NBC’s Night Court has been off the air for more than two decades, but its setting has recently become a favorite for visitors to New York, who gather to watch the offenders that every night hustle past a judge. “It’s gritty entertainment, hard-knocks education or at least a chance to experience real-life law and order on a New York scale,” according to an Associated Press article. “Night court is so popular that [a] veteran clerk… has become an impromptu tour guide for school groups from as far away as Denmark, judges from Japan and individual sightseers he spots in the audience.”
Between 70 and 90 cases a night are brought before a judge in Manhattan’s off-hours courtroom, which operates from 5pm to 1am. “It is a ‘just-off-Broadway show’ with a cast of thousands, ever-changing story lines … real drama, as well as occasional comic relief,” says the man who oversees the Legal Aid Society’s night court defense efforts there. But not everyone is so enthusiastic about a crowd of gawkers amassing every night. “There’s nothing amusing about it,” a former overseeing judge told the wire service. “And the stakes are very high.”
Oh, you know, because the people brought before the night court are real people facing real consequences that will have real effects on their real lives, not just a “cast”! Because real life isn’t theater, the players not just strutting and fretting their hour in front of those bored with the current crop of shows on New York stages.
Holly Young was in the midst of her own first visit to the Manhattan court, waiting for a friend’s arraignment. Go there for fun? She shook her head. “That’s not something I would want to do,” she said. “I don’t think this is cool at all.”
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