Friday, June 27, 2008

Prosecutors Control The Courtroom; Parents Control the Home

by Robin Sax

Hearsay: “It’s Not Fair! Mom!

Who said that? Paris Hilton, after a judge ordered her to return to jail immediately to serve out the rest of her sentence for violating her probation.

Conventional wisdom suggests that judges control the courtroom. After all, they wear the black robes, sit in elevated chairs behind imposing desks, and insist that everyone refer to them as “Your Honor.”

But as trial lawyers well know, it is the prosecutors who are most in control of the criminal justice system and, by extension, the courtroom.

Prosecutors decide what cases are filed and thus brought into the system. Prosecutors are the primary agents who decide which cases will be settled before trial and which cases ultimately will go to trial. Prosecutors have the ability to “tie the judge’s hands” by limiting the areas in which the court has discretion.

For instance, in mandatory sentencing schemes outlined in specific crimes, a judge’s sentencing options are limited by mandatory minimum sentences.

ven if a judge feels that there are factors to warrant leniency, the mandatory sentencing schemes require the court to impose a set sentence. Without the prosecutor’s assent in altering the charges, the judge’s hands are tied.

The prosecutor’s initial filing decision reverberates throughout the length and breadth of the case. Once in trial, prosecutors are generally the more seasoned attorneys in the courtroom and in large part determine the conduct of trials.

Just as prosecutors “own the courtroom,” parents must “own the home.” There can be no doubt as to who is in charge. While each member of the family plays a part in the makeup of the family unit, the “law” within the home must be determined by the parents. There are a number of telltale signs to answer the “who is in charge” question. For example, take a look around your house. Is your family room overflowing with toys? Is your hallway filled with kids' shoes and balls? Is your kitchen table cluttered with yesterday’s homework assignments? Are you resigned to rationalizing that “my house will be clean when my kids are in college” and accepting the status quo of a kid-dominated house?

Are weekends spent at birthday parties, on soccer fields, dragging kids from one activity or play date (a loathsome phrase) to the next?

Was the last vacation you had without kids your honeymoon, ten years ago?

When you are at a business lunch, do you excuse yourself to go to the “potty”? Do you wipe the crumbs off your colleague’s face? . . . Do you find yourself listening to
Barney when you are in the car alone? . . . These all may be signs that you have allowed your children to take too much control of your home, your life, and your existence. This is not to suggest that children should not take a great deal of a parent’s time, energy, and focus. Nor does it mean that parents shouldn’t adapt their homes, lives, and lifestyles to the needs and development of their children.

However, whatever choices and changes that are made should be conscious decisions, made affirmatively by the parent and not merely at the whim of a crying, whining, or nagging child.

If a parent feels that it works better to have toys strewn about a family room, so be it. If a parent chooses not to vacation until the children are in college, fine. But don’t complain about it because you are the boss! Parents must make the decisions and establish the parameters in their house according to what they see fit. No matter how annoying it is, “because I said so” is so.

1 comment:

Paralegal Sandy said...

I agree Robin. I have seen 3 year olds in stores with their parents before and wondered, "who's the parent here". It makes you wonder how these kids are going to deal with the real world when they are older.
I certainly don't believe in abusing a child, but having no bounderies or respect for anything is going too far in the other extreme. There is a happy medium.