Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Court Day

My blog is devoted to running, but today's post is not related to running at all. Well, maybe tangentially: I wasn't able to get in my morning run because I had to leave home early for a hearing in Broward. Today's post is devoted to my experience at the Broward County Courthouse this morning.

If you've been following the news at all, you may recognize that the Broward County Courthouse is where all of the Anna Nicole Smith madness is being adjudicated. I have appeared before Judge Seidlin, the presiding judge, on many occasions in the past. My hearing this morning was not before Judge Seidlin. It was, however, in the same division (probate/guardianship), in the courtroom right next to his. Today is the day that Judge Seidlin had ordered every interested party in the Anna Nicole matter to appear before him, so I knew that the courthouse was likely to be a media zoo. I arrived at the courthouse by 7:00 AM in an effort to avoid some of the insanity. Even at that early hour, media representatives from around the nation were setting up their rigs. CourtTV was there. CNN was there. You name it, they were there. I don't live in a small backwater town, and I've seen the 'media circus' in person before, but never to this extent.

As it turned out, what I saw in the morning was NOTHING compared to how many people were swarming at the courthouse when I left at about 8:30. By that time, there were helicopters overhead and the street outside the courthouse had basically been turned into a high-tech village. Instead of thatched huts, there were multiple awnings under which sat banks of computer and video equipment. In the center of each awning, news reporters preened while their little worker drones teched the tech until the tech was just right. The sidewalk for a whole block was peppered with these makeshift booths. Inside the courthouse, I saw the media scrambling to get their press passes in order as the courthouse employees resignedly readied themselves for a day of orchestrated chaos. I was pretty impressed by the procedures put into place by the court, although it reminded me a bit of preparing for a hurricane - after all is said and done, there is only so much you can do.

At one point, while I was waiting for my hearing and they were waiting for theirs, the courthouse general emergency alarm started going off. Somebody probably had just opened a door they shouldn't have. Our hearings were on the eighth floor. I immediately found the stairs and made my way down to the ground level, where I got my first glimpse of the tech village that had sprung up while I was inside. I checked with the guards and made sure it was a false alarm, and then I made my way back upstairs. I must have been one of the only people to have evacuated. When I returned back upstairs I saw that none of the media had budged. It was as if the blaring alarm in the courthouse was just a hazard to be endured for the sake of the job.

As I waited for my hearing, I became increasingly disgusted as I listened to the media talking amongst themselves. There was an air of conviviality that was disconcerting to me. I imagine the atmosphere at Roman coloseums was similar. Somewhere, lost in the midst of all the flashing lights and tech, is a little baby girl, too young to understand that she has lost her mother. Too young to understand that the people claiming to be her father may not be doing so out of love for her or to protect her best interest, but rather for their own selfish purposes. Of course, I didn't see the baby. I doubt she was there. I hope she wasn't there. But even if she was, even though I was standing right there, I doubt I would have been able to spot her in the middle of the media feeding frenzy. What disturbed me most is that the frenzy was to feed us. We, the consumers of Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood. We, the consumers of CNN and CourtTV. Often as not, my family has Xtra or Access Hollywood or one of those pop culture shows on and playing on the kitchen television in the background as we eat dinner. No more, though. I've had my fill, and the last bite was rancid.

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