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Thread: Court today - first time

  1. #1
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Court today - first time

    I have court today at 1:15 for a zoning violation. There is this fruitloop that owns an old industrial facility in town that has been in violation of building codes for probably 20 years. The City has a court order to demo the building but estimates came in at way more than we can afford.

    Anyway, in 2003 the City rezoned it to residential property. Owner was properly notified. Sept he brough a lot of machinery to the property. I sent him a citation, he didn't pay it, we sent it to court requesting a formal hearing.

    I have never been to court before, never been on jury duty or anything. So, I am kind of anxious to see how this goes!! I know my stuff, so that isn't my concern, but nervous about the whole procedure.

    Any advice, warm thoughts, comments?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Take deep breaths, remain calm, and stick to the facts. Remember, you are not the defendant and you are not on trial. Don't let the courtroom intimidate you - always remember to breathe.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    My list

    Wear comfortable shoes.
    Don't eat anything you don't know how it will react with stress.
    Don't stand up too quickly.
    Don't go hung over.
    Listen carefully to each question, take notes and then respond.
    When in doubt ask for the question to be asked again or rephrased
    Ask teh judge if you can consult your notes before you do.
    Have fun.
    Nail the SOB to the wall.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    As the others have said, the main thing is to just relax. You know your stuff and that is the key. Been to court several times now and it is not as intimidating as you might think. One thing, if a yes or no is the appropriate answer that is all you should give. Do not volunteer anything or it could take you in directions you do not want to go. (that coming from a rather verbose planner )
    Planning is much like acting, as my old theater professor used to say, "If you sin, sin boldly, only you know if you are ad libbing." I follow this adage almost daily.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I went once and it wasn't bad. The drama, tears, and grinding questions won't come into play like on TV murder cases. The court room was mostly empty and the judge was basically trying to understand the situation and offer a fair solution.

  6. #6
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    I've been a few times for violations with our code enforcement guy.....and each time an agreement was reached prior to trial.

    One interesting thing happened the last time I was there....I ended up testifying in a DWI case. I know.....wtf is a planner doing testifying in a DWI case?? The plantiff argued that he was in the neighboring town, not in our town. The location of the arrest was off an old dirt road, where the power company had recently had a site plan approved for a new transformer pad.....I ended up testifying with a copy of the site plan showing that the driveway in question was indeed located within our community.

    He was found guilty BTW.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  7. #7
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    zoning cases are heard in the same court as misdemeaners here. The court room is always packed with people playing their stereos too loud, people committing petty theft, and the all to often drug offenses.

    I've never had trial, everyone has settled out of trial with my violations.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    I have only been to court once, and it was during my first year as a professional planner. I don't remember that much about it, other than being asked a few simple questions and answering them. The court experience was less adversarial than some of my planning commission meetings.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    OK, default - the guy didn't show up. Darnit, I was ready too

    Then get back to my desk and find a notice to appear for another yahoo I sent a ticket to.

    Thanks for the advice!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I find there are usually six people in the room: me, the defendant, the two attorneys, the judge, and the recorder. There is none of the drama you see on tlevision (for those of you who do own one) or in the movies. Most of the actual work is done prior to going to court, in the deposition stage. You know what they will ask ahead of time, as they have already asked once, and they do not (should not) ask questions that they do not know how you will answer.

    I used to get called frequently as an "expert" witness (snicker) by the state in condemnation cases. I found it boring.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  11. #11
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    First thing you should do is moon the judge... that always seems to makes things go smoothly.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    C'mon and get me you twist of fate
    I'm standing right here Mr. Destiny
    If you want to talk well then I'll relate
    If you don't so what cause you don't scare me

  12. #12
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    When our new code enforcement officer had her first court day, I told her that there is only one thing to remember: you are still on probation.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Maister and I go to court on a regular occasion. What I will do is make sure that the file is well organized and I have a full time line with an explanation of every activity that relates to the case. Also make sure that there is dates on all your photo’s, and get there about 15 min before hand to make sure that the Lawyer is up to date on all the facts. Oh, and bring your codebook too!

    When your called up to testify, keep answers simple, always look people in the eye, make sure that you have paperwork to back everything that you say.

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