When pop singer Britney Spears entertained a 55-hour
Las Vegas marriage in 2004, this is where it ended, the
Clark County Family Courts and Services Center in
East Las Vegas. Okay, so Britney herself never set foot in
the Family Court building, but this is still where it
happened (or unhappened).... Although it is miles from the Strip, the Family
Services Center is an important safety valve for our
treasured tourists. If you wake up in the morning, broke,
hung-over and accidentally married, it is good to know that
you can visit the Self-Help Center for the appropriate form,
claim temporary insanity, and at least erase that last part.
Thereby, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,"™ and you
are free to come back later and do it all over again.
WARNING: ABANDONED PROTOTYPE
The following unfinished chapters were developed in 2005 as
the beginning of a book that was never completed.
Since then, our book project has been "reengineered" and will
take a different tack. We have retained the following chapters
in an unfinished state because they still may be useful
in explaining parts of the Family Court.
(The new book will probably center on the
Glossary, so that is where
we are putting most of our energy right now.)
I feel like Indiana Jones. I have successfully invaded the Temple of Doom, the courtroom of Judge Gerald Hardcastle, and I am half expecting to be attacked by angry tribesmen or chased by rolling boulders. This is the sinister and mysterious place where children are stolen from their parents and vanish, never to be heard from again....
Passing before me now is a parade of the living and Living Dead. The Living Dead are human skeletons with sunken eyes and crumbling teeth, if any teeth at all.³ They twitch and sway before the judge. They sometimes have trouble forming coherent sentences. Some parties are there, some only partly there, and some are not there at all.
I call this lounge "The Tank," in part because of all the interesting fish swimming around in it. The Tank contains a broad mix of humanity. There are defendants here, but also witnesses and victims in the same lounge. You can see where one group of people is trying hard to stay away from and avoid eye contact with another group. One woman, sitting alone, makes eye contact with no one. She is staring at a point on the wall about six feet to my left. One side of her face is strangely contorted, while the other side is expressionless, and neither side changes during the time I am watching her. I suspect that she won't be getting her kids back today.
I turn my attention to the defendent. He is a very scared youth of about 16, half child, half man. He has killed a man and is about to be sentenced. This moment, I can see, is overwhelming to him. He is numb with shame and terror. Only his eyes move. They stare out at events that are swimming around him. I know he didn't "mean" to do it, but the law is generally blind to such things. It was his foot on the accellerator, and his free will is supposedly attached to that foot. American justice is mainly concerned with the settling of accounts. A man is dead, so someone has to pay.
Chronicle #4: The Trial
(Department A, Courtrooms 17)
As discussed in earlier chronicles [not yet written], part of the job of Judges Voy and Compan is the scare the bejesus out of wayward youths in an often futile attempt to get them back on the straight and narrow. One of the tools at their disposal is the Coroner's Tour.¹ As part of his or her sentencing, a young miscreant may be required to visit the county morgue to show them the ultimate effects of drunk driving, drug abuse and violence.... You can call me an idealist and a dreamer, but I would like to see a similar program created for young people contemplating romance. Love isn't a lark or a thrill. It's not something you can take lightly like some romp in the daisies. Love is serious business, and it can turn ugly real fast.
The fact is, the government doesn't
want your kids and will try to do everything it can to
give them back to you. (Can you blame them?) Doing drugs
just once is not going to be sufficient. To permanently get
rid of your kids, you are going to have to keep using
drugs, avoid contact with your caseworker, skip court
hearings, and resist all efforts at treatment and
counseling. Relieving you of your children is not done
quickly but involves the ponderous due process of
law, which takes a long time and provides you with ample
opportunity to change your mind.
Chronicle #?: The Scene of the Crime
The Barney Test or
"Everything I Know About People I
Learned from The Andy Griffith Show"
I say that every adult can be classified as either an Andy or a Barney. Andys are capable of sensing the needs of other, while Barneys are not. Andys pass through life with grace, while Barneys bumble through like bulls in a china shop, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. Andys have an innate sense of right and wrong and don't need the law to keep them in line. Barneys are driven by the immediate needs of their fragile ego and don't know any stable morality apart from what is enforced from the outside. Barneys need explicit instructions on how to behave, and hence we have our vast body of criminal law and places like the Family Services Center for the mediation of personal conflicts.
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