Parking Court with Judge Chip

Several months ago I came home late and parked illegally (it's hard to find parking in my neighborhood at night), and found two parking tickets on my windshield the next day. I chose to take them to court not just because I thought it was unfair to be punished twice for one crime, but also out of curiosity to see first hand how our justice system works. I figured the lesson would cost me $43 dollars at most.

The courtroom was filled with benches that looked just like pews, only without the hymnal racks. People sat quietly, spoke reverently, and paid close attention to what the judge said.

Case after case was either reduced to a fine of $5 or dismissed because the parking officer wasn't present. When the judge reduced a $1000 fine to $5, he told the person "Take a vacation with the money." Then the judge turned to those of us waiting and said, "If you haven’t figured it out by now, I generally just do $5 fines."

One lady said that she had sold her car, but still got parking tickets for it. She asked the judge what to do about it. After acquitting her, he told her that he had no idea what to do, but if she found out to let him know by sending word to "Judge Chip."

After he pronounced my $5 fine and I was waiting for the clerk to fill out the paperwork, Judge Chip said, "I think a $5 fine is poetic – It takes care of everyone's problems... except maybe the tow truck driver's."

I guess at only five dollars my lesson in justice and equality was a steal.

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Written August 3, 2006