Random Acts of Kindness at Magistrate Hansen’s Court
Judge or Magistrate, it doesn’t matter, the Honorable Gerald Hansen had quite a session today. It was so nice to see random acts of kindness by the Magistrate, by unknown attorneys who we didn’t know, and by the Magistrate’s secretary Barbara.
Showed up in Hansen’s courtroom about 10 am. Around 11 this skinny white kid in a bright orange jumpsuit stands up after his name is called. He’s got problems but no priors. All of a sudden, this young attorney jumps up with a big law book and asks to approach the bench. The ADA is very interested, as is someone else who’s position in life I didn’t catch. So there’s this meeting with the judge, and he’s going over some passage in the law book. Five minutes pass, and everyone steps back from the bench, and the judge starts to speak. Apparently one of the two charges that this kid is charged with doesn’t fly with the judge anymore. He dismisses the charge, though he does mention that the DA could re- institute it.
What exactly happened here is some young attorney takes it upon himself to get involved in this case he doesn’t belong in, because he saw the law was being improperly being applied, and he had to do something. That was one big case of random kindness, if I ever saw one. It was a blindly brilliant, sublime moment of life, when the person getting the big kindness never knew it, he’s back in jail, awaiting tomorrow’s release.
Now Hansen gives his bond recommendation. $5,000! That seems awfully steep but here comes another random act of kindness. We’re leaving court, surprised that the bond was so high for this kid. Wrong! Up rushes up another court employee, who explains that the judge also said a personal surety bond could be used. That meant only $200 had to be spent for the underwriting fee. It the kid fails to show up for court, then the $5,000 bond is invoked. That’s the second random act of kindness, turning a $5,000 bond into a $200 fee.
Next comes the judge’s administrative staff, led by Barbara. More kindness. The kid’s family scares up $200 about 2 pm and heads over to sign the bond form and fork over the two bills. Unfortunately, the judge has left the building and won’t be back until after Thanksgiving. What does Barbara do? She fills out the form, and where the judge has to sign she writes “Cantrell for Hansen”. Cantrell is the afternoon judge, and comes in at 3 pm. Barbara then calls the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court’s collection department, to find out what time they are open until. The agent tells Barbara they close at 3:45 pm. So Barbara tracks down the judge, secures his signature, then shows up at the collection office to grab the receipt to put with the bond form.
The only not so good part of this entry is the kid didn’t make it out today, he’ll make it tomorrow, as the paperwork wasn’t going to be delivered until today.
Once again, a few hours in our Criminal Courts reaffirmed my faith in the system and humanity.