Ok, there's going to be a blogging slow-down. I'm editing away (as several of the last entries demonstrate), and will continue to post a few little tidbits though the wholesale chopping of vignettes should slow down. BTW: Please ignore the myriad typos. This from back from years ago in Brooklyn...
“Please judge, please”… it’s less than a month after they dragged Jimmy away and in a courtroom just across the street, a young woman is pleading. She’s got her 3 year-old child in her arms, and she’s trying to explain:
“I just didn’t have any daycare.” Her voice is plaintive. The judge is glaring. I don’t remember exactly which judge it was, but I think it was Gloria Goldstein. Goldstein was widely feared in Brooklyn Supreme Court for her distemper. (That may why I think it was her...)
“Do not lie to me young lady” she shrieked. “You people think that bringing a baby to court is going to save you…well I’m tellin’ you, it’s not! Call BCW” she instructed her clerk referring to the bureau of child welfare, the office that handled child abuse and neglect cases. Such a phone call from a judge’s clerk would almost certainly result in the young mother’s losing custody of her infant.
“No please your honor” the young woman begged. She had faced that morning a Hobson’s choice; stay home to care for your child and have a bench warrant issue for your arrest, or bring your baby to court. Many single mothers face this terrible choice and many mothers wind up spending hours trying to keep children quiet while they themselves wait tensely to face the music.
Judge Goldstein, like many other jurists, was apparently unable to grasp the concept of the childcare problem. She seemed to assume that a parent is intentionally bringing a child to court for nefarious reasons—probably to use as a shield—some kind of insurance policy against going to jail. Judge Goldstein’s response (and she was not alone in this): Remove the children, and jail the parents. How dare anyone try to defy her? How dare anything think that they could shield themselves from her wrath just by bringing a defenseless child. Put one over on her? Never. To Goldstein, such behavior was reprehensible—an attempt to use a kid to play on her sympathies. That kind of stuff was not gonna work on Judge Gloria Goldstein.
“Do not try to manipulate me young lady!” she hollered as while shirted court officers reached for their cuffs. The woman was almost sobbing:
“Please, judge please, I can’t loose my baby. I just didn’t want a warrant…my baby’s father said he was gonna come take her but he didn’t show up…please”.
“There was nothing I could do,” A colleague explained to me in the back stairs, her eyes still a bit red. “She took the kid right out of her arms… And for nothing too. A bogus VOP—all technical spec’s. Just got pissed that she brought the kid… never done a day…and she put it over for three weeks.” She was shaking her head, misty-eyed, stunned at her inability to stop such an obvious injustice.
The backstairs shorthand meant, that the client was back in court for a violation of her probation—failing to report to her probation officer, and an unauthorized address change (this particular violation often happens with itinerant or homeless people) these are known in the argot of the courthouse as ‘technical specifications’. Technical because they don’t involve any additional criminality or bad behavior, but rather relate only to the conditions of probation—steady address, work, reporting, curfew etc. The client had never been in jail before. Never set foot on Rikers. The case had been adjourned for three weeks—the mother would spend those three weeks at Rikers Island—with no guarantee she’d get out afterwards and all for disrespecting Gloria Goldstein by bringing a kid to court. “I shoulda known…” my colleague was still shaking her head. “I shoulda known.”
(Note: Several years after this incident, Judge Goldstein (if it really was her) was elevated to the appellate division.)