Courtrooms are dead, lifeless places, as Spence often complains in his books. It is the truth – there are no green, growing things. No animals, no flowers, no growing grass, no trees or bushes, not even for decoration. A courtroom is a dead, emotionally cold, empty place by design. I believe that this dead environment makes it easier for a judge, a prosecutor, or a juror to strike out and hurt another human being, to take a person away from their life and their family and send them to suffer in a cage for years or decades, even to kill a person in a capital case.
What would it hurt to decorate a courtroom with flowers or small trees, as people might do in their homes? Or even paintings of trees, open fields full of flowers, or horses in a pasture, rather than the stern faces of dead or dying judges staring down at us from their portraits? Often the emotionless death of a courtroom is reflected in the faces of the people working there, day in and day out. In our courtrooms where we are supposed to be finding and dispensing justice, it is rare to see a smiling face, to feel the need to reach out and help another human being, to feel the need to be kind to the people around us.
In trial this week, yesterday morning we arrived in court to find a huge, beautiful bouquet of flowers on the court reporter’s table. I think that the courtroom staff bought them for her because she is retiring after this week – we all will miss her because she has always been a ray of sunshine in the courtroom, always has a kind word, and she is quick to smile when you see her. The flowers remained on her table, with the bits of evidence scattered around them, in the center of the courtroom, in front of the judge’s bench and in front of the jury box, throughout closing arguments, the court’s jury instructions, and the several questions that the jury wanted answered during deliberations.
I looked at the flowers often yesterday morning in amazement at their stark contrast with the usual courtroom decor, and with gratitude for the change in mood that they brought, at least for me. A beautiful gift for a wonderful person, our court reporter, and for all of us.