Over the last two days, I have spent my mornings at Family Court. It is quite an overwhelming experience. People are dashing back and forth waving papers. The court officials are trying to be heard over the general din of people. At one point, an official was reduced to bellowing in order to get the attention of the waiting room.
All of the court staff were super friendly and welcoming when I introduced myself as a student coming to observe court. Also, I spoke to several lawyers in the waiting room who were equally friendly.
It was a good job that everyone I met was obliging. The thing that struck me the most was how complicated the whole process seemed. I have no idea how plaintiffs or respondents navigate Family Court without help. Yet, the vast majority do not have representation: they have to work it out somehow by themselves.
Philadelphia’s Family Court is certainly very different from what criminal courts look like on TV and in the movies.