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Junior Litigation Experiences

John Dir

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Childhood reveals many insights into the trends that will carry forward into adult life, and how children view their own reflections on what is happening in the world around them. During one summer period, the kids in my neighborhood decided we needed a system for resolving the many conflicts that appeared to be surfacing among the various factions of kid level control. In order to air our grievances, it was decided that we would form a court system to resolve our troubles and find collective solutions to the issues we were facing.

Responsibilities for our newly formed court fell into the hands of those who wanted the jobs of judge, lawyers, plaintiffs and defendants. As soon as the system was agreed upon, our first session of court dealt with a handful of immediate cases that seemed to be the most pressing. The natural leader of our group assumed the role of judge, and found himself immediately dealing with a full docket of cases that needed to be addressed. Since there was nothing much else in mind to do on this particular day, the lawsuits began with establishing the rules of behavior in various situations. The judge was quick to dismiss any charges that were levied against himself, because he was the judge, and moved on to more pressing matters. Our first cases were seeking arbitration from the judge in matters that dealt with issues like calling each other derogatory names. Several cases were heard from both sides, with decisions and penalties handed down from the bench to end the conflicts.

After the cases were decided, we closed our court session and went off to play at something else, with a minimum of jail time offered as punishment. Everyone involved with the court was pleased that we now had a way to address the things that needed to be heard, although not everyone had been satisfied with the outcome of each case. As we played with each other, there were some kids who enjoyed the idea that if something went wrong, they could threaten their peers with taking them to court.

For several days following our opening court session, our play time was periodically interrupted by the call for new lawsuits due to flagrant violations of issues that had been settled in previous court cases. No matter what we were doing, when a kid called out for justice, we dropped everything we were doing and held a new trial. Each new session of the court dragged on for longer periods of time, as witnesses gave their testimonies and lawyers argued that defendants had no malice aforethought in committing their infractions. We had seen movies about court, so everyone became adept in handling the arguments and accusations from both sides of the issues. Some of the kids distinguished themselves as the top lawyers to retain in questionable circumstances.

After about a week of trials for various types of troubles, there was one particular incident that brought our court system to a screeching and permanent halt. In a landmark case, Joe was on trial for committing yet another infraction related to his behavior with the other kids. As the issues were stated and the trial was under way, Joe was confronted by the judge to find out if his plea was guilty or not guilty.

Instead of following the established protocol, Joe answered the accusations with a simple statement, “Court, court, court. . . I'm sick of court and I ain't going to do it any more. "

With this statement, Joe got up, left the garage courtroom, and went home for the day. Since Joe was the judge's brother, it was decided by the judge that we would have to figure out some other way to resolve our differences, because everyone was getting sick of going to court. He closed the court system down for good, and we never had another trial.

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