January 10, 2017 was the day for oral arguments in my son’s appeal. My daughter had to work, so we needed a babysitter for my grandson. I called a couple of people who had other commitments that day. Then I called friends who had the afternoon free. Thanks to them I was able to be there in the courtroom before judges of the Pennsylvania Superior Court.
It was raining as I left their house and headed back to Pittsburgh. As I drove south on Route 28, I saw flashing lights ahead on the other side of the road and passed a flipped-on-its-roof car. Hopefully no one was hurt skidding out of control on this slick slippery road, and this was not a harbinger for the afternoon awaiting me. I got to Pittsburgh shortly after 1 PM hoping I was not too late. I passed through the metal detectors of the City County Building and pressed the button on the elevator with its ornate brass doors riding to the 8th floor with others who greeted each other as friends who often saw each other in this building. Jacob and Roy were waiting in the hall for me. We entered the foyer to the courtroom and hung our coats. Jacob’s case was #17 on the docket and #14 was being heard as we walked into the courtroom. I was told you can expedite your case for a fee. Money can grease the wheels of waiting. This expansive stately courtroom was sparsely peopled on this afternoon and had an entirely different ambience from our first experience in Magistrate Caulfield’s close-quarters courtroom in Forest Hills or our courtroom in the Allegheny County Courthouse. Perhaps it is more relaxed and comfortable here because these cases have already been adjudicated in a lower court. We come before these judges to argue that the original trial contained errors to be considered by these judges. This is a place where clients have already lost something and are trying to regain it. This is the next step that could have impact on not only your own case, but could even result in new case-law. We sat waiting for our turn listening to arguments for other cases that we divined only from the snippets of possible errors. The arguing lawyers were a mixture of nondescript to eloquent. At last Jacob’s attorney was standing before these judges arguing his case against the arguments presented by the attorney for the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office. We left the courtroom feeling pretty good. Jacob’s attorney was non-committal which is often the stance of attorneys who can promise their clients nothing but hope.
I walked back to my car and headed to Oakland via 2nd Avenue which took me past the jail. There were only two cars parked along the street in front. Was the jail on lock down again? I glanced over at the doors noting a large posted sign, but couldn’t read it as I drove by. I will never pass by this jail sandwiched between 2nd Avenue and the Parkway without thinking of Jacob’s months of residence there and my weekly visits or without remembering his ex-wife’s remark about bringing back the guillotine. I parked along the carousel in Oakland and walked down Forbes Avenue toward Panera to check in with my daughter. I looked down and saw a shiny new penny on the street. I bent down to pick up this token of good luck to what started as a sorta’ miserable day of anger and rain.