A Day in the Life of a Judge: My Experience Shadowing a Judge

Divorce section of the property by legal means.

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Divorce section of the property by legal means.

As a part of the mock trial team, we got the opportunity to go down to the Hennepin County Justice Center for a meet. There Emily Zhou and I talked to a judge there and set up a time to shadow him all day. We then shadowed him and his clerks at the Family Justice Center downtown and see what it was like as a county judge.

We started off by getting to the Justice Center around 8:30 and went up to the judge’s chambers. We then discussed what hearings and cases we were going to be looking at throughout the day. Emily and I started off by watching the domestic abuse hearings. These hearings needed both parties to be present, and most did not meet that requirement, so we only saw 3 hearings. These hearings were sad to watch, but we were glad the most followed through correctly and the victims are now safe.

After the hearings, Emily and I sat in on a 6-day case about child custody and parenting time. These parents were debating on who should have custody, but there were many complications about the child’s needs. The child was with the mom at the time, but there were allegations about whether or not the mom had the child’s best interest and safety at heart. Emily and I watched when there was an expert witness being questioned. This witness was an expert in child care and adolescence. This lawyer went through 12 points with the expert witness, and within the hour and a half we were there, he had gotten through just the first point. Watching this case gave me the ability to see a common problem though a new perspective.

The last case we had the opportunity to look in on was a 2.2 million dollar dispute between a divorced couple with kids. The father was supposed to pay the money back in 2015, but he had manipulated his way through 3 other judges before coming to the judge we shadowed. When he walked into the courtroom you could tell that he was more sly than the average person. When the trial started the father had mentioned that he was representing himself, yet the other parties had brought people to represent them. The trial was not that long, but it was very interesting to watch. We then went back to the cambers for recess and waited for the judge to come out with the verdict. They were debating arresting him, but decided against it, and just force him to pay the money. The judge then came out with a verdict saying that the father had to pay out the 2.2 million dollars to his ex-wife, or a company would come to take and sell his stuff and give it to him ex-wife in 30 days.

Observing these trials was a great way to learn the inner workings of a trial. Emily and I found this a great way to learn what it is like for layers and judges because we are both considering going into that field of work. This was an amazing opportunity and if you are looking into a law-like career I highly suggest going to shadow a judge!