to do so.  To help facilitate this, in March Virginia’s legislature passed and Gov. Robert F. McDonnell signed House Bill 126, which allows uncontested divorce by affidavit and standardizes the required testimony of the moving party and his/her witness.  Circuit courts in several counties and cities had already had this measure in place, but this law makes it uniform throughout the Commonwealth.  If there are absolutely no remaining issues left to be hashed out, the party seeking the divorce may present his/her evidence by sworn affidavit rather than seeking an ore tenus hearing, thus eliminating the need to go and testify in open court, which can be brutal on people’s schedules, especially if they don’t reside in the city or county of jurisdiction.  And there is more potential to streamline a no-fault divorce by a matter of months since there is less need to wait on the court bureaucracy to get your paperwork through the process.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.