July 12th I was in Gloucester District Court to extend (or not) the restraining order against my ex for one more year. My appearance time was 10 a.m., but truly that means little as to the actual time that my name would be called. One never knows exactly how busy the court schedule will be. Everyone with civil cases or with a restraining order appearance is scheduled for 10 a.m. Criminal arraignments begin at 9 a.m. Add to that having to go through a security check and you have to allot some extra leeway time. Add to that...there is no parking lot. On street, metered parking only with a 2 hour limit. Just what I'd need, a parking violation while in the courthouse!
I pulled in to the angle parking space, just a half block away from the courthouse. It was 9:20 a.m. I threw a nickel in the meter and sat in the truck. The meter maid strolled by while I was sitting. At 9:30 I hid my cell phone under the seat (they're not allowed in the court building), rolled up the windows, got out, locked the doors, and fed the meter 4 quarters. I was good for 2 hours.
Security check is just as you enter the building, downstairs in front of the police station. The courtrooms are upstairs. New procedure...purse on conveyor belt to be x-rayed and wait. Purse is searched and passes inspection. Only then am I allowed to walk through the metal detector...which goes off.
I always set it off. I think it's my bracelets but they are too annoying to take on and off. So I stand there like a fool, spread eagle, and get wanded. Finally I pass security inspection and I'm allowed to climb the stairs to the courtroom area. The lobby is packed with people and in my mind I can see my parking meter rushing through it's two hours. Just as I found a seat in a far corner, the doors open and everyone is allowed in to the courtroom. Time for the criminal arraignments. I decided that since it was air conditioned in the courtroom, and not in the lobby, I'd go in and listen. It took a while for the judge to get in but I was thrilled to see that it was my favorite, Judge Mori.
I am always amazed to see how irreverent folks are who are appearing in court. I was there by choice, the criminal arraignments, well, those folk mostly HAD to be there. And you'd think that they would want to make a favorable impression, at least seem intelligent and look presentable. Why oh why, would ANYONE appear in court in jeans? tank top? mini skirt? flip-flops? shorts? It's a good thing I'm not a judge. I'd jail them all for ignorance.
So, normal procedure has been that after the criminal arraignments there is a 10 minute recess, then the civil cases. Well, this time the criminal stuff took a long time. It was 10:15 when court adjourned for recess. I didn't think that I would have time to go feed the meter more coins, so taking a chance I decided to stay cool and comfy in the air conditioned courtroom. Then a new routine. Nobody can sit in the courtroom during recess. Oh bleck. Out to the stuffy lobby to wait...15 mintues
Finally, a half hour late, we are called in to the courtroom. This time I'm not called first. I had been the last few times. Few times, you wonder? Originally, two years ago, it took three appearances to get the restraining order. The original request, ten days later to find that the court had not yet received the "return of service", and 10 days after that when the "return of service" had been...returned. I didn't like the judge for the second appearance. He was angry with me that the "return" was not there. Hey! It's not my fault that this went through the mail to the UK, was served by the Met police (very promptly) and then mailed back taking more than 10 days. Oh well, Judge Mori apologized for how his colleague had spoken to me. Yay, Judge Mori! Then last year I had to appear to get the yearly extension.
Unbelievably, the dozen or so cases called before mine were no-shows and I am called, sworn in, and Judge Mori motions that I approach the bench. He asks if I wish the restraining order to be extended for another year. I asked if I may ask a few questions before giving my answer.
"Since there are several outstanding warrants in effect against my ex, would he be arrested if I saw him here in the states and called the police?"
"Yes." "Also, if he tried to enter the states through any major airport, or at the Canadian or Mexican border, he would be stopped and arrested."
To which I responded, "In a perfect world."
(smile) "Well, yes."
"Judge Mori, you have the history of this case in front of you. The last that my ex has attempted contact was October of 2006, when he phoned from a spoofed phone number, trying to reach me. At some point I feel that I need to take the chance and allow the restraining order to expire rather than anticipating an appearance in this courtroom every year. At this point I feel comfortable leaving the decision to you."
He smiled and said, "Let's see what happens. If there are further problems you can come back to court. I hope you have a great summer."