But seriously, in case you thought it was, Criminal Night Court ISN’T funny.
With all of that television exposure, you’d think that Night Court was a funny place. I should let you know, if you’re looking for a GREAT time, Night Court is not the place. In fact, it’s really more on the, “Although this makes my life look better, I now feel like the world is kind of a shitty place.” Just to let you know, this would be an interesting place to visit on a date, but don’t expect sex afterwards if you go. In fact, don’t expect WANTING to have sex afterwards. Kind of like eating a steak after visiting a slaughterhouse, only it’s with people and no one gets killed in court and you’re not going to eat them afterwards.
Because New York is full of people who get arrested and the law mandates that people who get arrested must be arraigned within 24 hours, so too must the courts (in Manhattan, anyway) operate on a 24 hour schedule. They operate in shifts, and the one most likely to be of interest to you is the 5:30pm to 1am shift. You don’t have to stay any longer than you like — nor do you have to come on time — and most likely, you’ll not want to stay any longer than an hour or two.
It’s really, really engrossing to see the courts in action. But it’s also sad to see people who are, generally speaking, the least fortunate of all of us, being hustled through a system that really cares more about getting them processed . . . but, then again, the reason why the Night Court is there is because prior to the 1990s, people would wait for weeks in jail before being arraigned — which is also pretty horrible.
The New York Times wrote an interesting article about it about 9 years ago that might be worth checking out . . . I think the crime has changed a bit since then, but the procedures remain. Who you can expect to see?
The cast of characters at night court is shifting yet somehow constant. Criminal- and civil-court judges are assigned in rotating five-night shifts. The lawyers cycle in and out, too. Only the court officers are regulars, a tight-knit group with a shared social life outside of court.
As for the accused, they have a certain superficial sameness. If they look as if they slept in their clothes, they did. They appear weary and bedraggled; some are sick. Told to keep their coats with them, many stand before the judge in down jackets, as though expecting snow.
Some stare at their feet, hands behind their backs. Some list to one side, looking warily at the judge. Some chortle in disbelief at the prosecutor’s account. Some are mentally ill; many are indigent. Some are in withdrawal; a few are diabetics in danger of insulin shock.
Anyway, this is one of those dates where, if you’re feeling up to it, you might want to follow it up with a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge — perhaps stopping for a drink. I’d have a hard time having a rousing dinner or anything afterwards, but maybe that’s just me. It’s not heartwarming to be a spectator here, but it’s definitely interesting and worth seeing.
What: Night Court
Where: 100 Centre Street, lower Manhattan MAP
When: 5:30pm - 1:00am 7 days a week