I was both nervous and excited as my A.P. Gov class walked into the massive auditorium in the Von Braun Center that was to house the Alabama Supreme Court hearing of an appeal.
I might one day want to become a lawyer so I was excited about the proximity that this would give me to the judicial system. I also am not sure that I would like to become a lawyer, so I was nervous that I would not enjoy the proceedings.
I chose law as a potential career path because it seems to match my talents and interests. I am heavily involved in theater and fascinated by history and social science courses. I also enjoy friendly debates with fellow classmates over issues near and dear to my heart. I had never actually been to an oral argument between lawyers, or any courtroom proceeding for that matter. If I didn’t like it then I would need to completely change the major that I want to take in college and the plan that I have for my life.
I steeled myself internally for this unpleasant potential outcome and began to read about the case at hand. It seemed pretty simple: A man had been caught red-handed in possession of more than 100 grams of meth oil. The law says that possession of more than 28 grams of meth resulted in a trafficking charge. So case closed, right? Wrong. The attorneys representing the state of Alabama and the defendant would soon clear up that matter for me.
“Could he be talking to me?” I wondered
Before they did, I was to meet the justices of the Alabama Supreme Court. Well, maybe meet is the wrong word. I sat in the audience as they introduced themselves. One of them went off on a slight tangent that stuck with me afterwards. He told the story of how he had once been in the auditorium at the old Huntsville High School for a different oral argument over a case involving the death penalty, also tried by the Alabama Supreme Court. If not for that case, he claimed that he might never have become an attorney. It was for this reason that he had lobbied so hard for the Alabama Supreme Court to come back to Huntsville. He hoped that there might be a few in the audience whose interest in law could be piqued in the same way that his had been many years ago. “Could he be talking to me?” I wondered.
It turned out that the case itself was not nearly as simple as I had originally thought. Meth oil is the final step in the production of meth, and therefore, as the defense attorney repeatedly claimed, not a usable product. Its possession should then not be prosecuted as trafficking. Moreover, the crystal meth derived from meth oil would weigh significantly less than the meth oil used to produce it, meaning that the producer caught with meth oil could be charged with an absurd amount of jail time as compared to what they would have received for finishing the process. This created an ambiguity in the law. It is the responsibility of the judicial branch of government to interpret the law, not create it or the terms used in it. By defining an outcome to this ambiguity, they would be overstepping their legal bounds as defined by the constitution.
The prosecution was quick to point out that a precedent set in a case in Alabama showed that because meth oil was a mixture, its weight could be used in full. The defense objected. As they volleyed back and forth, I tried to envision myself in their places. How would I be feeling in the final moments of the case? Would I be able to improvise answers to the difficult questions that the judges and opposition posed?
Memories of my Theatre Randolph experiences answered these questions for me: I would love every second of it. I thought back to a performance that happened about a year ago in front of two very different kinds of judges. It was for Trumbauer, a state-wide theater competition, and the judges were to determine the rank of my scene partner and me. The performance space was smaller than expected so we had to improvise. It was nothing short of exhilarating. I have always felt at home on stage. What is a courtroom if not that very thing?
Cole is a senior who is heavily involved in theater, swimming, and F.C.A. He will be playing Elwood P. Dowd in Theatre Randolph's upcoming production of Harvey, Friday, October 23-Sunday, October 25, 2015. Photo of Harvey rehearsal by Connie Voight.