It is well known that courts in New York City are under-efficient, under-staffed, and arguably over-utilized. There are many frivolous and time-wasting cases that should (and could) probably be weeded out through mandatory mediation sessions before seeing a judge. As one student in my colloquium course said last week, “Courts are the emergency rooms for society.” Unfortunately, this not only holds truth, but provides an interesting insight to the City’s (and other states’) crowded courtroom circus. Specifically, family courts are insanely overcrowded at times with ex-partners from broken marriages and relationships who just can’t get along. All too often I see parties in court who are filing another petition to add to the growing pile involving a divorce, child custody, visitation, spousal support, modifications, etc. But, this isn’t just a problem with the family courts. All too often frivolous lawsuits and over-dramatic criminal charges are brought to court to be sorted out as well.
This is partly a continuation of my February 6 posting on The Costs of Juvenile “Justice.” I feel compelled to comment on an incident involving a 14-year-old bored high school student from Virginia. He blew plastic pellets at other students during lunch one day, hitting three and probably annoying several more. To the surprise of some, instead of being suspended, he was subsequently expelled from school. In addition, the plastic pen he was blowing out of (referred to as a “metal tube” by school officials) and the plastic pellets he blew (referred to as “B-Bs”) were apparently considered a weapon by the deputy sheriff. The kid was charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault after the school called in the police. He is currently being home-schooled, as his appeal to the school was denied.
While I completely understand and agree with (to some extent) the school’s “zero tolerance” policy for bullying and violence, I do not necessarily see what good will come by filing criminal charges against the boy. Expulsion seems a bit excessive for a mischievous prankster, but surely it can be justified. Misdemeanor criminal charges or the possibility of a year-long diversion program? Now that seems overly-excessive and truly unnecessary for our legal system to have to deal with.