Click here to view what CourtWatch looks for when monitoring an injunction hearing.
Disclaimer: The written word inherently has its limitations when one tries to convey another person's demeanor and tone of voice. However, I'll give it my best shot.
The new volunteers, none of whom had observed an injunction hearing before today, thought that Judge Kest was rude and condescending to both petitioners and respondents - particularly when they failed to grasp what the proper protocol is for testifying, eliciting testimony from witnesses or the other party, or for introducing evidence. They were astounded that the judge resorted to raising her voice (some called it yelling) in order to command attention. Some remarked that she frequently interrupted when someone attempted to answer her question. She rolled her eyes and was impatient.
In addition to the above, there were several issues (from these hearings and from previous weeks) that CourtWatch believes are indicative of an immediate need for correction:
- Failing to "set the stage" for explaining the process to the participants.
[Another judge, after explaining the process and assuring the Respondent that issues of child visitation and the return of personal property will be addressed, frequently avoids an evidentiary hearing because the Respondent doesn't object to the injunction]
- Expecting the participants to understand what hearsay testimony is and why it is not admissable - and then yelling at them after they've been told they can't testify about what someone else told them
- Calling witnesses into the courtroom before the parties have laid any foundation for their testimony
- Expecting the participants to ask questions of the other party that will get to the heart of whether or not their situation meets the legal requirements for an injunction
[All communication should be between the judge and the parties - they should not be permitted to directly address one another. Additionally, the judge should not expect them to know what elements need to be proven - she should ask the questions]
- Frequently specifying an agreed upon McDonalds or other restaurant for the exchange of children
[I wonder how thrilled McDonalds' attorneys are about the potential liability if an "incident" occurs]
- Failing to designate a third party to serve as go-between for child-related communications
- Sometimes permitting direct contact via text/email between parties if it relates to children
- Failing to set up visitation schedules and/or temporary child support
- Interrupting people when they attempt to answer questions she has asked
- Interrupting the interpreter when he/she is attempting to do their job
- Lapsing into "legalese" which most participants do not understand
Many are terrified to be in the same vicinity of the person against whom they've sought an injunction. They shouldn't have to be terrified of going before a judge. For some, I suspect that being in Judge Kest's courtroom rises to the level of traumatic.
Imagine for a moment if the judge who was hearing your case raised their voice and said "This is a court of law . . . rules apply . . . does everybody understand that?!?!?" I imagine it feels like you've stepped into the middle of a football field without ever having seen the game before or been told how it's played, been given the ball, and told to run (and then getting tackled when you try to do what you're told).
Or imagine, as you try to answer a question posed by the judge with a loud and sharp tone, being interrupted with "Ma'am. . . ma'am" or "Sir . . . sir" and then being admonished about the fact that there are these "rules." The judge then refuses to listen to your reply because you don't abide by the "rules" that you've never been taught.
If Judge Kest treated the parties with more respect and took 2-3 minutes at the beginning of a hearing to coach everyone about the "rules," I daresay the process would be much less painful for everyone in the courtroom.