Drop by any courtroom on Temple Street and you'll hear stories as old as the Bible and characters who'll remind you of the kids you went to school with, because all our actions in life were predicted long ago by the way we responded to temptation, anger and fear as children. Go to Department 30 before noon to see the parade of just-arrested suspects brought before a magistrate to enter their pleas from inside what resembles a giant terrarium. Or visit Judge Marsha Revel's court in Department 128, where a stream of people appear and bring the judge up to date on their progress in recovery programs, or explain how they are making restitution to the victims they crashed into while driving drunk. Listen to their promises and excuses, and wonder what you'd say if you stood in their shoes. Finally, there are the courtrooms of the ninth floor, which you must pass through a metal detector to enter, even though you've already passed through one in the lobby. Their most compelling moments are not the kind you see on TV shows, where a witness breaks down or a lawyer miraculously produces a lost fingerprint. Instead, it's those quiet moments when a sad judge tries to talk an accused felon out of acting as his own attorney. The defendant, dressed in bright-orange or somber blue overalls, is almost jubilantly confident in his ability to defend himself. The judge says everything he or she can to dissuade the prisoner, knowing that it is useless to try but that at least the accused will feel hope for a little while longer. Criminal Courts Building, 210 W. Temple St., dwntwn.; Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-

4 p.m. (Check for furlough closures.)

—Steven Mikulan

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