Magistracy: what an unenviable job.
I sometimes sit in the courtroom waiting for my turn and watch Magistrates keep their cool while dealing with the most frustrating situations.
Dealing with the same cases day-in day-out.
Dealing with a court list that is full of people who drove while drunk but are now sorry, or drug possessors whose arrest has been a wake-up call,or people who committed domestic assaults, or people who engaged in drunken fights.
Can you imagine dealing with the same lawyers giving the same excuses for the same types of clients in the same cases day after day? Sometimes 30 or 40 cases a day?
Lawyers that go on-and-on about why their client should be ‘let off’ without a conviction or be allowed to keep their licence?
Wouldn’t it drive you mad?
Or being expected to know the law by heart when faced with a rare or unusual case? It doesn’t seem fair that defence lawyers and even prosecutors have time to research the applicable legislation and authorities while you are expected to already know every part of every law.
God forbid you don’t know everything!
Then there are the unrepresented defendants who can sometimes be loud, rude and even confrontational, or the drug or alcohol affected defendants, or mentally ill defendants, who genuinely need help but are hard to deal with; especially within your given rules and time constraints.
And of course you can’t be too friendly towards defence lawyers or prosecutors for fear of creating a perception of bias. But you shouldn’t be rude either!
It must be a difficult job.
Then there’s the constant stream of media reporters coming into the courtroom and taking notes of what you say; and criticising you for being ‘too soft’ when all you’re trying to do is apply the law as consistently and impartially as you can.
Then there are the groups of students doing their in-court projects who need to be sent a strong message to refrain from the conduct before you. To ‘say no to drugs’, to drive responsibly, to be aware that domestic violence will not be tolerated.
What a hard job!
And when you can’t stand it anymore and ‘fly off the handle’, a complaint can be made to the judicial commission and you face the possibility of a reprimand!
Magistrates have an extremely tough job and should be appreciated and respected for the important work they do for our society.
All-in-all, I much prefer to remain a ‘player’ than to be a ‘referee’.