As I mentioned in the last blog when staying at Betty’s RV park one never knows what the next cultural experience will be. On one of our days staying at her park she organized a trip to her former place of employment, the Western District of Louisiana United States District Court in Lafayette. We followed a caravan riding in the truck of our new friends from Wisconsin Penny and Steve.
After passing through screening we were told there would be no cell phones or cameras allowed on the tour. A former coworker of Betty’s, a District Clerk met us in the lobby for the tour. She explained the building was built in 1999 and was built on time as well as under budget. It is a state of the art facility with all electronic filing as we would soon see firsthand.
We filed behind her into the elevators to view the plaza below and the skylight above. She gave us the names of each appointed for life judge and explained that each one could decorate their chambers to their own personal taste following guidelines provided for all U.S. judges. She asked if we would like to sit in on a plea and after we all agreed she led us in to a very impressive courtroom presided by Judge Richard T. Haik, Sr. This is where we were able to see and appreciate the all-electronic courtroom Within the jurors box were individual computer monitors as well as at the judges desk, the court reporter’s desk, the bailiff’s desk and at the eight desks provided for defendants, attorneys and prosecutors. In answer to the question of why so many desks, she explained that for large federal class action suits this allowed for the additional attorneys. By presenting evidence and presentations electronically the computerization was saving the taxpayers a lot of money. Very impressive.
After the proceeding the judge welcomed us and spoke fondly of Betty and her years of service at the courthouse. He asked some of our group from Betty’s, the former judge from Tennessee and the former lawyer from Missouri, to share some personal stories and then asked all of us if we had any questions. He next asked us if we would like to see his chambers!!! Of course we did. What a Southern gentleman he turned out to be. He entertained us for over an hour with his personal stories of his hunting trips evident from the many animal heads mounted throughout the chambers. His area comprised of an office for his secretary, himself, a separate adjoined conference room followed by adjoining offices for his law clerks, a full kitchen and a lounge with a ping pong table and dart board. How gracious and entertaining he was!
Leaving the judge we visited the US Marshalls who gave us a tour of their offices as well as their gym, shooting range, the cell block, the tunnel transport, the rooms for processing and fingerprinting, the security camera room and conference areas for attorneys to speak to their clients. Very impressive. At every stop, people lined up to hug Betty and to welcome us. We are continually amazed at the hospitality in Western Louisiana. This was a tour that most others would surely not get except for those acquainted with Betty!
Another memorable day thanks to our stay at Betty’s RV Park!