...except that the recent news about Britney’s custody battle reminded me of the most theatrical real-life courtroom scene I ever witnessed.
In 1967-68 I worked for an East Texas district judge. One morning when court was in session I noticed a family sitting near the front of the courtroom. There were a father, a mother, and four children who appeared to range in age from about twelve to six. All of them were dressed in their Sunday best, and the children were exceptionally well-behaved. The clerk called a number of other cases ahead of theirs. The kids sat without making a peep from nine in the morning until the judge recessed court for a lunch break.
After lunch, the family returned promptly to the courtroom and sat quietly for about another hour until the clerk called their docket number. That’s when I learned that the case was a contested adoption. The father had always had custody of his four kids, and his present wife had cared for them for years. She wanted to adopt them, but their natural mother was unwilling to consent to it. This hearing was a chance for everyone involved to have their say.
A good friend of mine, Paul O., was the attorney for the children’s father and stepmother. He had the first turn to speak, and he immediately called the children’s birth mother to the stand as a witness.
Paul O: "Are you the natural mother of the children who are the subject of this case?"
Witness: "I am."
Paul O: "Are the children present in the courtroom today?"
Witness: "Yes, they are."
Paul O: "Will you point them out to the court, please?"
The witness pointed to the four children who had waited so patiently all day long.
Paul O: "For the record, you’re indicating these four children in the second row?"
Witness: "That’s right."
Paul O: "Your Honor, I move to dismiss the witness’s motion to contest this adoption on the grounds that she’s had so little involvement with the children that she doesn’t even know what they look like."
As it turned out, only the oldest child was hers. The three younger ones were ringers, neighborhood children who’d been "borrowed" for the occasion.
No other witnesses were called. After a brief discussion with the attorneys, the judge dismissed the motion and granted the adoption.
Back to Britney (sorry, couldn't resist), the word is that she turned her kids over to their father earlier than the court required and chose to run errands rather than attend yesterday's hearing. No matter. If, someday in the future, she should run into problems similar to those of the mother I just told you about, she shouldn't have any trouble identifying her two boys. All she’ll ever need to do before a scheduled court appearance is pick up the latest issue of People magazine. No doubt their photos will still be in there, bless their innocent little hearts.