Courthouses: The same but different

Here’s a phrase to use if you want to alienate courthouse staffers:

“But they do it this way in (fill in the blank with your favorite) court.”

Like every Dunkin’ Donuts store, courts have a predictable uniformity but also a unique local personality.

Traveling to different courts is part of the job for attorneys, as it is for reporters who cover legal matters. It’s a comfort to go to a court where everybody knows your name and you know what to expect when it comes to parking, security, helpfulness of staff and accessibility of documents.

It’s also fun to check out other venues and compare experiences.

Last week I went to Middlesex Superior Court for the case of the Old Saybrook doctor accused of writing dozens of illegal prescriptions, and to Waterbury, for a hearing of the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

While New London boasts one of the oldest courthouses continuously in use in the country, Middletown has one of the newest in the state. The modern courthouse is easily accessible off Route 9, and the river views from some of the upstairs offices are fabulous. Marshals in Middletown sometimes require visitors to take off their shoes as they walk through the scanner, so wear good socks. Also expect to be asked to turn on, not off, your cell phone.

In the first-floor courtroom, where the majority of cases are called, the lighting is great for pictures, if a judge authorizes photos. The benches seem like they are acres long, so it’s best to get a seat on the end if you don’t like climbing over dozens of legs when your case is called.

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