Court Story

Morning in Miscellaneous Court

by Meg Connolly

November 20, 2015

(HARRISBURG, PA)— Mr. Kimmel, the first defendant to plead guilty in the Miscellaneous Court on the morning of Friday, November 20, walked up to the stand, in front of Judge Lewis, hands clasped in prayer and face tilted toward the ceiling. He wore a simple, faded green polo and jeans. His hair was greyed and his eyes tired.

Kimmel, a short man of 56-years old, was convicted of a D.U.I. on December 13, 2014 after he failed to use a turn signal on Jonestown Road in Lower Paxton Township around 7 pm. Mr. Kimmel’s attorney explained to Judge Lewis that upon the scene Kimmel showed signs of intoxication and blew a blood alcohol content of 0.40.

Judge Lewis’s final judgment of Kimmel’s case concluded in the following charges: 18 months of probation, in which the first 10 months will be spent in house arrest and the last 8 months spent in supervised suspension. Kimmel has also been fined a fee of $1,500 and his license has been suspended until the end of his house arrest. The consequence Kimmel would face if he were to break any of the rules of his charges is automatic jail time.

This was one of the many cases presented to Judge Richard Lewis Friday morning in the miscellaneous court. Numerous attorneys flooded the defendants and plaintiffs table in an effort to prepare themselves for their clients hearing. As well as various police officers shuffling prisoners in and out of the courtroom, keeping them quiet amid the constant chatter between attorney and defendant.

Before entering the courtroom, Judy Struzzi, a former sales and administration official for a chemical distributor, greeted me and personally introduced me to the County Clerk, Tom Cassell. “There’s going to be a lot of hustle and bustle in here,” said Cassell, as he shuffled through document folders, glancing at the large clock over looking the entire courtroom. Cassell was referencing the busy morning the court had ahead of them.

Upon entering the courtroom, I was given the opportunity to sit in the panel seating, which is located right next to the judge’s chamber and directly in front of the stand in which the attorneys would state their cases. Struzzi is one of the many retired volunteers a part of the Tip Staff, the group of people who “set the stage” for the beginning of a court hearing or, in this case, a miscellaneous court.

“We have special dates for different cases here, in the miscellaneous court,” said Struzzi. She mentioned how she enjoys volunteering here and helping out with the court proceeding process, clearly feeling at home with the judge, various other Tip Staff volunteers and attorneys.

The miscellaneous court is defined as, “a name given to hearings before judges of Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas where a variety of ‘miscellaneous’ matters may be addressed,” according to the Dauphin County, Pennsylvania Public Defender’s Office’s frequently asked questions. The miscellaneous court was a new concept to me, as I’ve only been exposed to the knowledge of regular court hearings—not a time and place that holds multiple hearings within a span of one day.

Typically media and pop culture portrays court cases in a strict light, only showing cases in which there is one defendant and one plaintiff. However, miscellaneous courts cannot be overlooked, because it is in these courts where some of the most interesting cases, and the most valuable opportunities, come to light.

Upon further discussion of Kimmel’s charges, Judge Lewis offered Kimmel the opportunity to speak in regards to his ruling. “No, thank you,” Kimmel said. Kimmel’s attorney quickly organized his paperwork and walked to Kimmel’s side, down the aisle of courtroom pews, leading Kimmel to his new life of house arrest.