I spent the night at my parents’ house, and frankly, I hated to leave. Home was so close, yet so far… We loaded the bus and moved on to Montgomery.
Most people from Birmingham do not hold Montgomery in very high regard: the stereotype is that crime there is bad, the city’s ugly, and there’s nothing to do. Actually, the downtown area had that small-town-capital charm (here’s a link to a pretty picture that does not belong to me), and the courthouse was simply gorgeous. Unfortunately, no cameras were permitted inside, otherwise I’d love to share the lovely architecture, gilded tiles and all.
We were lucky enough to sit in on a voir dire for a trial that is a Very Big Deal in Alabama: the question illegal gambling is before the Court. Bingo is the only kind of gambling that is–barely–legal in Alabama; in fact, 75% of the state constitution concerns bingo regulation (I made that statistic up, but it’s not too far off). The presiding judge is Myron H. Thompson, who replaced Frank M. Johnson (one of the judges who de-segregated public transportation in Montgomery in Browder v. Gayle, a.k.a. the Rosa Parks case).
Judge Thompson was gracious enough to take some time out of his very busy day to talk to us. I was immediately starstruck. First, the judge’s chambers looked like someone’s dream of a judge chamber.
Second, Judge Thompson has ruled on some impressively historical cases, such as the one in which he ordered Roy Moore, an Alabama Supreme Court Judge, to remove the Ten Commandments from the Courthouse, or the one in which he said University of Alabama could not deny funding to LGBT student organizations.
He is considered a dirty liberal in most of our red-blooded state, which automatically endears him to me, even though I think he’s more of a very reasonable moderate.
Also, Judge Thompson is a charismatic, incredibly intelligent and just plain interesting speaker, who looks freakishly young. He was appointed to the bench at the age of 33 in 1980, and it looks like he decided to stop aging right then and there, except for acquiring some distinguished facial hair. It’s amazing. I went into fangirl mode, as you can see from the picture.
After the courthouse, we went to get lunch at the Alabama Chamber of Commerce’s surprisingly fancy cafeteria. There, some of my classmates and two undergrads had an absolutely immature, hilarious conversation about historical bathrooms at the courthouse (“Just think of all the famous butts that have touched these toilet seats!”). We dissolved into hysterical laughter, turning heads around the cafeteria.
As a future professional, I am not proud of our behavior. However, as a human being, I’m happy we had a moment of unrestrained silliness between seven young people, which was exactly what the doctor ordered.