For the last two Thursdays, I’ve been sitting in the county courthouse, observing arraignments as part of my research for a new novel. Since most of us get our impressions of a courtroom from TV, it’s fascinating to see the real thing at work. So far, I’ve been impressed by how thorough and respectful the two judges were in making sure the person charged understood their rights and the implications of entering a particular plea. I’m curious as to why so many of the defendants choose to appear in T-shirts and ratty blue jeans, almost as if it’s the expected dress code. Most important, it struck me today as I was leaving how vital it is to have an open court system and how scary it must be when you are denied this basic right.